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6.02.2018

Prescott: Mixed Bag of Tricks

Mark and I had planned on doing an exploratory ride up in the Bradshaw mountains the first weekend in June, but the Prescott NF closed off sections of the forest and with it, some of our intended route. I gave Mark the task of coming up with another 25-30 mile route using some lesser traveled trails and preferably new-to-us dirt. Not a real easy task, but he was up to it.

I knocked out a few hours at work Friday morning, ran some errands then made my way to Prescott. We loaded up Mark's truck and went in search for a camping spot. We drove past one of the closed forest roads on our way up the mountain. To our surprise, Mark's choice spot was still vacant so we snagged it, yanked off the bikes and rode up to the overlook with 5 minutes to spare before sunset.
Golden Hour light in Arizona is something to behold.

Sierra Prieta overlook.

Dammit, I forgot my spraypaint. WTF is wrong with people??

Another day in the books.
Back at camp we set up Mark's absurdly over-engineered tent. Not sure I could set that thing up solo.

We didn't get as early a start as we would've liked, but neither one of us seemed eager to get moving in the wee hours of the morning. By the time we ate and were ready to ride, it was 9a. Oh well.
A few easy miles early on.

High above Thumb Butte, Humphrey's Peak way off on the horizon at 12,633'

West Spruce trail started out splendidly.
The trail morphed into a series of relatively short, punchy hike-a-bike sections for me...Mark rode everything. Ok, he did walk one super steep, chewed up switchback just so I knew he was human. That's one of many reasons I like going on rides with Mark, he tries to ride everything!! Usually does. Watching him power up some insanely steep grade makes me think I can at least give it a whirl. Sometimes I pull off the feat.

W. Spruce dumped out onto a section of the route with a disclaimer from Mark: 'Be warned', he said, 'I drew in this section based on satellite view'. Now, where have I heard that before?? I couldn't quite place it...

To our surprise this connector trail was an actual signed trail, Porter Mtn. Spur trail - #300, and was mostly downhill and rideable!! Win. We rejoined another forest road where it had been closed off to entry. Time for a snack break.

So far, the closure area had been very well marked.
We noted how rugged the road was, the one we were about to ride down, and joked how we'd doubt anyone drives up it. Barely 2 minutes later we heard a rumble, then a forest service employee came bouncing up the road. He was out patrolling the area to be sure the closure notices were being followed. We only noted two hikers a bit earlier, they too were obeying the rules.

Social trail connection.

NO campfires!!

Looks like we're back on a system trail.

On our way over to Spence Basin.

This section of the route was really fun, lots of downhill.

Saw our first group of riders near the bottom of Firewater trail. We didn't see many riders all day.

Rock outcroppings become more prominent as we enter Spence Basin.

Double step power!!

Random location for a car hood.

The aptly named Tunnel Vision trail's namesake.

Another namesake: Juniper Gate.

Giant rock slab with multiple lines to choose from.

It's stuff like this when I wish I had a dropper post. My Brooks saddle is too wide to get behind.

Alternate line.

What goes down, must surely go up.

We found the double black spur, Lloyd's Drop.

This was the upper section, a steep roller.

Followed by a 3' huck-to-flat.
The trails in Spence Basin were really fun. Plenty of rock features to play on, enough zigzagging to keep you on your toes too. 

Our route took us to the Thumb Butte TH where we topped off our water and chatted with another rider for a bit. It was mostly uphill back to the truck from here. Time to pay the piper.

Midway through the steady climb back to camp.

The entry to Sparrow trail was hardly noticeable, but the trail was easy to follow. The grade wasn't steep, but I was about at my limit for the day.

Naturally, after all the climbing, we found a sand trap at the top of the mountain barely 1/2 mile from the end.

Nature is neat. *Note to local yahoos, this is NOT a trash can.
This ride ended up being exactly what I needed. A good solid beatdown. I can tell my fitness has slacked off quite a bit with the lower mileage rides, etc. I'm ok with that...for now. I'm really itching for big miles once again. Thanks for putting together an awesome route, Mark. Until next time...


