December 13, 2019

Cane Springs Loop

An interesting question popped up on a local mtb forum asking if there was a way to make a shorter loop using the Goldridge trail near Sunflower. That was all the motivation I needed to scour the topo maps of the area and wouldn't you know it, I found a potential route!! I tossed out some ride bait in hopes of getting at least one other adventurous soul to join me. I lucked out and had TWO show up!! Steve and Gerrit are no strangers to long distance rides, so I knew it would be a good crew for whatever the 'trail' would toss our way.

We met near Mt. Ord and staged at the bottom of FS201 on a chilly, by desert standards, morning. We all knew we'd be shedding layers quick since 201 does nothing but point skyward.
Bluebird skies were on tap for most of the day.

201 varies between friendly climbing grades and lung busting bursts.

The cut on the near hillside is FS191, our return route and filled with unknown conditions.

Still climbing, but at least the surface of 201 is mostly graded dirt.

Near the top and in the pines!!

Don't let Gerrit fool ya, he wasn't tired at all!!
I've been up here a handful of times and this was the first time I cleaned the entire 201 climb. All the other rides I've done here included a bunch of miles prior to arriving at the base of 201. Amazing what fresh legs and an unloaded bike will do for your energy.

Next up was the Goldridge descent and it would be the fellas first time down.
Red hues of the mighty Mazatzals near the beginning of Goldridge.

Steve cruising through the burn area.

This section reminds me of Oracle Ridge on Mt. Lemmon without the hike-a-bike.

There were 5 down trees up top, all requiring a chainsaw for removal. Here, expansive views to the north and the Mogollon Rim.

The pines give way to Jojoba, Manzanita and Holly bushes.

Where's Waldo? Gerrit shredding the gnarly descents.

Steve and I took a bit more cautious approach!!

The lower 1/3 is a series of fall-line descents and short punchy climbs.
Eventually the grade lessens and the final miles leading to the terminus at the Deer Creek trailhead are fast and flowy...as long as you dodge the embedded boulders!!

We dumped out onto the large shoulder of AZ87 for a couple of miles. We rejoined dirt on Cane Springs Rd. as we looked for our turnoff to FS191.
A hint of fall color in mid-December. Gold Creek was flowing through this valley and echoing off the mountainside.

Let the adventure portion of the ride begin!!
The next 5 miles were a mystery as topo maps showed FS191 incomplete near the middle, but satellite imagery showed an easily followed connection. The road started out nicely enough heading towards the hills.
191 began a steady climb up the flanks of the Mazatzal Mountains.

So far, so good!! Gold Creek rushing below.

Gradually our path narrowed into singletrack as we continued to meander up the grade.

The trail was rocky in bits, but mostly fine. Vegetation began to encroach forcing me off the bike on occasion.

Soon it was more effort to attempt to stay on the bike through the prodding & poking branches.

We agreed that the trail tread itself was in great condition, just needed some trimming. The thick stuff went on for about 1 1/2 miles or so. 

After a large switchback, our path & views began to open up once again.

More contoured climbing led us the the pass where we could now see AZ87. Almost all downhill from here.

The initial descent was full of large loose rock, but rideable. In short order FS201 came into view.

Lots & lots of green in these parts.

Steve exiting FS191 onto FS201. Mission accomplished!!

The joys of a downhill rip to the car where cold beers awaited.

There are other jeep roads / trails to explore in the area. I'm sure I'll be back soon.
All three of us were stoked on the ride and the potential for a new route out of the Sunflower area. We agreed that the trail tread on FS191 was in good shape and really only needed some vegetation mitigation along a 1 to 1 1/2 mile section. It would also make a fun downhill going the other direction, but Goldridge definitely has more bang for the buck.

Thanks for coming out Gerrit & Steve, let's do it again soon.

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