31.5 Miles; 1,525 Feet of Gain; South Rim Village to Tusayan, AZ
After yesterday's big miles and elevation gain, I awoke today to find (rather unsurprisingly) that my hip was in some pain. Little did I know that a few days later I would find out I had a pelvic fracture. But for moment, all I knew was that it was throbbing. I had two days left on the route, but given the pain, I decided to do one last day shortly looped through the woods to retrieve my car in Tusayan.
I didn't start riding until nearly noon and took Rowe Well down along the wash. Oaks thickly were burnt crimson on a sunny and breezy day. Today, there was indeed no storm. Heading out to Pasture Wash, the road was baked silt in the dry sun and the rabbitbrush had already lost its luster on the sage-plains. Alternatively, the floor of dirt below sage limbs was thickly carpeted with white petals of numerous blooming flowers. All the water sources I road by were copiously full and relatively clear of algal growth in the tilting sun of autumn. The doubletrack out to Coconino Wash was just as rutted as earlier in monsoon season, but someone had taken the time to fill in some particularly bad ruts with rock and gravel.
I turned off into Coconino Wash proper just as it narrows up through a shallow canyon. The entrance was a dense floor of blue-green grass thickly growing as if in mid-summer. I was pretty shocked by the amount of vegetation fully photosynthetic. It was brilliant and stark against the fading pastels of brush turning brown. The grass had invaded the doubletrack, growing right in the tread - a testament to the moisture this year. I rounded a corner and entered the winding limestone abutments where white rock outcrops contrasted with pine on their shoulders. A whipping sea of meadow grass stretched before me down the whole route. It was vibrant, green, and mottled with gold. The miles passed purposely slow and beautiful through the heart of Coconino Wash.
The wash ended as I climbed an adjoining hill through a cowboy fence. The next section was rocky for about a mile or two as I slowly climbed along an incline, gaining elevation amongst ponderosas and pinyons. The route smoothed out approaching the historical Apex railroad site. I crossed the tracks and continued along the smooth cindered previously-rail-now-road that headed just south and east of the airport before a right swing carried me on smooth doubletrack through the pines.
I approached the section where the road swam under and around the railroad tracks. It's a cool and unique part of the route to ride under wooden trestles. I pulled my bike to the side next to the tracks as I heard the Grand Canyon Railroad Train actually approaching. The conductor sounded the horn as the rail came chugging out of the trees into view. I waved at passengers before pushing off into the golden afternoon sun that slants so early at this time of year. Much of the ride from here was a continuous, but relatively gentle, incline up to outskirts of Tusayan. I then jumped on the Greenway path that meandered into downtown as a tussle of bronze pine needles fell across the path from the wind. I arrived back at the car parked in the Imax Parking Lot feeling satiated from the opportunity to see fall so fully along the South Rim this year.