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5.28.2018

San Tan Saguaros

I decided to sleep in a bit on Memorial Day before going out on a short ride from home. It was around 9:30a by the time I got rolling. I was on my way down to San Tan Regional Park, my closest trail system, that I only seem to ride a couple of times per year. The trails are fun, but there isn't a ton of mileage and it would get stale rather quickly if I rode there consistently.

I found out quickly that my heat acclimatization really isn't on par yet. Slow and steady was my goal as the temps were already tickling the low 90's.

I made my way up & over Dynamite trail, still the best trail at the park IMO. There were still quite a bit of trail users out on this warm morning. People haven't completely written off the outdoors in the Phoenix area yet.
Southbound on the San Tan trail.

The trail makes a bend to the west as Rock Peak and the Malpais Cliffs make an appearance.

Saguaro blooms are coming to a close, but I found a low hanging one begging for a photo.

The signal of summer in the desert.

Hang loose bro. Even the Sonoran desert has cool vibes, man.
I was holding up fairly well in the heat, all things considered. No issues with the Achilles either. I started making my way up the west side of San Tan trail towards the park exit which includes a fun descent down Dynamite.
Sweet singletrack exit, 1.8 miles of downhill.

Found this short dirt connector near the Hunt Hwy.

Also stumbled upon this new community park under construction just off the Queen Creek multi-use path only a few miles from home.
I was back home a bit after noon, temps firmly in the mid-90's and I didn't feel like I was going to die. I think a few more warm rides will do the trick. It's also almost mandatory now as most of our northern trails are closed due to extremely dry conditions. Praying for an early monsoon season without much lightning!!


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5.27.2018

NM: Pinos Altos / CDT

The National Forests in Arizona were closing left & right to public access due to extremely dry conditions. Memorial weekend was upon us, where to go now? Ever since I've known Beto, he's been trying to get me over to the Gila NF near Silver City, NM for some riding. He and Shannon extended an invite for some camping and riding. I couldn't pass it up. Two more of Beto's friends, Bryan & Mike, would also be meeting us.

I had a few hours to work on Friday, then hit the road. A mere 5 hours later I was rolling into Silver City, NM. I had always wanted to check out the area. I also had a small bit of route scouting to do, this little ride called the Tour Divide goes right through town. In the end, I was able to drive a few miles of the route between Pinos Altos & White Signal. I also found a solid burrito joint and where to grab a green chili cheeseburger!!
New Mexico: The Land of Enchantment...and Chili's!!

Next time I need to check out the brewery in Silver City.

Doesn't look like much, but perhaps simplicity is key to an outstanding burrito?

I was finally able to use our new 4 person car camping tent. I bought it months ago!!
I found the others already well into camp mode, short ride under their belts too.
Looks like I missed a fun ride!! Photo by Bryan.

The Gila NF isn't immune to forest fires as one burns in the distance. Photo by Bryan.

Shannon & Mike celebrating a down tree crossing!! Photo by Bryan.
I had plenty of daylight to futz with my new tent. It went up easily for a first solo run. I'm sure K & I will get plenty of use out of it.

I was a bit surprised at the lack of other people camped out along this road. I passed by plenty of prime camping locations, all vacant. There was only one other couple camped out about a quarter mile away. Cool temps, pines, a light breeze and relative quiet. Perfect.

The next day during breakfast we discussed our ride for the day. Beto had put together a hearty three tiered loop of sorts, 60 miles of Gila ups & downs. (Nothing flat here!) He modified the route a tad and we were off, climbing forest roads on our way up to the Continental Divide Trail, CDT.
The charred remnants poke through the re-emerging forest.

The others left me in the dust as we crept near 9000'.

CDT singletrack!!
I'm fairly certain the last time I was riding the CDT, it was in Colorado and I was getting drenched. Dry conditions on this day.

The trail wound around the upper slopes of the surrounding hills.

The high cloud cover was a welcomed relief too.

Shannon approves.
Shannon & I climbing the CDT. Photo by Beto.

The crew: Mike, Bryan, Beto & Shannon.

Stay alert!!

Bear tracks??

Hmmm, we had fun with this one. Emu? Pterodactyl? Flamino? Definitely a flamingo.

Rugged terrain as far as the eye could see.

