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PANNING FOR TRAIL GOLD IN ARIZONA

Huw Oliver goes searching for singletrack gold in the arid mountains of Arizona.

My fingers yanked on the levers automatically, bypassing the usual thought processes and channels of communication, as if they knew what was needed before my brain did. Tyres tried lamely to bite into the loose, dusty surface, rocks rolled like marbles, and the world did that horrible slow-motion thing that it does when it’s about to do something really horrible to you. My front tyre stopped half a metre or so from the snake that was draped across the trail, apparently unimpressed by my noisy entrance into its sun-soaked afternoon; or unconcerned, it’s difficult to tell when there are no eyebrows to speak of. I emitted a manly squeak while doing the backwards Flintstone-shuffle up the trail a few metres, and started a staring contest that I was never going to win. Annie rolled up behind me and asked what was going on.

“There’s a snake.”

“Yeah, I can see that. Is it a dangerous one?”

“Not sure. You can go and check.”

Sitting in the warmth of the sun, the snake showed no signs of moving and seemed to prefer its new role as a Technical Trail Feature. Images of being ‘those’ tourists who fail spectacularly to get on with the local wildlife played through my head, but at some point we were going to have to get past – the food shop was on the other side. There were no rattles in sight, at any rate, but our knowledge of Arizona’s cold-blooded inhabitants was still pretty limited, and we didn’t know our friendly garter snakes from our venomous shovelnose snakes. This didn’t feel like the best time to take a practical approach to that question. A few small rocks rolled towards it achieved nary a wiggle, but eventually the snake gave us what I could only describe as a bored look, or possibly a disgusted one, and deigned to wriggle far enough away into the grass for us to scoot around and get back on our way to an important date with the nearest cold drink.

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About Singletrack

Editorial: There Is No Right Or Wrong. Choose a bike, any bike, and enjoy it. International Adventure: Panning For Trail Gold In Arizona. Huw Oliver finds gold in the ghost towns of Arizona. Classic Ride: Don’t Mynd If I Do. Tom Hutton rides the Long Mynd in search of forgotten corners and new trails. Behind the Scenes: Colour Wheels. Sim Mainey finds out how the next bike fashions are decided. UK Adventure: Cornish Fasties Barney Marsh goes to the edge of the UK and finds a world of overlooked trails. UK Adventure: How To Lose Friends And Alienate People. Sanny reduces the nicest man in mountain biking to rude words. Hope’s Helping Hand. Chipps checks out a bit of innovative thinking from Hope Technology. Bike Test: Overlooked Awesome. Daz Hall checks out three smaller wheeled, shorter travel bikes that you probably should be riding, from Bird, Cotic and Santa Cruz. Column: Jason steps out of his comfort zone. Pete’s Pros: Rock[et] Science Manon Carpenter may not be racing much, but Pete Scullion finds she’s still aiming high. A Day In The Life: Fort William Saskia Dugon goes behind the scenes at this noisiest of World Cup races. MTB Culture: The Quiet Revolution Rich Rothwell argues that GPS technology has opened up a whole new world of mountain biking joy. Last Word Hannah gets to ride somewhere she thought might only be a far-flung fantasy.