AZT: L.O.S.T. Trail Days

A bunch of our friends rolled their eyes & shook their head at the notion of Shannon and I leading a 'beginner' ride for Superior's L.O.S.T. trail days festival. While we may be Team Loco, we can also reign things in when necessary!!

This beginner ride of sorts wasn't for the newcomer to the sport, rather all it meant was we'd stop more, ride at a comfortable pace, take pics and eat lots of snacks. In other words, a typical ride minus the copious amounts of HAB.

The only question was: who was going to show up? It was open to the general public, so we had no idea what we were in for other than an 18 mile ride on dirt roads and the Arizona Trail north of Picketpost. (Passage 18 - Whitford Canyon). Craig was leading the advanced group ride on the same route, just riding faster and leaving a bit before us.

Apparently, most of us had never been off US60 in Superior and were surprised to see how big the town really was. I was guilty. It's good to know there is still an ice cream shop open along main street.

Our group slowly assembled and by the time we headed over to Picketpost TH we totaled 10 riders. Not bad.
8 riders trusted Shannon and I to lead them around for the day. Photo by Shannon.
The group was rolling onto AZT singletrack around 10:30. The first two miles of trail have plenty of rocky bits to keep you focused and this would be a good test of our group. We regrouped at the first series of gates and found one fella being very cautious on the rocky terrain. Queen Creek was still flowing a short distance later and he decided it would be best to turn back. I gave Josh my car keys so he could get the guy out of the overly packed parking lot. The rest of the group continued on to the dirt road portion of the ride.
Train of riders along the AZT. Photo by Shannon.
Apache Leap and Picketpost Mtn make an excellent backdrop. Photo by Shannon.
The hills grow bigger as Picketpost shrinks. Photo by Shannon.
Meet Jonas. No excuses, he rocked it all day!!
Blastoff!! Photo by Shannon.
It was nice to see water flowing in a few places.
I wasn't expecting to ride IN a river!! Photo by Jack.

By the time we reached our rendezvous with the AZT up FR650 we caught up to the advanced ride group. They had gone a bit farther up the trail to check on reported trail damage. Craig informed us about a washout along the Whitford Canyon segment and recommended an alternate route to avoid more water crossings. I figured we'd play it by ear and make the call as a group when we got to that point. First, there were a few miles of singletrack high above any threat of water.
A steady climb greeted us after leaving FR650.
Rugged mountains surrounding us.
This is Jack, first time on the AZT. First of many, look at that smile!! Photo by Shannon.
The desert floor is carpeted in green. Photo by Shannon.
The AZT is a gathering place for all trail users. Photo by Shannon.
Time to hand out cookies and make a decision on Whitford Canyon. Photo by Shannon.

It really wasn't a hard decision, everyone wanted to stay on the trail!! Or at least what was left of it. The first couple of miles through Whitford Canyon the AZT follows and crisscrosses a normally dry wash. Not on this day. The water was still flowing, a few inches deep and the storm damage could easily be seen by the down trees and eroded banks. It must've been quite a sight.
Trail? What trail. Photo by Shannon.
Holly loves a good adventure!!
When the trail wasn't washed away, it was lush. Photo by Shannon.
Some more pushing and dodging limbs. Photo by Jack.
One last HAB and water crossing.
The AZT eventually winds up the hillside away from the wash. We'd find Josh waiting for us at the next crossing.
Shannon perfecting her switchback technique.
Here's Darch, 70+ years young and still getting after it.
Reaching the top of the last big climb of the day.

Picketpost Mtn was now dominating our field of view. A few miles of ridgeline riding back down to Queen Creek ensued. Everyone was enjoying the final sights of the day as we finished up on the first two miles of trail from the morning.
Craig caught up to us after taking his shortcut past Whitford Canyon.
Such a fun group to share the trail with. Hopefully those new to the AZT will venture off and explore more of what it offers.

Afterwards a few of us went back into Superior to see what the rest of the festival was all about. Some of the vendors had left the scene by mid-afternoon, but the fish tacos were still being served and they were excellent!! The live music was going and beer was available, so it was a fine way to wind down the day.

A huge thank you to the folks who run the Legends of Superior Trail days and thanks for the invite, Craig. Of course this wasn't complete without the other half of Team Loco, Shannon, leading from behind today. The group returned intact and ready for more!! Success on all accounts!!