Some bits of rocky, technical trail.
We caught up to Beto and he asked if we saw the wild Turkeys. Nope, but that would answer our question about those bird tracks!! Can't believe it wasn't a flamingo...

Considering the large amount of volcanic rock around, the trail was in great condition.

Buffed out sections as well.

Limestone Twin Sisters.
The gang's all here. Photo by Mike.
Power couple!!



Decisions, decisions.

Plenty of new signage out there.

That's one very long, skinny sign.

Old CDT marker standing the test of time.

I do fancy the current design, the blue is easy to locate from afar.
I rode ahead of the group for a photo op on a fast S-curve:
Bryan coming in hot!!



Mike was not far behind. The turn barely slowed him down.

Shannon zipping along after smashing her hand on a trailside boulder moments earlier.

Beto taking is easy. Clearly having way too much fun!!
The spur trail off the CDT dropped us out on a dirt road. It didn't appear to be anything special at the time. A few minutes later we were all blown away. Not only was there water, but this canyon was amazing!! A canopy of green entangled the textured walls in this Gila oasis.
Splashdown!! Photo by Shannon.

Sometimes it's best to stop and soak it in.

Quite the contrast to the arid conditions surrounding the area.

Rock sandwich.

Our Shangri-La dumped out here. Now we were faced with some paved climbing on NM15.

More singletrack bliss tucked off NM15.
I was beginning to drag as we rode along NM15. The thought of chilling at camp was becoming a high motivator. Riding at elevation is never easy, especially the first few rides of the season. This year was proving a bit more difficult than ever with my reduced riding since March. My Achilles really wasn't bothering me, but I could tell it was there. I've been extra cautious about pushing too hard as this recovery has taken much longer than anticipated. I just don't want to do anything that will set me further behind schedule, whatever that schedule may be.

Beto's prized trail: Tadpole Ridge!! He really wanted to show this to us.
Tadpole Ridge ended up being much harder than I would have liked at that stage of the day considering I was already almost in chillax mode. Beto convinced me to stay with it at the top of the climb and I'm glad I did. The downhill back to Meadow Creek Rd. was a hoot.

Beto & Mike blast off onto Tadpole Ridge.

Bryan & Shannon give chase.

I contemplated taking a shortcut back to camp here, but stuck it out.
Cooking shenanigans. Photo by Beto.

Time for post-ride R&R...and beer.
Flyover

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We spent the rest of the afternoon chilling at camp, sharing stories and tipping back a few. To our surprise, we felt a few raindrops, but that didn't last long.

Beto had a shorter loop in mind the following day only overlapping the other ride by a bit. Shannon opted for a trail run while the boys took to the bikes. There wasn't a cloud in the sky on this day. It was quite the contrast from yesterday.
We repeated this section of forest road to attain the CDT.

A large section of slickrock at our turnoff.

Looking back from the slickrock, our route took us up the road a day earlier.

Bryan and I cruising up the climb.

Beto asked Bryan & I if we saw the black bear? Nope, missed out again. Photo by Bryan.

We found this motorcycle parked at the CDT turnoff. Photo by Bryan.

CDT singletrack.


Magnificent trail.

We found the owner of the motorcycle, a local rider out doing some trail maintenance along the CDT.

The trees began to open up and reveal the surrounding area.

Mountain layers in the Gila NF.

A long, rowdy downhill brought us here, the opposite end of Meadow Creek Rd. below our campsite.

Interesting way to cool off in the creek!!
This part of our ride is also a small section of the Tour Divide route. Pretty cool to see this portion in person.

Back at camp, it was siesta time.
Flyover

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After lunch we decided to break camp as we all had stuff to get done before the holiday weekend concluded.

So glad I made it over to this area, thanks for the invite. I'll be coming back for sure. The CDT in the area is fantastic riding and there are many more miles of trail to check out on the next visit. Silver City is only about 5 hours away too, not as far as most would think. It's definitely a summer getaway option.

On my way out of town I was craving a milkshake when I spotted Blake's Lotaburger. Beto had sold me on trying a green chili cheeseburger, so who was I to argue.
Both the Chili Cheeseburger & milkshake hit the spot.
Interesting view of Mt. Graham as headed down towards Lordsburg, NM.
Adios! New Mexico, see ya next time.