AES: Kentucky Camp '15

If it's early November that means the Arizona Endurance Series, AES, is getting back into full swing. This year the dates were swapped for the Kentucky Camp & Picketpost events. So Kentucky Camp was up first. Last year was the first year in a while that I missed the event, so I really wanted to get back down to the southern AZ grasslands. I decided to make a weekend of it and knock out AZT Passage 4 as well. It's a bit of a goofy one, in that, a slice of Wilderness bisects the passage making it illegal for bikes to ride through. So, I opted to extend my Kentucky Camp long route by a few miles to ride south to the Wilderness boundary during the event saving the rest of passage 4 for Sunday. More on that later.

I made it down to the start area with 20 minutes to spare. The place was bustling with riders getting checked in and dialing in their setups for the days ride. The long course riders took off at 9a with Chad masterfully handling the crowd and giving me a shove in the right direction.
Chad reminding everyone to close the gates!!
I wanted to stay near the front group for the first hill as it tends to conga line up at times. Mission accomplished as I was on Max's wheel for a short bit. On the backside of the hill I settled in to my pacing not wanting to blow up my legs on the early 5 miles of climbing towards Box Canyon rd.

I kept a solid pace going up the initial climbs and could hear someone on my wheel most of the way. He was content to follow me along until I sputtered a bit near the top of the longer climb. We rejoined at the top and made introductions after he recognized my bike! I've been getting that a lot lately. I had only known him by his Strava handle: VEGAN Bastard, but now I had a real name to go by, Brian. Cool cat & quite the powerful mountain goat of a climber. We cruised down the amber waves of grain towards Box Canyon where we met up with Rhino.
Rhino & Rudy (on a fat bike) riding into a postcard.
The three of us cruised down the dirt roads together, surprised at the lack of washboarding. I had to keep Rhino on route a couple of times, dude is new to this whole GPS track following thing. (Not really) On one particular downhill, Brian & I were pushing close to 30mph when a right turn came up a bit more sharply than anticipated. Brian locked 'em up sliding towards the outside of the road while I grabbed my brakes in hopes of not plowing into him. Somehow, we both found traction at the last second and pulled off a sketchy fast turn over a cattle guard. Probably would have looked cool on a GoPro!!

Not sure if that near mishap caused us to back off a little bit, but the next thing I knew some girl came flying by all of us powering through on the big ring. I later found out it was Cassi, legend of the AZT300 last year. She was hauling, but I think ran into some navigational issues later in the race.

We were approaching the turnoff for Kentucky Camp and a local photographer, Chuck Hill, was out taking race photos. He snapped a good one of me.
Thanks for the photo Chuck.
Kentucky Camp.
I topped off water and caught up to the fellas at the next gate. The route continues on a long series of dirt roads, mostly good riding, into the foothills of Mt. Wrightson. Holly & Josh met up with us at the beginning of the Link trail climb and soon were out in front. The high point of the ride is at the top of the Link clmb.
A hint of autumn as Mt. Wrightson approaches.
As I approached the top I could hear another rider a few turns below yell out as he crashed on the rubbly terrain. He wasn't too pleased uttering a few choice words! There was now a small gathering of riders at the top while I broke out my snacks. A few minutes later Shannon arrived and I'm not sure what sparked it, but a few minutes of hilarity ensued. To quote Brian's summary of events:  
'Gathering of sandwiches, Mountain Dew, farts, laughs, a fart story, a snot rocket story, bananas, PB&J's, crashes, crashees and general yahoos! Super fun'
Yeah, just a few knuckleheads out enjoying a day on the trails.
Shannon joining the fun.
Don't stand downwind of Brian at rest stops!
One by one the riders departed. I followed suit chasing Shannon down into Gardner Canyon. I bid adios to the others at the bottom as I was now at the passage 4 junction. I noted the time and began a short climb up to a saddle.
Vintage AZT signs.
The trail drops over the other side for a bit then levels out for the mile+ to the Wilderness boundary. This section of trail was fantastic. Great riding surface tucked into the hillside among the boulders & trees. A couple of deer made an appearance up above too. It was a really cool detour that took 40 minutes, but I didn't mind. It meant I wouldn't see another rider until the finish.
Backside of the saddle.
Huachuca Mtns. & Passage 1 off on the horizon.
End of the line for the bike. Canelo Hills in the background.
Lichen covered fin.
Felt like an extension of the Flume trail a few miles to the north.
Back on route at Tunnel Spring.
The back half of the ride was fairly uneventful, which isn't a bad thing. I felt really good, only stopping for a couple of snack breaks and all the gates. Of course there were the obligatory HAB sections, but none of them were too long.
Cool tidbits of information trailside.
Rolling back near Kentucky Camp.
Another gate!!
Love this spot!! High point of the short course.
Even the roads ride like singletrack.
Almost done, lots of downhill coming my way.
There were still plenty of people hanging out when I wrapped things up, just short of 7 hours after my 40 minute detour. Such a great day to be out on the AZT. Thanks again to AES for putting together such a stellar route.

