I've been getting back into riding more (mostly road meh), but the call of an overnight adventure was calling and as luck would have it, there was someone (I'll refer to her as "The Machine") who was wanting to go on a "fastpack". I guess this means backpacking but with a bit less gear/travelling light-ish. This sounded right up my alley as it sounds basically like bikepacking without the bike. I prefer the simplicity of this, and with wonderful weather here in Arizona (read: chance of precipitation being very low) it's easy to grab a sleeping bag/food/water and get the hell out of dodge.
We originally had thought to do a full circle around Humphrey's over two days but with the crushing drought and subsequent forest closures that got idea shut down in May. In retrospect, that ended up saving our asses because we would have been way in over our head. Hey, who knew that dragging a pack around on foot (even if it is "lightish") would be tough.
As the weekend was approaching, we were still stumped on where to go. Up on the rim was a possibility, but nothing was really appealing and the closures shut down some prime spots. I saw my buddy Ray post up a ride near his place in Munds Park and it got my wheels turning. It's not really a place I ever think of, but I thought maybe it just might work. I asked him about the route he rode and if it would be suitable for what I was looking for. He ended up working up a route that would keep us on quiet forest roads/double track for much of the route - quite an accomplishment since it was a holiday weekend. He even got us on a nice chunk of the AZT that I haven't been on. Thanks Ray for always being willing to help out on outdoor adventures!
With the 35 mile route in place, we were ready to roll. I had to wrap some business up at work, so I wasn't able to head out until around 8:30PM. Picked up my The Machine and we were on our way north along the I17. The beautiful thing about leaving late was we had an uneventful ride up the hill. We made quick work of the drive and went down the main drag of Munds Park and onto a forest road that would lead us to our camping spot for the night. Plenty of people were camped out but we found a quiet spot pretty quickly which is amazing considering the holiday. We had a couple beers and crashed out in the back of the truck with sleeping bags and an air mattress. It got damn cold that night because we were in a bit of a cold sink.
We were up at 7am and packed up quickly and started the route. We passes some early camping spots but were soon on double track and away from everyone. I don't think we saw anyone for the first three hours. It was amazing. Saw some deer, but mostly we just enjoyed the quiet surroundings. We wanted to keep the pace around 3MPH and we were actually just above that at 3.2.
|Really nice and quiet forest back here!|
We continued on after our break and were really looking forward to hitting the AZT and finding more shade. Three miles to get there from our rest point. We did start hitting a bit more traffic as we were getting close to Lake Mary Road, but everyone was really courteous. Nice to see.
We arrived at the AZT turnoff and since we were now heading North and the sun was past its high point we were shaded a lot more and we really tried to enjoy this very pretty section of the AZT. However, we were both really starting to hurt - my feet were pissed at me. That said, we were kinda committed to getting to the lodge mainly for food. Water would have maybe been a concern too if we crashed out before getting to a resupply.
|Singletrack on the AZT!|
We finally made our way to the Navajo Springs Trail junction and it said 1.1 miles to the lodge on the sign and we were stoked. Of course, this 1.1 miles took FOREVER. It's always like that. That said, I just checked the track and it's closer to 1.4 miles so...
|Descending Navajo Springs Trail to the Lodge. There's Aspens in here! Didn't like the loose horse trail at the end though.|
|Beer me right now!|
We were ready to call it a day, but wanted to get away from the lodge a bit - we eyed some space on the left side of the road and decided that when we were away from the lodge and all the campers we would head up a bit a find a place to crash. It was around 6PM maybe. We had just barely made it away from the lodge when the steepness gave way a bit. It was signed as no camping, but we didn't really see much of an alternative other than crashing on the right side of the road but we would be exposed to vehicle traffic - not good. We made the call to head up a bit - there was some OHV trail that headed up there, so we didn't feel terrible about hiking up. We got some elevation and it flattened up enough and there was some bushes that we could crash behind. 25 mile day 1. Done. Laid out our sleep gear and I was out in minutes. It was about 6:30PM wow.
We had one weird interruption when we were up there - I had hung my pack up on a tree about 40 yards from our sleep spot. There was a OHV that had come partially up to our location but they still couldn't see us. They apparently saw my bag hanging and went to check it out. Of course once they got to my bag and looked back there we were. They were very kind and apologetic about the disturbance. We were a little worried they were going to give us problems due to the no camping sign, but they seemed cool. They asked if we were OK (I'm sure we looked wrecked) and we said we were good, just really tired. They apologized again and headed back down. We didn't have any other visitors the rest of the time.
I basically stayed horizontal for twelve straight hours. I didn't even get up to go to the restroom which was a bad sign - I would need to get on top of my hydration was the first thought in my head as I started moving around in the morning.
|Good sleep spot!|
|After getting some elevation via the AZT to 240.|
We were really starting to lose it a bit there towards the end. Making up dumb songs, mainly along the lines of the video "America, fuck yeah" (look it up on youtube). It was the weekend before 4th of July so it seemed to make sense. Besides the dumb songs, I'm pretty sure I said "this is bullshit" about a thousand times.
|Wide open spaces and bluebird skies.|
Anyway, not much else to say except we made it to the truck. It was getting hot and the sun was high in the sky but somehow I managed to park the truck in a spot where it was shaded. YES! We enjoyed a fairly cool powerade that I had left and washed our nasty ass feet with water that seemed very cold.
We then made a call to head into Flagstaff for some lunch AKA watching me walk around like an old man. Tore up some pizza in town, walked around a bit more (I limped mostly and earned the nickname "Walter") then decided to leave to hopefully beat the traffic down the hill.
Hell of an adventure. I might do it again - but I'd rather do it on a bike.