September 21, 2013

First Ripsey Run of the Season

Things were all set for a new exploratory ride on passage 21 of the Arizona Trail, then my riding buddy tweaked her back and I learned one of my forest road connectors may be closed. Hmmmm, now where should I ride on a cooling Saturday? Phil posed the same question and we agreed that he needed to experience all that is Ripsey. He had come up just short at the end of last season trying to find the route without a GPS, so this was a little unfinished business for him. Besides, I'd be hard pressed to turn down a ride out there, the raw beauty, solitude and the finest ridgeline descent in all of Arizona awaits.

The forecast high for the area was 98ยบ, nice and cool for us Valley of the Sun dwellers. The Ripsey loop is a 30 mile combination of dirt/jeep roads and singletrack on the AZT. We started pedaling around 6:30a with pleasant temps.
Phil cresting the Florence-Kelvin Hwy climb.
An almost full moon still hangs high in the desert sky.
I'm glad the F-K climb is over. Photo by Phil.
We made our way across the high desert onto some jeep roads, then a more primitive 2-track that required some bushwacking before dumping out onto the Old Florence Rd. Next time I'm going to navigate around this section as it has deteriorated each time I've passed through becoming more and more thorny & rutted.

As we neared the halfway point in mileage and about to stop for food at Ripsey Ranch we scoured the horizon for the large cottonwood tree that has always welcomed us with precious shade in this unforgiving landscape. On this day, it was not to be. The cottonwood had collapsed onto itself, succumbing to dry-rot it appeared. The tree was so large even in its felled state provided plenty of shade for our snack break.
This photo was taken back in April.
Here's another from March.
This is what we saw
The archway to the AZT impassable.
Large branches now touching the ground.
We left Ripsey Ranch and made the short connector over to the AZT. The singletrack begins after a mile or so of powerline jeep road. It's a good thing I had the track loaded, the trail was looking quite primitive due to a lack of bike tracks & hiker traffic over the summer months. Thankfully, there are plenty of cairns to help guide the way as well. If you like twists & turns on your trail, you'd like this section. A few miles of meandering through the desert and we dumped onto another jeep road for a bit. One more right turn onto singletrack, through a gate and we were greeted with the descent into Ripsey wash with the Big Hill standing guard across the drainage.
Phil starting down.
Catclaw began intruding onto the trail here.
The switchbacking trail can be spotted on the Big Hill.
Now it's my turn. Photo by Phil.
On our way down into the wash we stopped to check the water at the metal tank in one of the side canyons. It was only about 1/3 full and loaded with bees per usual. Farther down the trail I went looking for the second known water source in the area, Bathtub Spring. I found a large kiddie pool sized tub up a hill, but it was dry. There was a new looking hose coming out of the tub from a 'T', I tried the valve but no luck. The hose ran down the hill and alongside the AZT and up the short HAB section before dipping out of sight. It was starting to get warm so we didn't investigate further.

We made our way through the sand of Ripsey wash and started the climb up the Big Hill. My last time through this section of trail was during the AZT300 back in April, at night, so it was nice to see what I was riding and not pushing my loaded bike uphill in the dark.
Taking a short break in a precious shade spot.
Phil caught this fella blending in well right next to us.
Ready to attack the switchbacks!
The views keep getting better the higher we get.
Nearing the top.
It's an updated Blogger profile pic! Thanks Phil.
Tight switchbacks made tighter on a 29er.
Just a two-wheeled spec on the landscape.
The Ripsey ridgeline begins at the top of the climb up the Big Hill. It's one of my favorite places my bike takes me to. It was especially clear out on Sat. the views were off the charts. We would have been content to sit up there all day, but it was getting warm, as was our water, so it was time for the best ridgeline descent in AZ. It's a mostly downhill 5+ miles to the trailhead, only a couple of short punchy climbs on the way down to break things up. Bombs away!
On the starting block...
Nice views of Mt. Lemmon from up here.
This incredible view may not be around for long, mining operations in the area are prompting a re-route of the AZT.
Ride the spine. Photo by Phil.
That's a long way down! Photo by Phil.
Back at the Kelvin trailhead another Ripsey loop was in the books. Ride it while you can folks, you won't be disappointed.
Phil finishing up. The final zig-zagging descent started up on the mountain to the right.
Kelvin trailhead.
All smiles!


  1. Wish I could have joined! I'm not too far off.....It's been forever since I've been up there.

  2. I think a return trip before the ACL surgery is in order, don't you think?