I was really enthused when I read the article by reporter Sam McManis in the Arizona Daily Sun about the construction of a 15-mile single track passage of the Arizona National Scenic Trail through the Babbitt Ranches. This new section of the Arizona Trail is a replacement for the ranch roads on the trail's route to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
I'm always excited about any and all enhancements of the Arizona Trail and realize use of a dirt, gravel or (perish the thought) paved road is not a part of the Arizona Trail Association development plan. Nor should they be included in those strategies and sidelined wherever possible. This wonderful 800-mile path through the various landscapes of our state merits as much of a positive wilderness experience as can be achieved.
But, I must admit I go on a pleasant cruise down memory lane about the Babbitt Ranch Roads whenever I recall the time I rode them on my first group mountain bike ride from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon. At that time the Arizona Trail was not fully connected nor was it well marked through northern Arizona.
Our 15 riders were looking for a forest/back-road bicycling adventure, but the week before we started, Jerry Johnson and John Starr marked with arrows fashioned from flour our route from here to the rim of the canyon. We would be following (more or less) the long ago path established by the Moqui Stage Coach to the Grandview Overlook.
Even though Jerry and John had laid out a way using the large number of unblemished by directional signs, gravel roads, trails and long ago abandoned traces, we riders were often moving forward uncertain of our exact whereabouts — or even if we were headed in the right direction.
Fortunately for us, during those times of nagging insecurity a wind-blown beacon of fluffy white powder would suddenly appear on our route and we would all verbally lionize our benefactors who had so conscientiously blazoned the way toward our destination.
The fleeting moments of doubt continued, however, until we reached the area of the Babbitt Ranches where the roads were better — and, glory be, signed. A day that had required so much determined spunkiness was moving toward its end as we rode nearer to our overnight campsite.
Once there, we set up our tents, feasted on a wonderful out-of-doors supper provided by Roabie and Jerry Johnson, and met Billy Cordasco, whose association with the Babbitt Ranches was and still is an awesome northern Arizona story.
After dinner, the extraordinary star-filled night sky was discussed, the great food was praised again and again, and the six beautiful horses we all had seen standing side by side at the top of a ridge patiently reviewing our ride while one of those glorious Arizona sunsets shimmered behind them were the topics of conversation.
The next day, we continued our ride through the Kaibab National Forest to the location of the once-upon-a-time Grandview Hotel and its overlook of the Grand Canyon. Now that's what I call a memorable two-day adventure. Gad, I so treasure this area.
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