Full photo album

Route flyover



AZTR750: More Dirt Less Pavement

I'm a mountain biker. I don't own a road bike nor have the desire to. Nothing wrong with road riding, just not my cup of tea. So, when I have the option to ride dirt or road to get somewhere, you can bet it's going to be dirt.

Last year I proposed a route change for the AZTR750 when it approached Gold Canyon (east side of metro Phoenix) bypassing the paved US60 shoulder & 65 mph speed limit, but there wasn't time for Scott to ride it for the necessary stamp of approval. Instead, it was put in as 'optional'. I was one of the only riders to do both the Gold Canyon and Jacob Crosscut options last year. The Jacob Crosscut portion really wasn't ready for primetime action and I was pretty much regretting it while trudging along it's boulder strewn path.

Fast forward a year and I did a little route tweaking through Gold Canyon. I removed most of the zigzagging trails in favor of a more direct fast route through the trail system. Unfortunately, just last week my exit from the trails were fenced off and signed 'No trespassing, private property' mostly due to an increase in OHV activity. I needed a new way out of the trails. One option led to a fence, the other added a few silly miles to the trailhead only to come right back where the fence option was. I had also learned a couple months earlier that the SALT crew was actively working on the Jacob Crosscut trail. This was something I didn't expect to occur for years to come!! Could we possibly have both options added THIS year? Scott was able to come up to the Valley to find out.

Scott & Eszter had their Scamp situated near the Picketpost trailhead, so we opted to start our ride there - it also happens to be the finish line for the AZT300. Ez did us a huge favor by offering to pick us up at the end of our ride, some 45 miles away while she had her own adventure going up Flat Iron. Good call.

Right out of the gate we were both surprised to see Queen Creek flowing!! First time I've seen water in it.
It may not look like much, but around these parts water is life!!
The next dozen or so miles are relatively flat dirt road and a bit of pavement leading into the retirement oasis of Queen Valley. We arrived just over an hour into the ride. Snack break!!

A couple more paved miles lead to State Trust land and a return to dirt. We veered onto the new portion about a mile later. The views back here are stunning, rugged mountains all around, yet the jeep roads are fairly tame by comparison.
Only a mile or so under the powerlines.
Closing in on the Superstitions.
More flowing water!! Don't expect this in April.

The route winds around a bit generally heading west, then it scoots north for a couple of miles following the wash pictured above. The track peels off to the west again for the only real effort in miles. There's a short bit, maybe 1/4 mile, of loose, chunky climbing to a saddle followed by more loose stuff on the descent.

Scott's Scamp sense perked up as we rode along Gold Rush & Peralta rds, plenty of nice spots to pull over for a few days and soak in the surroundings.

We crossed through a gate and were about to start the updated singletrack route through Gold Canyon, with Scott in the lead so he could see how if flowed for someone not familiar with the area.
Outer Limits got things rolling.
Pay attention, there are some fun b-line rock options along the way too.
Not sure what designates a Shredder Crossing when no other trails are around, but it's fast through here!!
Duck under this fence or ride mostly drab flat pavement back to nearly the same spot. Bikes over, bodies under. Go.

A few miles of neighborhood cruising brought us to a lunch stop at Subway before resuming the Jacob Crosscut (JC) section.
New signage at the Broadway TH. It's looking official now.
This sums it up rather well. The boulder-surfing HAB is gone. 100% rideable now. Photo by Scott.
The old alignment on the left (it wasn't quite that bad, remove 1/2 of those rocks, but you get the idea) new trail on right.
This signpost marks the top of the climb. The JC turns left here and begins to contour the terrain.
Flat Iron in the center.

I was really curious to see how far the trail work had gone now that the worst of it was fixed. The next two miles were super technical before. I was hoping it would all be rideable, but still retain it's character. It's a tough balance to achieve, but after riding through the SALT crew did a really nice job. There are still a few spots that are tricky requiring good bike handling skills and focused attention. We dabbed a few times and dismounted here & there, but nothing crazy or annoying. It appears there's a bit more work still planned so it will only get better and it's really good right now. I can't thank the volunteers at SALT enough for their hard work out here.
First poppy sighting of the season!! It's going to be a good one this year.
Interesting lichen pattern here.
A few tight spots to negotiate along the way.
This is finally a viable trail linking the Goldfield Mtns, Lost Dutchman SP & Gold Canyon trails together.

