I had a gig the night before so didn't get as much sleep as I wanted, and when I did wake up my stomach felt a bit "off". I just decided to go with it. My stuff was already packed so I figured worst case scenario, I could start up the 21 mile road/dirt road climb and evaluate as I went. Would be easy and fast to bail back to the truck if I needed to.
I stopped for a breakfast sandwich and orange juice which sounds like the worst plan for an iffy stomach, but it actually settled better than I expected and by time I hit rock springs I was feeling better.
The rock springs lot was pretty full of cars - turns out there was a decent sized group that had already left who were doing the same route. They were all way faster than me so I'm glad I didn't see them. I started the quick road start to get the blood flowing and started winding through the small community along the roads. One dog (behind a fence thank goodness) knocked me out of my riding trance as it tore up toward the fence barking pretty aggressively - he was not very happy with me.
Continue on and before it turned to dirt I come across another large dog just standing in the middle of the road. Um OK. I love dogs, but I don't necessarily like coming across them randomly during rides. I said hi to him and he would bark and take a few steps back. Bark again. Retreat towards his home. Repeat this a few times while I pass slowly making sure he doesn't want to chase. All good.
The climbing up Maggie May rd starts to turn up and I was feeling it a bit. All this climbing seems so much harder than it should. Oh well. Grind it out. It was fun watching the other tire tracks from the bikes in front of me. A couple side by sides passed me and they were nice and didn't dust me out. Thanks dudes!
Just as I crested the top of that climb I saw some dude walking towards me - he was wearing camo and it was just..weird?? He ended up being one of the guys who had passed me in the side by side. They had seen a glimpse of something large and white over by the I17 which we could see. We couldn't quite make it out... was it a really big tarp? a vehicle that had gone of the edge? We just couldn't make it out. Eventually I had to get going and they said they had called DPS to get them to check it out. Onward.
It's a pretty rapid descent down for a bit and then I found myself with a problem. It shouldn't have been hard to figure out, but I got down to where the intersection is and the one of a couple places where the course overlaps itself. This is a first for me on a AES ride so it took me a bit to figure out. I had put a waypoint in here to say "take left option". Sounds simple enough but my brain wasn't quite working. There were actually several options here to take. One was the actual BCT singletrack heading south. Right next to that was jeep road heading generally south. Somehow I got turned around a bit due to the overcast nature of the day and ended up check both of these "left" options. What I really needed to do was obviously take the left option of the track drawn. Sounds dumb now but it had me exploring different tracks till I stopped being dumb and corrected my course.
From here it is pretty flat/rolling hills until you hit bumble bee creek then the gradual climbing starts. Then you turn off onto Antelope Creek Rd and the next big climb reveals itself. Looked pretty stout from the bottom. It wasn't terrible but I did stop once to check out the views.
|Big views out here hard to capture with a camera. Perfect day.|
|The road surface was really nice. Some washboards occasionally. Saw just a handful of vehicles.|
|This is where the goods start. Just amazing singletrack with expansive views. Basically five miles of downhill bliss.|
|Every once in a while you get big southern views that open up between the hills.|
|At the Hidden Treasure Mine Trailhead|
|Evidence of friends having been here. LOCO Rides and AES|
|Started getting a bit warm before this. Sun was feeling strong. Time to apply more sunscreen...|
The section between here and the Bumblebee Trailhead is really good, but honestly that last bit before getting to the BB trailhead drove me a bit crazy. It also has a weird vibe that I think is caused by the fire damage this section of trail suffered through. This was my first time through here since the fire.
All in all, I just felt like I was in the movie Groundhog Day during this section. Ride hillside singletrack and gain a bit of elevation, drop down into a switchback losing the elevation you just gained and then powering out of that and repeat. I think this happened around 15 times. It just got old for me. Maybe with fresh legs...
The rest of the ride is typical BCT and it trends mostly down hill with a couple of climbs that happen as you descend into a creek/river and then climb away from it. There is a really screaming fast section that I almost ate shit on but managed to save. Some of it though I just had to slow down and admire the view like here:
|Super fast downhill unless you stop to admire the views...|
|Still a bit of water out here. Filterable if you needed.|
I was getting a bit tired but was determined to keep moving. I deliberately was trying to keep my stops to a minimum. I did run across a couple of riders eventually. I had seen them in front of me what I kept losing sight of them with the winding terrain. Finally I caught them and they looked pretty shelled. One was on a rigid single speed (OUCH). They had started in Mayer and had ridden this far. They weren't looking forward to that last climb out of the river. I told them I had to get going but that they would probably leap frog me as I was running out of gas.
|The mountains just started catching on fire towards the end|
|BCT. Not many places like it.|
|Right before the final descent towards rock springs.|
After that last evil climb away from the Agua Fria, I was totally ready to be done. It's cool to look down below though to see the elevation you fought for. Wrapped up with a fun decent down the trailhead and packed up the bike and headed out. The two guys I had seen earlier were coming down the dirt road from the pavement. They bailed out to black canyon city instead of finishing out on the trail. Maybe they didn't have lights or they were just tired and done.
BCT has a way of punishing you like no other trail here in AZ anyway. I really need to ride over there more and focus on technique and holding speed through the endless switchbacks.
It was a great day on the bike for sure.