The weather in the Phoenix area looked to be pretty pleasant for most of the week, it would be cold to start but progressively warmer as the week went on. My plan was to bikepack for as much of it as I could. My left knee had been giving me some issues since being in a walking boot for all of the month of October, I'm hoping it's just a muscle imbalance thing and not a torn meniscus like I think it is.
So I hatched a plan to ride from Apache Junction to Sierra Vista and back with the option to bail out off of the AZT if my knee was not going to co-operate.
I managed to get out on late Friday for the start of my trip to Phoenix. The weather was horrible nearly all the way, massive thunderstorms and wind for much of the trip. I quit counting the amount of cars stacked into the guardrail at 15, I bet I saw nearly that many again just in Los Angeles. By Saturday afternoon I was sitting in my campsite at Lost Dutchman State Park. I figured I would start here, If I needed to bail out and do John Schillings' Queen's Ransom route instead of going to Sierra Vista, this would be a fine place to start and finish.
|Rainy start to my vacation.|
|Snow off in the Mazatals|
|Prime AZT singletrack.|
|It really doesn't get much better than this.|
|Water in the desert.|
|Spectacular trail and country.|
|You can see trail in the upper right.|
With the decision being made by my body, it was apparent that I'd be doing my second lap of the Queen's Ransom this year. This was just fine by me, I knew I could likely get it done in 2-3 days and that would leave me a few days to explore some of the trails around Phoenix I had not yet ridden.
I managed to make it out past the Ripsey trailhead and past the top of the climb on Florence-Kelvin Hwy before I finished for the day. It was cold and I knew it would be a rough night as this time of the year even if you ride a couple of hours in the dark, you still need to spend a good 10 hours in your sleeping bag, plenty of time to get cold.
I rolled down the dirt road towards Area 52 for a few miles before I scared myself a couple of times in some of the huge ruts in the dark. I didn't want to be at the bottom anyways so I settled down for the night.
As expected, the night was cold, but manageable, likely down in the low 30's. I set the alarm for 6 so I could get going right at dawn. I knew I'd have to do a decently long day to get through the maze of urban trails and roads before I'd get to a suitable place to crash for the night.
|Area 52 out there.|
|View back towards where I had traveled the prior day.|
|Remnants of a prior time.|
The day rolled out as expected, though I'd have a few unexpected surprises due to death mud and high water here and there. McDonald's in Florence was a welcome sight. I don't eat many burgers, but after a couple of days of bars and nuts a burger can be a welcome sight. I usually try to find a little dive when I roll into town, but Florence is a place of convenience, it's existence in this world only to support the prisons that surround it.
More death mud on my way to San Tan regional park made for some interesting route finding. Last time I did this route we all got busted for rolling across tribal land, John rerouted this years route off of tribal land and it was all new to me. As I rolled this new section it made me yearn to be back out in the back country. I'm always disappointed returning to the trappings of human existence in this world, the amount of trash and garbage dumped on the outskirts of town was really disconcerting.
|Getting the tent dry after a damp night.|
|San Tan Park|
|San Tan Park|
John has linked up a series of irrigation canals for the majority of the miles across the urban sprawl of Phoenix. The peace and quiet of these stretches along with the warm evening breezes were just what I needed as I got closer to a 100 miles for the day. I managed to make it through the high dollar subdivisions at the entrance of the Hawes trail system before it got dark and was looking for a flat spot to crash soon after.
|This was a cool little treat in the evening light.|
This night would be much better, the warm evening breezes lasted most of the night and it was nearly daybreak before I actually started to get a little cold. Up and going for the final push into Gold Canyon for the day on some really fun trails was a great way to start the morning.
The Hawes and the Usery trail systems rolled out as I had remembered, fun and punchy. The trails were starting to dry out and get a little slippery, much different than the previous days trails tacky goodness.
|Gold Canyon Trails?|
|Gold Canyon Trails?|
|Sunset from Lost Dutchman State Park|
McDowell Mountain park was my first choice for a little bit of recovery, everything I'd read about it told me it would be an easy mellow day in the saddle. McDowell is over in Scottsdale, about an hour from the campground but traffic was light and I made it there in no time. A nice gentleman at the entrance kiosk gave me a map of the Competitive Loops and the overall park. I made my way around all the trails in the Competitive Loops and headed out for the main park trails. Even though some of the trails were marked difficult they all seemed pretty moderate to me. I found some nice tight singletrack up in the Scottsdale Preserve that was a nice diversion. Overall a really nice mellow day that I somehow managed to get 55 miles in.
|Cholla forest beneath the Superstitions|
|Gold Field Mountains, I made it up into that box canyon before being turned around.|
|Sunset over the Superstitions.|
Friday was my last day to ride. I packed up camp and headed over to South Mountain Preserve. It was a bit out of my way for going home but I'm glad I made the trip. SoMo is a very rocky, technical and popular riding, running and hiking area. I arrived at about 9 am and the place was already starting to get crowded. Everybody was super cool as I rode my way up the chunky National Trail. My plan was to do this out and back, but boy was it a tough go with nearly 325 miles on my legs already. It really is a spectacular trail, filled with really hard moves and short, really powerful climbs. I made my way to the end and turned around to head back.
After climbing back up to the saddle I decided to head down the Pyramid trail. This was a shit ton full of fun, some walking but overall a blast. At the bottom I was given a couple of options. I could cruise back to the car on the tame Desert Classic trail or hike a bike back up to the saddle on the Telegraph Pass trail. I chose to head back up even though it required a pretty good hike with my bike on my back. Surprisingly my knee was pretty good going uphill, it was anything downhill that was near impossible.
Once at the top I continued back down National to my truck. This was a super fun, albeit tough trail and I was happy to see the bottom.