A half dozen or so of us camped out afterwards and were treated to a dazzling display of stars in the southern Arizona sky. We were swapping stories around the campfire, when someone noticed a rather peculiar light hovering off in the distance. We all gazed at it trying to figure out what it was as a spherical dist cloud grew around it.
Looked like a helicopter of some sort at first. Photo by Shannon.
The minutes passed and the sphere of dust kept growing, slowly drowning out the bright center light. No noise could be heard while the source appeared to stay motionless.
The sphere of dust taking a greenish glow. Photo by Shannon.
About 20 minutes after we first spotted the light, the sphere began to dissipate. There was a green glow, sort of like a spot light illuminating upward from behind the hills. It was a very strange sighting, but cool to see. For the time being it was a UFO, but we later learned it was a Trident Missile exercise out of California.
Green lights beginning to show near the bottom center. Photo by Shannon.
It made for an interesting close to the evening. Thirty minutes after we first saw it, it was gone. Another AES event in the books.

Long Course+


BCT: Shuttling is not a crime!!

Two years. That's how long I had been trying to get my co-worker, Scott, to join me on a Black Canyon Trail, BCT, ride. We were all but ready to go in the spring, but I went and broke my wrist foiling those plans. I knew it would be too hot by the time I healed, so I set my sights on a fall return. We finally nailed down a date, hall passes approved, it was go time.

This was going to be Scott's longest ride ever, so I wanted it to be fun, not a complete sufferfest. I suggested a shuttle drop at the top of Antelope Creek so we could ride the 29 miles back to Rock Springs on trail. The route is mostly downhill, only a few climbs on rider friendly grades.

We met early at Rock Springs and trekked north past the tiny outpost of Cordes. We ditched my car just below the trail crossing. It was cool, yet very pleasant. It was going to be a good day.
Scott dropping in to some sweet singletrack in the high desert.
Antelope Creek is up out of the Saguaro zone.
The trail twists & turns, contouring the hillside masterfully.
Only a few rises over the first few miles.
A swath of dirt slices through the boulders.
Crowded day on the BCT.
Before we knew it 12 miles were done. A quick snack break led us to the first short climb of the day. Then it was back to more contouring trail down to the Glorianna Mine TH.
Grinding away on a short jeep road climb.
Such marvelous terrain to ride through.
Finally getting that BCT fix.
Bradshaw Mtns. make for an excellent backdrop.
Nearing the Stagecoach segment.
I was surprised to see this crossing so dry.
Overlooking Black Canyon City
Descending to the water crossing.
One of the many rideable cattle gates.
Cresting out on the final 8 switchback climb.
Finished! Fought off cramps over the final miles, but he made it. Stoked!!
I'm really glad we were able to work this ride into the mix. Every now and then it's good to not totally destroy your body on a ride!! Hopefully Scott will continue to crank out the miles, it's a big state to explore.
A few reminders of days of yore in Cordes, AZ.
Pinwheels galore.
Photo album:


Local Shreds

Arizona has such a tremendous diversity of terrain & trails. I sometimes find myself going months on end without riding the fantastic trails in my 'backyard'. The past couple of weeks I made it a point to get back to these places: South Mountain, Hawes, Gold Canyon, etc. No grand adventures here, just great riding.
Started things off with EstrellaDuro!! at FINS.
Enduro style timing with a beer chug time at the end.
It had been way too long since I last rode out at Hawes. It's still one of my favorite local places to ride.
Mesquite tunnels on the Fenceline trail.
Nice connector trail into Las Sendas.
Mine trail has some spectacular views.
Next up was an after work ride out in Gold Canyon. I was curious to see how the trails held up now that the monsoon was over. So-so. A few ruts here & there on most trails and generally more rubbly. There are a couple of sections that could use a re-route and it sounds like that is in the works. Most of the stuff should improve by rider use.
Gold Canyon is such a beautiful place to ride.
Need more cowbell!!
Just in case there was any doubt. Slap it as you ride by for karma points.
Cacti & Mountains FTW.
I went over to Usery Mtn. park to check out a new Maricopa trail connector on the north side. It now allows riders to skip the busy paved Usery Pass rd and a deep sandy wash to connect over from the Hawes trail system.
Lush desert at Usery Mtn. Park.
New connector as part of the larger Maricopa Trail.
Four Peaks as golden hour settles in.
Back at Hawes to ride a few more trails I skipped the last time out.
Mine trail at Hawes.
Red Mtn. from the Mine trail.
Salt River at Granite Reef Dam.
Upper Hawes trail has plenty of HAB for ya.
...and with HAB come the views.
One Friday after work, Scott and I went over to do a spin on Desert Classic at S. Mtn and noticed the Salsa Bikes Demo tents were set up. Scott already rides a Salsa, so I demo'd a carbon FS 29er. It was easily 5+ lbs lighter than my bike. It took a few miles to get used to the different geometry, but I liked it. The wider bars were nice too as was the 1x11 drivetrain.
I wish I would've had time to hit National too.
Scott climbing up to the water tank.
Action shot!
FS was nice, but I still like my hardtail.
I finished off the 1 hour demo as the Salsa folks began taking down the tents. I asked if I had time for a quick spin on one of the fat bikes they had and they said 'yes'. Perfect. The demo area was in a great location, as it was right next to Pima Wash. Fat bikes are made for sand and snow, so I was curious to see how it handled. I jumped on a Beargrease with its 4" wide tires and pedaled up the access road.
Not the deepest sand, but it was a good test.
Quite the contrast in tread.
I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting, but the Beargrease rode like a normal bike to me. It handled the wash superbly, allowing me to zigzag through the wash without losing traction one bit. It sure would be fun to concoct a few routes using nothing but a steady diet of sandy washes as there are plenty around these parts.

It's the season for demos in the Phoenix area and I need to attend more. It was fun to go out on two totally different machines.

The following week I heard news that the L.O.S.T. was unrideable due to construction near Superior. We have a big group event coming up out there and needed an alternate route. I drove out to Picketpost to see what I could find. I heard the railroad tracks may be an option. Hmmm.
I didn't make it out of the parking lot before this hitched a ride.
Rustic trail markings north of the Queen Creek crossing.
Closed. US60 is being widened through here.
So far it hadn't been too bad.
The L.O.S.T. resumes to the left, I thought I found a cool workaround.
A few good things going on here: L.O.S.T., AZT & 'Murica.
My re-route plans were dashed when the construction resumed on the south side of US60.
I had never spotted this before.
In the end a re-route was made using FR8 to bypass the entire construction zone.

I was poking around on Trailforks the other day and never realized the Geronimo trail split about 2/3rds the way down. So, I made it a point to check it out recently. It's just as tough as the left fork, but pretty cool nonetheless. I followed it up with a tech laden ride up 24th St. and a roll down National to wrap things up.
Top of Geronimo with clear skies across the Valley of the Sun.
Down, down, down I go.
Fading light on National.
The Phoenix area has a fantastic choice of trail systems, sometimes the hardest part is deciding which one to go to. Each system has its own unique qualities too. Believe it or not, but all rocks & cacti are not created equal!!

Now go ride!!