July 27, 2013

LOST in the Desert

Shortly after blogging about our rides up on Montana Mtn & Whitford Canyon, Ray made mention that we should create a new AES race out by Picketpost to replace the defunct Black Canyon Trail race. A few days later I emailed Ray & Jeff a couple of routes for consideration. We dubbed thee Punisher (50 miler) & Pulverizer (81 miler).

I really wanted to check out the lower portion of the Punisher loop, a 21 mile loop circumnavigating Picketpost Mtn. We'd start on the AZT heading north, pickup the Legends of Superior Trail (L.O.S.T.), then onto Telegraph Canyon (FR4) and finally finish with the AZT back to the car. Easy enough.

Jeff, Nancy and I met out at the trailhead in the semi-cool of 6am. Our main mission on this day was to scout for water sources for the racers. The race will begin with a 2 mile neutral start through the AZT singletrack to a clearing next to the railroad tracks. The green flag & race clock will start there. We made our way onto the backend of the 50 mile course and the LOST. Almost immediately we came to a couple of tricky turnoffs, the trail meanders back and forth between singletrack and dirt road. While signed, it is very easy to blow by a turn or two as we were guilty of this on several occasions (we had the track loaded on 2 GPS's as well!!).
We went under US60 and soon arrived here, a desert oasis!!
Look at all the water!! Nice camping spot...when not raining.
While beautiful, this watering hole probably won't be around for race day in early Nov.
Name that shoe!
The LOST dumped us onto US60 about a 1/2 mile west of Superior. As we approached the turnoff for Telegraph Canyon we spotted a newer looking building across the street. As luck would have it the Superior Clinic has 3 hose bibs on the outside if needed. A short 1/4 mile off-route into town is a cafe. Another 1/2 mile down the road lands you at Los Hermanos and Circle K next door. Plenty of food/drink options for both during and after the race!
Clinic with working hose bibs.
The Buckboard Cafe.
We started south onto Telegraph Canyon, spotting the public pool which looked mighty tempting to scale the fence and jump in. We rode over to the pool area in search of a Coke machine, instead we found the Superior skate park!! No bikes allowed, but no one was around so we played on the transitions a bit before moving on. The pavement lasted a bit longer than I thought it would, but eventually turned to dirt and began to climb.

We arrived at a three-way split and stayed far left on the main road, not so fast - 'off route'!! Back to the junction and onto the least traveled of the 3 options in true AES fashion.
What a sight!! Ocotillo forest.
Guns a blazin' out here.
As the road turned up the riding became increasingly difficult over the loose, chunky surface. We all agreed, this was no forest road!! Perhaps a 4x4 route. It was giving me flashbacks to the jeep roads following the Redington Rd climb during the AZT300. For me, not the most pleasant memories. The climbs weren't that long, just energy sucking, at least during the race it won't be pushing 95ยบ. For every chunky up, there was an equally chunky downhill. The ride up to the AZT turnoff was a grunt, but doable and very scenic.
This was one of the 'smoother' climbs.
Mmmmmm chocolate milk at Trough Springs.
As we neared the AZT junction I wanted to finally locate Trough Springs. I had a waypoint marked, so we went on the hunt. The tank was full of water, muddy stagnant water. If needed, it'll save your life - bring a filter!!

This was the first time all 3 of us had been back to this section of AZT since the 300. I had so many thoughts and memories come flooding back as we wound our way down the 7+ miles of trail.

I missed my photo op of Jeff & Nancy during the 300, so I grabbed a couple shots of them crossing the finish line on this day.
Jeff and Picketpost Mtn.
This trail will put a smile on anyone's face!!
Can you spot Nancy on the hillside??
The final turn.
Nancy was the 1st female singlespeeder to finish the 300!! Rockstar.
Pincushion cactus.
We ended up with 24 miles after our side trips. It's probably a good idea for anyone new to the AES scene to come on out and pre-ride this lower loop, get some practice using a GPS before November. It'll help ease any confusion with the route on race day. Don't end up with a DNF because of a few missed turns!!

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