September 1, 2012

Flagstaff - CrAzY 88 / 2

The dust had barely settled after our Tour de Flagstaff ride last month when Ray uttered the words 'I want to put together an 80-90 mile route, any interest?' Duh. Sign me up. The weeks passed then the email arrived with an attached GPX file of the proposed route. A new and improved version of the temporarily halted Flagstaff Crazy 88.

The 88 was held annually until the Shultz fire in 2010 accompanied by heavy rains from the monsoon season washed out a large portion of Waterline Rd. This was a main connector along the eastern portion of the western loop. Reports have been coming in lately that the reconstruction was almost complete. We were given a go-ahead to proceed with the ride on a weekend, since the crews wouldn't be working. Many facebook messages were sent to all interested parties, some were opting for a 44 mile loop others had hopes of the full 88. In the end we had two groups of 4 riders each starting out on the CCW loop around Humphrey's Peak.
Our group: Seron, Ray, Noel, Me
Early morning rays on Arizona's highest point.
We started up the 9 mile Waterline Rd climb, such a nice grade. Photo by Noel.
The work is paying off, quite the undertaking X20.

A nice treat on the way up, crossing into another dimesion. Photo by Seron.

Noel enjoying the climb and views.

All smiles climbing through a magnificent aspen forest. Photo by Noel.

Descending the Inner Basin trail. Photo by Noel.

Seron and I get a chuckle when we 'ride into' other people's photos. Here's the obligatory Inner Basin shot, you'd  take a pic here too.

I tried to keep Ray in my sights all day....mostly successful. Photo by Seron.

The temps were pleasant, but this particular spot had us looking for humidity relief on FR418.

Even the bikes are tired.

Noel keeping his FB friends jealous all day.

A Super Mario-esque mushroom.

The AZT near the Sunset TH.

Our kick-ass camping spot, also our undoing for Day1. Fresh burrito and a beer  and we were sound asleep in our chairs while contemplating the second half of our day. The nap won out.
We spent the rest of Saturday hanging out, taking pics and making runs into Flagstaff for supplies, i.e. more beer.  We kept relaying messages to Noel, who pressed on towards Flagstaff, regarding trail directions. We thought he was just gong down the trail until hwy89 then heading into Flag. He decided to stay on the AZT and took the scenic route to Flag completing a 74+ mile day. Kudos brutha on a ride well done!!

One way to liven up a Safeway parking lot.

The next morning my alarm went off at 5am, but I just couldn't bring myself to get ready in the dark. A one hour bonus was given and I was ready to hit the trail around 7am, solo on this day to complete the other 44 miles of the CrAzY88.  I'd be on new-to-me AZT most of the day, I was stoked.

The equestrian bypass of the AZT seems, IMO, to be highly underrated. It was a fast, flowy downhill run from our campsite, just over 1 mile over the pass from the Sunset TH. A short grunt climb interrupted my blissful descent, but I was right back to zipping along soon enough.
Another casualty of the Shultz fire was the Little Bear trail, but recently it was re-opened to the masses. I'll be back for this gem.

I stopped to take off some layers and spotted this deer checking me out.

At least only one of the tracks was sandy.

One of the few spots on the entire loop where I felt that I needed to walk my bike. Photo by Noel.

One of the more breathtaking spots of the day. I couldn't wipe the grin off my face.

Section of trail paralleling the BNSF railroad.

Short section of trail between the railroad tunnel and the I-40 underpass.

Near Walnut Canyon National Monument.

An effective yet simple way to keep rancher gates closed.

My favorite sign in all of Arizona, marking the start of another passage.

Just more typical trail up here.

Another obligatory photo, Fisher Point.

Just before noon the skies were looking ominous.

I had to break out my rain gear about 2 blocks from this Conoco station. I hung out by this overhang for the next 30 minutes watching the downpour/hail/lightning show.

Rain drenched Flagstaff.

Entering Buffalo Park for one last stretch of AZT before Shultz Creek, but the trail was too reminiscent of my death mud experience on the BCT & AZT300, so I turned around to find an alternate route to the Shultz Creek TH.

Cruising along the paved bike path I came across this train that I've driven by countless times on my way to Snowbowl.

About 1 mile up the 4 mile climb it began to rain again, this time I pressed on. The temps were mild, the rain as steady as the climbing grade, everything was great.
 I was surprised to see how many people were still out on the trail in the wet weather. Riders just starting out, downhillers finishing up their white-knuckle descent and a few others just out for a spin. I passed a fellow catching his breath or just taking in the scenery. We exchanged 'hellos' and I kept climbing. I made it up to the split of Shultz Creek & Little Gnarly, stopped for what seemed like only a minute when the rider I had passed a few minutes back came up. He saw me and asked 'Did you lose a pair of sunglasses?' I was thinking 'No', but I glanced down to where I had slid them into my pack and they were GONE!!! He held up my red Oakleys and I couldn't have been more relieved, happy and grateful that trail karma is alive and well. Thank you again!! That was the first time my sunglasses had ever fallen out, the trail wasn't even bumpy, heck I was going slowly uphill!! Go figure. Next time, I'll have my case so I can put them INSIDE my pack.
A few minutes later I crested the summit near the Sunset TH, bombed down the 1+ mile forest road and arrived in camp completing my CrAzY88 loop.

Just another day on the bike.
Talks are already underway for a return trip. I really want to do this route all in one day. The next time we'll modify it slightly to include Little Bear and hopefully be able to ride the short section of AZT from Buffalo Park over to Shultz Creek.

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