First the rains, now the green and soon the flowers will carpet the ground.
Our day started far on the other side of the Superstitions.

We rode back to Lost Dutchman SP where Ez had finished her jaunt up to Flat Iron. I still need to do that hike!! They took advantage of the available showers at the park, then we celebrated a great day outside with some Mexican fare at De La Cruz in Gold Canyon.

It's now official, this ride will be a permanent course change for the AZTR750!! More dirt, more singletrack, less pavement = win!!

Route flyover



AZT: Oracle Rumble

The Oracle Rumble is a trail running event in its inaugural year offering participants 4 distances to choose from: 10k, Half Marathon, 50k and a whopping 50 mile option. It's part of the ever popular trail running series put on by the Arizona Trail Association and local sponsors. The Rumble was filled to capacity in its first year!! The sport has really taken off.

Shannon asked if I'd be interested in helping out with gate duty during the event. Sure, why not. We get to ride the AZT and cheer on the runners. Of course after I committed to helping out, Shannon informed me that we'd be riding south from Freeman rd to Tiger Mine TH and the race started at 7am!! My two previous rides on this section going southbound were no picnic. I was pretty cooked during an AES APC event after doing a big ride the day before and my last time was during the AES Gila100 when I had to sleep on the trail when all 3 of my lights failed!! Good times. I was curious to see what I thought of this section with fresh legs and a lighter bike.

We had a couple of friends doing the event as well. Eszter made a last minute call and signed up for the 50k and Holly was all in for the 50 miler. Totally nuts on both accounts if you ask me. I also had a co-worker friend, Rob, who would be section hiking this passage northbound. Seems like we had friends all over the trail.

The alarm chirped at 3:00a, then again at 3:10. I relented at 3:20 and got moving. Coffee in hand, I made the hour and a half drive south to meet Shannon at Tiger Mine by 5:30a. We had to set up a shuttle for our little point-to-point ride. It was 22º when we left Tiger Mine, yikes!!

The drive around to Freeman rd is mostly on graded dirt roads, but Willow Springs road took a ton of storm damage from recent rains. There were a few instances where barricades were placed in the road warning of deep cross ruts. A couple were really deep & wide and I was careful to not wreck the bikes on the rear rack. It took over an hour to get to our start point and we didn't get pedaling until 6:55a. It was now a balmy 28º, but we were prepared for it.
Desert dwellers a bit out of our element.
Holly & Josh were at Freeman rd, we wished Holly well and hoped to see her out on course. We'd also cross paths with Josh as he rode the opposite direction after dropping his car at Tiger Mine. he was kind enough to then drive my car back around at the end of the day. Win-win.

Our late start meant we really didn't need our lights for more than 5 minutes, which was fine. It was cool riding through the Antelope Peak cholla forest in the pre-dawn light. The few short climbs kept us warm enough, but we were ready for the sun to be up.
Ahh, there it is!! Photo by Shannon.
Fiery glow on Antelope Peak. Photo by Shannon.
Time to break out the sunglasses. Photo by Shannon.
It should also be noted that Shannon was riding a new-to-her bike, Kaitlyn's old ride, but the front brakes were being warrantied and not due in until Monday. So, she went straight out of the #loco handbook and did the ride sans front brakes. That's why she's the VP of #locorides. It also helped that my brakes were making all kind noise, some sort of switchback mating call?? We dubbed it the audible braking alert system. If she heard my brakes screaming, she knew to begin to slow down ahead of time. Worked pretty well except for one turn where Shannon slowly rolled off the trail on a turn!!
Looking back to the north and a snow covered Pinal Peak. Also a good place to stop and remove a chollaball that had flown up and stuck to my derriere!
Good mornin' Antelope Peak.
A snowy Mt. Lemmon still far off in the distance. Plenty of trail markers and flagging for the runners to follow.

We reached Beehive Well in good time. The first aid station was here and the volunteers informed us that the race had started about 45 minutes late for a variety of reasons. We began to wonder if or when we'd be caught by the lead runners.
Race volunteering along the AZT is hard work, lots of manual labor. Photo by Shannon.
I took note of our total ride time when we reached Bloodsucker Wash, 1:50. Just under two hours and with a 10 minute chat at the aid station. It took me three hours in the dark during the Gila100!!

