Thursday, April 11, 2019

AZT/Goldridge Cleanup Mission w/Schilling

There is a new optional portion for the AZTR 750 racers this year - it's much tougher but gets more riders on actual AZT which is the point of the race right? I've been lucky enough to talk and ride with John a few times over the last 5-6 months all with the point of route scouting/trail maintenance.

The first attempt was supposed to actually accomplish all of that... working our way from essentially Lost Dutchman State Park to Deer Creek Trailhead right at the 87/188 junction.

We got shut down pretty hard by the route back in November. The combination of a warmer than usual 1st day combined with a pretty brutal climb up four peaks road, and full bikepacking gear (and at least me being pretty very out of shape) lead to us cutting out all the maintenance we had planned as we altered the route drastically just to get back to the cars the next day.

We tried again in early December to work on AZT section 22 only to be foiled by death mud and questionable weather (and a newly closed road) that put the final nail in that day.

So here we are about 11 days prior to the start of the AZTR and we finally made our way through the area. I've been getting more riding in, so I felt pretty decent the whole day. It was still a stout climb up 201 with the AZT being typical AZT. We were spared a bit by Goldridge. It was surprisingly clear. Someone has been giving it some love so there was much less work to be done that expected. Sweet.

We both brought loppers with us. Hell JS brought a legit hand saw as well. Here is JS assuming the position

The AZT does AZT things. This typically means some really sweet track, combined with some really rugged stuff. You just never know what it's going to throw at you, or when. I kinda love that though.

Some really nice bits of singletrack

John clearing a rocky section after the underpass

AZT and gates go hand in hand. About one per mile it seems like. 

So much vegetation. Sometimes the trail was just barely visible. FYI, don't ride this section when it's wet. 

Mt Ord high above

These signs are pretty rare. Almost the half-way point between Mexico and Utah.

This sign is very rarely visited if I had to guess. Not super convenient to get to. 

The sign above put us on some road for a bit. It's closed on one end so there is hardly any traffic. We saw one car towards the end. It eventually turns off onto dirt then the grind begins up 201.

It's a steady but pretty rideable grade almost the whole way up 201. I think we hopped off a couple times for some HAB

Gaining elevation rapidly. 

Grabbing some shade while letting JS catch up. I'm glad he had a busy weekend of riding/skiing - this helped me not be holding him up as he was pre fatigued! #strategy lol

It doesn't really come across in photos, but this hillside was just covered in poppies. 

The last switchback ahead. There are big trees up there. It's a really neat transition. I know I was ready for some shade. It was the warmest day in AZ in quite a while. 

This rock was awesome. It matched my bike almost perfectly. 

Finally hitting Goldridge. What shape would the trail be in?

Goldridge was a hoot at the top. Just the perfect grade to just fly and not much vegetation. We stopped a few times to trim up some small areas and/or move small logs. JS used the handsaw on a few.

As we started to get a bit lower a couple larger sections weren't bad, but had potential to start encroaching a bit, so we were a little bit preventative there. Then the trail started getting STEEP going downhill. Just fall line pretty sketchy stuff. We both walked a couple decent sized descents - neither of our cup of tea.

JS taking in huge views. We have a long way down and not a lot of mileage left. Brake burner for sure

Roosevelt Lake way in the distance. 

This section was amazing for flowers as well. 

Eventually the trail mellows out as we approach the freeway and we let it go a bit more. Be careful though because there is so much vegetation that it would be easy to hit a decent sized rock  and go OTB or similar.

All in all, it was 7.5 hours to cover about 23 miles of beautiful terrain. That's about as typical as a Schilling ride gets. Awesome.

Relive 'Some trail love on Goldridge with Schilling (that sounds bad)'

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Black Canyon Trail - Old AES route

I've been struggling to get back into shape (mostly need to get off of the "see food" diet). Carrying the extra weight around has been really hurting me - and riding less in general means that I'm basically a sloth on the trail right now. That said, I have been getting some decent rides in over the last month. Time to get a little bit rowdy and get another decent ride in. Weather wise was looking pretty nice down here in the deserts, so I decided to do the old AES BCT route, which has gotten some riders on it over the last few weeks.

