Saturday, May 26, 2018

Moab and beyond....

Damn, I finally figured out my stupid login for this site. It's been a year and a half since I last posted here.... Lots of adventures but no way to document them means I'm just going to start fresh with my last adventure.

I usually take a couple of weeks in April sometime to get out of California. Last year it was 10 days in Sedona and Hurricane/ Saint George. This year it was time to get to Moab again. As was the case last year, I'd be joined by my friend Steve who lives just outside of Hurricane. If you've done a shop ride out of Over the Edge in Hurricane you've likely ridden with Steve. He is a VERY good technical rider and regularly rides the toughest lines in his area. We're a pretty good match. We both can usually ride the same lines blind, meaning that we haven't seen them yet but are confident enough in our abilities to either roll them unseen, or take a peek and then roll them. I know that if Steve rolls something and then disappears, that I can be confident that I wont die at the bottom.

Part of my reason for going to Moab was to ride the White Rim Trail in one day. It's a 100 miles around Canyonlands National Park and has some of the most stunning scenery in the area. Id be coming out a few days before Steve so I knew I'd have time to do it and still be relatively fresh for the riding we would be doing together.

I arrived on the Friday after Easter. It was a complete clusterfuck since it was still spring break for a lot of folks. After driving around for the better part of the day I finally settled on a dispersed site out past Horsethief Campground. This turned out to be a great site since most of the good stuff starts up on the mesa above Moab anyways, I was camped 500' from the trailhead down to Navajo Rocks. A bonus was I could start my White Rim adventure right from camp.

I got a little ride in on Friday evening, actually I got 30 miles in because I just couldn't stop. I ended up coming back to camp in the waning hours of the day helped by the light of a car coming down the road behind me.

  A quick shower and off to bed I went. Saturday would be some shopping and getting the bike ready for Sundays ride on the White Rim. Saturday ended up being mostly a wash, literally it was a wash as it rained most of the day and evening. I love the desert in the rain and this was no exception. Just beautiful, minus me getting my truck stuck in the mud trying to get back to camp....
With everything wet and muddy I was expecting to have to alter my plans for the next day. I had planned on getting out at first light and getting some pictures as the sun rose over the Shafer trail
Those plans were scrapped as I had to swap the dropper post out and set the bike up for XC day instead of a trail day.
I had grand plans for my adventure. I knew the record was somewhere around 6-1/2 hours. That was out of reach since the farthest I'd ridden this year was 60 miles, so I set my eyes on a sub 8 hour time without killing myself. Got out of the trailer at 8 and headed for the rim.

First view into the Colorado River side of the park.

 Most people do this ride as a supported multi day ride. It's not really an option if you ride it solo as the only water source is at about mile 80 or 20 depending on which way you go. I didn't see a single soul for the first 60 miles and then ran into a good 50 cyclist out there finishing up their multi day supported adventures. Looks like a fun time with a support vehicle dragging your water and food around behind you, just not my deal.

Pretty cool.

Shafer Trail swithbacks

I can still bail out and head to Moab for breakfast....

It really is pretty spectacular out there. I've been to some pretty cool places on a bike, this is certainly one of them.

The day was rolling along pretty well. I felt good and was pretty sure I'd make my sub 8 hour day if it continued like it had for the first 30 miles. Of course it didn't but I was alright with that.

To be continued.....

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

An Arizona Christmas....

Boy it's been a long time since I've had a real vacation. Now, my vacations don't look like a lot of peoples idea of a vacation, but for me I cant think of a better way to spend my time. I really didn't have much of a plan for the period between Christmas and New Years, I knew I didn't want to hang around the house, I'd only end up working and besides the weather was going to be craptastic.
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. 

The rain had been following me from California to Phoenix pretty much non-stop. I managed to get a quick spin on some of the trails around the campground before the rain started. The rain only lasted a few hours in the desert, but I knew that meant a likely change of plans for the morning as I'd likely not want to be on trail for the first few hours. That was OK, I was good with riding up the highway to the Picketpost Trailhead and then seeing how it looked from there.
Picketpost Trailhead

Thirty miles up the highway into a nice little headwind was certainly a good test to see where my knee would be. By the time I reached dirt I knew it was not going to go well. The trail looked good, only puddles and mud for the first 100' or so, after that it was prime AZT singletrack, actually some of the best conditions I've seen on this section of trail. It was cold, I never did lose my leg or arm warmers and just barely felt comfortable without a jacket on. The scenery was spectacular and I was the only soul on the trail, first tracks and not another human or animal was seen, this was going to be a very special Christmas Day.
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.

The route from Picketpost out to the Kelvin / Ripsey trailhead is one of the best sections of trail I have ever run tires on. The scenery is spectacular, the trail building is top notch with some sections I just can't believe someone had the balls to build this! There's not much walking on this 36 mile section of singletrack, but the little there is was starting to show that my knee was not going to make it out into the Tiger Mine section of the AZT.
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
It was nice to get back on trails at San Tan Park. The washes were actually rideable after the previous days rains and the scenery in this park are really a nice addition to the area. It had been a really nice day, much warmer than the day before, shorts and short sleeves were the theme of the day. I made my way through the park and into the urban areas of Queen Creek and Mesa on my way out to the trail system at Hawes.
 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.






Jacobs crosscut

Gold Canyon Trails?

Gold Canyon Trails?
I rolled into Gold Canyon about 1PM and made the decision not to continue over to the Picketpost trailhead for a full loop, I'd do the Gold Canyon stuff and bail on the roads that head back over to the AZT at Picketpost so I didn't have to do as much highway back to my truck in Apache Junction. Back at the truck and I was off to get another campsite and much needed shower at Lost Dutchman State Park.
Sunset from Lost Dutchman State Park
Since I had finished the Queen's Ransom route in 3 days I had another 3 days to explore the area. I'd really never taken the time to ride the many parks in the Phoenix area out of either a lack of time or lack of knowledge. I'd done some research before I came out and was pretty sure I'd be able to find my way around a couple of places I'd like to visit.
 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.
McDowell Mountain
The next day I decided to stay close to camp. I figured I'd just do a mellow day and keep it around 20 miles or so. I poked around up to the Wilderness boundary of the Superstitions and then headed across the highway to the Goldfield Mountains and Bulldog Canyon. I poked around on some singletrack and dirt roads until I came out at the eastern end of Bulldog Canyon. I mistakenly thought that I could take this over to the Usery trail system and loop back home in short order. Boy was I wrong. 55 miles later and a long slog back to camp in near darkness was how I ended my day. Saw some really cool stuff and outside of not being able to find a connecting trail had a great time.I'll definitely go back when I have all day to explore.

Cholla forest beneath the Superstitions

Gold Field Mountains, I made it up into that box canyon before being turned around.

Bulldog Canyon

Bulldog Canyon

Bulldog Canyon

Bulldog Canyon

Goldfield Mountains
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.

National Trail

National Trail

National Trail
All in all a great Christmas vacation and I'm so glad it all came together.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

A normal winter!

A few pictures from today's ride along the North Fork of the American River. We've had a ton of rain lately and the normal streams and waterfalls are all starting to flow pretty good. Here's hoping it continues.Sun, rain and snow on today's ride!