I hadn't exactly been looking forward to the 5+ mile climb out of Bloodsucker. I walked so much of it the last two times through. I expected more of the same. We took note of the time and began creeping up the hillside in pedal mode.

We were about a mile up and still pedaling!! This really surprised me. I guess it's true, fresh legs and a lighter bike make a difference!! We stopped for a snack break then resumed riding.
If you see a chollaball on the trail, don't kick it. They fight back. Photo by Shannon.
Continuing the climb. It was right about here when the lead runner passed us by. She was flyin'.
Mountainview aid station. A true desert oasis.
We were at the aid station long enough to see the next wave of fast runners come through, but a solid 15+ minutes behind the leader.

The aid station was absolutely stocked full of goodies. First there was a huge pile of runner's drop bags, then three tables loaded with a variety of drinks - Coke, Mountain Dew, Water, Electrolytes, etc. Then the food choices, oh my. Burritos, PB&J, potatoes, all kinds of fresh fruit, pretzels, pickles, gummy bears, Twizzlers, M&M's and so much more. We hung out for 15 minutes or so, then made our way up the trail.

The climbing continued, yet we were still pedaling!! There really wasn't much HAB at all.
Nearing the top, Mt. Lemmon makes a grand appearance.
How could this be? I was enjoying the heck out of this climb!! Photo by Shannon.
As runners tracked us down, we'd pull off the trail and give them space before following suit. Photo by Shannon.

Again, we made it to the gate signaling the end of the Bloodsucker climb in under two hours and that was with an extended stop at the aid station and a snack break beforehand. I think we trimmed over an hour off my Gila100 time.

It had turned into a beautiful day, incredibly clear, crisp air felt great. It was a perfect time to find a trailside spot to soak up the views and down some hot chocolate!!
Cheers to Team Loco!!
...and cheers to the AZT!! Photo by Shannon.

Super gnar catclaw of the Black Hills. This stuff is wicked.
A few moments after our hot chocolate break we had friends coming at us in both directions!! Eszter had literally run us down from behind. She was looking great and had a partner along for a while.
Semi-decent running to a 4th place finish in the 50k!! Yowzers!!
We then crossed paths with Rob on his trek northbound during an overnight segment hike. He's closing in on completing the entire Arizona Trail. Over 600 miles done!! Way to go Rob!!
Still bundled up for the final 8 or so miles. Photo by Rob.

The trail through here is really fun, lots of twists and turns over small undulating hills. As soon as it met up with the old gasline route we ran into Josh heading north to Freeman rd.

We began seeing a steady stream of runners, most in good spirits, but a few were struggling, yet pushing on. We offered as much encouragement as we could and I think it was appreciated by the smiles we got back.

What's this? Two bikers perched on a hillside up ahead. Katie & Jerry came out for a spin and to ride with us over the final miles to Tiger Mine. This section is tough. A series of 5 or 6 drainages that tend to suck the life out of you. They weren't too bad today, sure some HAB was had, but not nearly to the extend I've done in the past. Once again, fresh legs win!!
Shannon's friend, Damion, was out taking race photos and caught us in action too!! Photo by Damion.
I think this was right after I caught a rock and went OTB on a switchback! Oof. Photo by Damion.
Grind, grind, grind. Photo by Damion.
The obligatory HAB snap. Katie & Jerry in form.
Jerry topping out at Tiger Mine TH.
Unobstructed view from under the AZT sign. Antelope Peak is the little speck on the left horizon, snow on Pinal Peak to the right.
Fun cast of characters to finish the ride out.
Another well stocked aid station. Only 4 1/2 miles to go for the 50k runners from here, still another 21 miles for the 50 mile gang.

Just as we were getting set to head over to the finish area, Holly came up the hill to the aid station. She was in good spirits and looking strong. Shannon and I rode by her for the next mile down to the AZ77 culvert. Such an incredible effort!! She finished 3rd, 7th overall. Simply amazing!!
Holly in action, Congrats!!
Over at the finish area, Eszter had just wrapped up the 50k and was looking a little wobbly. :)

It was cool seeing the runners cross the line to huge cheers and high fives from family & friends. The Oracle Rumble had a great vibe. If you're into trail running, give the Arizona Trail Running Series a serious look.

I hung out for a couple of hours and then Josh arrived with my car and it was time to go. Such a fun day out enjoying the AZT with great friends.

Route flyover