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. 
Mercifully I crested the climb and I had finally made it to the BCT turn off. Decided now would be a good time to have lunch and prep for 29 miles of BCT goodness.

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. 

Relive 'BCT - Old AES route '

Friday, November 30, 2018

AES "Pleasantville" with a twist

I haven't touched an AES route since prior to my running of the AZTR 300 in 2017. The last one in fact was when I did the Picketpost Pulverizor as an ITT in late 2016. I feel like I'm finally getting to a place where I can do these rides again, so I decided that since I have some PTO to burn, and my weekends are so packed through the end of the year, that I'd give this a shot on a weekday.

Since this route is in fairly close proximity to my house, I decided instead of driving to the start, I would slightly modify the route so that I would tie into it at about mile 4. I would follow the route from there while also exiting the route at mile 4 to complete the full loop and return home.

In retrospect, adding miles to any AES event (no matter how "easy" - and Pleasantville is probably the easiest) is not the greatest of ideas. Oops.

I got my bike and stuff packed for the morning (including picking up a breakfast burrito for lunch during the ride), but got to sleep later than I wanted and also had a hard time getting out of bed. I started about an hour later than I wanted - right around 8AM.

Cloud cover was really good most of the day. Not a bad view to start the morning.

Not terrible riding on the 51st ave alignment north of the CAP. Some sandy spots, but not bad.

After crossing the 303, you have to toss the bike over the fence to continue on.

Gate prior to crossing carefree highway. It was unlocked due to hot air balloon vehicles heading back there, so I didn't have to hoist my bike over. Score!

A short jaunt on the last (first??) mile of BCT north of carefree highway and I tied into the Maricopa Trail and the Pleasantville route. Head west young man.

The lower deserts are confused. Many wildflowers blooming all over the place despite it being almost December. 

Heading west on MT

The Maricopa Trail through here is OK. It gets some semi-regular love since a local race uses it. It's nothing I would ride just to ride, but it gets the job done as a dirt connector to Lake Pleasant.

Riding around the Agua Fria wash before entering the official Lake Pleasant trails. 

Dam... :)

Entering the goods. These are good trails - reminds me of a cross between Phx Sonoran and BCT

Cool wooden bridges here that allow water crossing when wet.

Pretty and fast on the downs, slow (for me) on the ups. 

First decent climb of the day had me feeling like this. 

Snack and water fill up break. 

Good stuff here. Ran into the only trail users I would see all day here. Some elderly hikers. They enjoyed my timber bell very much. 

Water is very low in the lake right now  so not really waterfront riding. But tons of wildflowers.

The trail as you go north gets a bit more rocky. Totally rideable, but just requires more concentration and energy. LP in the background. 

These guys were cute af. I probably saw 15-20 of these guys. They weren't real sketchy, they would just move out of the way and then watch.

Time to exit the LP trails and get into dirt road grind mode.

I was familiar with the upcoming dirt roads from my previous trip up here with Marcus on our way to Crown King. There are a few longer efforts, but nothing crazy. I was getting a bit hungry, but wanted to get the climbs out of the way and get a view of the lake before eating.

Yeah, it's a dirt road, but the scenery is beautiful.

Good view of the lake before the last bigger climb in front of me. 

Climb done, I sit and eat my burrito and look south to enjoy the views. 

Enjoying the sights while eating. 

From here, it is really quick riding mostly downhill with just some short punchy uphill things to set you up for the next downhill. All of the sudden the landscape seems to change.

Arizona attempts fall colors. 

Wide open and flat. 

Cool canopy of trees over this trail section. 

Hey, look at those jackasses!

Sun came out for a bit. It got way warmer when that happened. I needed a bit of a boost though and it helped until I got a little hot. 

Tule Creek (I think) cutting though

At this point I was feeling ok a bit drained but still making progress. Entering some really remote bits here so I was just taking it really easy and enjoying the landscape and terrain.

My own safety is a major concern when I'm out here solo. I did have my Spot tracker going and a few people were watching. Still, I'm all about being responsible for both bike and body. Anything that goes wrong out here could make for a really interesting adventure. That said, here is what you get to see when you are "out there"...


That last bit of fun I had for a while...

AES = Always Expect Shenanigans. 

