NORTH RIM, Ariz.
They came pedaling toward the finish together, father and son, completing an exhaustive 56-mile mountain bike ride along the single-track routes that snake their way through the evergreens and rolling terrain that lead to the Grand Canyon’s North Rim.
Las Vegans Mark Uhlrich, 48, and Luke Uhlrich, 12, were overjoyed at the finish, sharing laughs and high fives with Jared Fisher, owner of the Las Vegas Cyclery bike shop and Escape Adventures bike touring company.
“We’ve been riding all summer. It was very challenging. At about the 42-mile mark, Luke was about to shut it down. He was suffering mightily,” Mark Uhlrich said at the finish at the U.S. Forest Service’s DeMotte Campground. “But we persisted and finished.”
FAT TIRE FESTIVAL
Some bike shop owners have sale events. Others put on local bike rides.
Fisher does all that — and more.
Like putting on the inaugural Grand Canyon Fat Tire Festival at the North Rim from Aug 1 to 3.
“I love the North Rim because it’s so remote. The grassy meadows beckon me back to the back country,” said Fisher, who launched the mountain bike weekend and race only a few months ago.
“The view points on the North Rim — you can’t beat that,” he said.
The Uhlriches were just two of the 60 mountain bikers who pedaled the 100-mile ride or the 56-miler through the beautiful Kaibab National Forest, which featured miles and miles of dirt roads and single-track routes.
A RIDE WITH A VIEW
Fisher and his wife, Heather, pieced together a challenging course that featured scenic fingers of land and view points such as Locust, Timp and North Timp points that jutted into the North Rim.
They enlisted about 15 staffers, plus their three sons and a few friends, to put on a three-day event that impressed the riders for the quality of the course, the abundant and tasty food and live music at the DeMotte Campground.
Around 3 p.m., the 100-mile riders were slowly trickling through and Jared Fisher was sure to greet every one with a high five, a pat on the back and a medal.
“Hey, don’t ride too far and go back to Vegas. We have a party here,” Fisher joked to one finisher who pedaled across the finish line.
“I love doing these 100-milers,” said Rob Campbell, 43, of Kensington, Md., who was in the area and heard about the festival. “It’s tough, but it had beautiful view points.”
Mountain biker Scott Winzeler, 54, of Las Vegas, had never visited the Grand Canyon until he entered the festival ride.
“This is my first time to the Grand Canyon, and who would have thought these views existed on the North Rim?” said Winzeler, a gaming industry employee. “I went over to see the buffalo, the sunset over the North Rim, and then I tortured myself for eight hours today.”
William Lefkovics is a road-riding racer, but he wanted to ride his second-ever mountain bike ride. He got caught in a downpour on the course and arrived on a mud-coated bike.
“It was worth the four-hour drive,” said Lefkovics, technical director for History: nevada. “I’m not a spring chicken. I have no aspirations of winning events like this. The winning comes from finishing with the feeling that you did the best you could that day. ... I’m sore, with a few bruises from meeting the rocks up close a couple of times. But I’d do it again. Well, after I recover.”
CAMPING AT THE RIM
I had been meaning to explore the North Rim and the forested, sloping terrain marked by single-track cuts that lead to the lovely view points,
A co-worker had crowed about the amazing mountain biking in the national forest and the free primitive camping available in Kaibab. A particular view point that offers spectacular vistas is Locust Point, where you can drive about 20 miles on a dirt road to campsites that are just a few feet from the rim.
A Las Vegas Cyclery/Escape Adventures event always delivers tasty food. Such was the case this weekend, as staffers cooked up burgers, including veggie patties, and a ton of fixings after the Saturday afternoon race and great pancakes for Sunday breakfast on an overcast, misty morning.
It was a tremendous weekend for celebrating mountain biking.
The DeMotte Campground in the forest land is only four miles from the start of the U.S. Parks Service entrance to the Grand Canyon’s North Rim — and then another 12 miles from Grand Canyon Lodge, a historic and rustic base for tourists that dates to the 1920s.
Demotte offers 38 camping sites, which each cost $18 per night.
If you visit Grand Canyon Lodge, you will see it’s a more mellow and smaller version of the lodging facilities at the South Rim. If you take a mountain biking trip to the forest land, it’s worth a quick side trip into the parks service area and a visit to Grand Canyon Lodge, which has about 220 cabins and rooms, a small dining room with rim-front vistas and a small saloon that has craft beers and snack food such as pizza.
GRAND CANYON LODGE
I considered camping out at Demotte 16 miles away on that Saturday night, but with clouds rolling in and a forecast of rain, I decided to inquire about a room or cabin at Grand Canyon Lodge.
I was hoping that a cancellation had created a vacancy. But the pleasant young man politely informed that the lodge was all booked up. Then, his co-worker, a friendly older woman, piped up, “We do have the 007 cabin.”
My ears perked up. She told me the lodge keeps 007 until the end of the day in case someone’s car breaks down or a bus driver needs a place to crash.
I broke out my Visa card.
Of the 219 cabins and rooms, 007 was the only one with a TV. The cabin included DVDs of classics such as “EDtv” and “The Hunt for Red October.”
I didn’t come to watch movies, though. I came to see the awe-inspiring North Rim views, stroll the dirt trail along the rim and soak up the history of an amazing lodge and visitors center that were built modestly with minimum commercialization.
BRING YOUR BIKE
The national forest campground and lodge are about 4½ hours from Las Vegas by car. It’s well worth the trip. The elevation is more than 8,000 feet and the temperatures are about 20 degrees cooler.
Pack your mountain bike. The dirt roads are ideal for beginners. And the single-track mountain bike trails can be handled by moderately experienced mountain bikers.
There is a convenience store with food, supplies and fuel across from DeMotte.
Just bring a great attitude and a mountain bike. You will be thrilled by the North Rim’s view points and the evergreens.
Contact reporter Alan Snel at email@example.com or 702-387-5273. Follow @BicycleManSnel on Twitter.