The above picture was actually at the bottom of a downhill hike a bike (HAB) for me. Prior to this I had to climb similar terrain. Remember what I said about being super conservative? I could have ridden this stuff, but to me it was just sketchy enough for me to hike. Way too easy to break something on the bike or crash here. No need for me to risk that out here in the middle of nowhere. That's how I roll.

I guess portions of this route might be off limits during bald eagle breeding season? I confirmed it - yes. If you do this route during the closures that's on you. You might be able to get to the south side of the AF if the water is low enough.

Agua Fria - very little water here. The bald eagle closure area in the sign above is in the left half of the picture. To the right is the Agua Fria which you might be able to get to the south side of if it is low enough. Your mileage will vary.

These plants are trash. Rank number two behind cat claw in worthless plants. 

Not as easy to remove as you might think. 

Luckily the section of death plants doesn't last long but at first I was really concerned. It was fairly thick and handlebar height for a bit.

I have no idea what this area is for. I guess you could make it back here with a boat if the lake/river was really high??

Not much more in this section until I got to Table Mesa Rd. Took a little break at the vehicle gate then began the fairly quick dirt road ride to meet up with the BCT. I got there soon enough. You know you are close when you hear gunfire.

BCT junction on Table Mesa Rd. 

It started off pretty well, but the wheels came off very fast. This section of trail is good. Typical twisty singletrack but pretty rocky. My legs were pretty toast at this point so generating the speed I needed to maintain momentum just wasn't happening. So I ended up walking a bunch in here. Demoralizing. I yelled out my anger to the open desert a few times

There was some climbing in addition to the rugged nature of the singletrack. But that gets you views if you can get out of your anger and look around every once in a while. 

Sun is starting to set. Trail still a bit rough. 

The tread starts to get a bit better as you get closer to Emory Henderson. It starts trending downhill which helps a lot.

Almost ran this guy over. My first tarantula encounter in the wild!

Really cool spot with some very large saguaros. 

Getting closer to the trailhead and rolling faster. 

BCT artwork

Sunset on BCT

Finally made it to EH trailhead. 

I took a little snack break to prepare for the rest of the way. I knew what was in front of me and that includes some pretty crap moments of BCT. Those would slow me down for sure, but I knew I could make good time otherwise because it was going to be mostly flat jeep road riding. Onward!

One such spot of garbage. Crossing New River. This is the trail. Looks better than it is because the light shining on it makes it look like something. I've done this before so knew what to expect. The exit out of the other side of the wash can be tricky to find if you haven't seen it before.

Just confirming I'm "on the trail" from the above picture

I got out of that mess and the rest of the route was pretty straightforward. I did skip the route that went under I17 to get to circle K - the official start point. I was smoked and didn't need anything anyway. This wasn't an official running of the route anyway since I didn't start it in the right place so it's a DNF officially - hell I guess it's actually a DNS for that matter.

The only thing was now it was dark and I went off course for a short bit when I turned to head south on Maricopa trail. There was an obvious jeep road that had a slight V to the left now that I look back at my track. I didn't figure it out until I stopped because I was riding through this:

Water on this road that was freshly trickling in from somewhere...

I bushwhacked a couple hundred feet east to the actual Maricopa Trail. Oops. I would have backtracked, but I was already DNF, so who cares. Not like my route was easier lol.

It was all pretty easy track after this, the hardest parts were hoisting my bike over the fences at carefree highway and 303. I ALMOST explored the concrete wash that goes under the 303, but it was a few hundred yards and I'm pretty sure it is fenced off so I just said forget it. There were decent gaps in traffic on the 303 so no big deal, though it would have been nice to avoid that last barbed wire fence to get back into the pyramid peak area.

The last bit to get to the CAP crossing next to deem hills was annoying. It's slightly uphill in this direction and just sandy enough to be annoying and get you off your bike a few times.

It ended soon enough and then it was easy neighborhood bike path back to the house.

All in all, I'm happy about this effort. It was entirely too slow but at least I avoided the cramp monster that got me with Schilling. It was less miles than my Thanksgiving ride, but way harder due to being all dirt. Still looking for any kinds of climbing legs though.

Relive 'Never fast... always determined (modified pleasantville route from home)'