February 13, 2016

AZT: 15a-b - Boulders-Ripsey

I was looking for a good ride to do, Jeff was looking to eject from 24hr town and proposed a Ripsey ride. I'm not one to ever turn down a Ripsey invite. We opted for a few more miles and started at the Freeman rd trailhead, which is closer to 24hr town. Ray also said he was game. That was short-lived when he couldn't break free from slumberland...weak. As punishment, Jeff and I sent him pics of the ride during the day.

I actually arrived early giving me time for a snack and to get things situated for the day before Nancy dropped Jeff off. She was heading back to 24hr town to wait for her turn at spinning laps. We were starting out on our one lap of the day.

Right away I could tell something was different about the Boulders segment. It usually rides fast and carefree, but the first 5 miles or so kept you on edge. The trail had become a bit rutted from the rains and more sandy than I remembered. It's still an easy spin, but you better pay attention.
Perfect morning to be out in no man's land.
Layers came off early.
Almost on queue, the trail conditions improved once we passed through the counter-balanced gate. We made really good time through the Boulders segment as we reached the powerline connector in a smidge over an hour.

A short stint on jeep road leads back to seldom used singletrack. This section is fun, but even with a GPS and prior knowledge of the trail we still missed turns!! They were all easy enough to figure out, but I bet this area could be really confusing at night.

A few miles of jeep road linked us back to singletrack for the drop down into Ripsey Wash. The infamous 'green 'gate (it's actually silver, always has been) at the top of the wash marks the signature
stretch of this ride.
Fun contouring to start.
We were shocked & pleased to see the rock chasm is now rideable!!
We kept waiting for the catclaw to rear its ugly head, but there was none to be found. Only the occasional yucca encroached on the trail. We were halfway down the wash and not one dismount due to poor trail conditions.
Spring fed tank was flowing and hardly any bees!
We both joked about our clean rides so far, but knew the eroded jeep road climb was fast approaching. To our surprise, we both rode right up it. A first for each of us.
The Big Hill coming into focus.
We made the final pitch into the wash and guess what? That too was completely rideable!! It was as if the wash was dredged free of sand. There were some vehicle tracks, but the overall composition of the surface was more crushed rock than sand. We ended up making a full gate-to-gate ride without so much as a dab. Inconceivable!! *For the record, the second gate is also NOT green, both are silver. Although the second one looked to be new, albeit the same design.*

Again, to our surprise the trail was in better condition than anticipated. Sure, the initial climbing was tough, but mostly rideable. We reached the base of the Big Hill and found the lower switchbacks had also been cleaned up. Most of the loose baseball sized rubble was gone!! Hooray! As an added bonus, the wildflowers were beginning to show.
The upper 6 switchbacks as seen from the top.
Jeff taking flight onto the Ripsey ridgeline.
Jeff finally has that KOM feeling. (He's a Strava hater!!)
We stumbled onto some trail flagging for a possible future reroute due to local mining activities. The draft EIS report can be viewed at the link.
Down, down, down into the Gila River valley we go.
Where's Waldo moment on the switchback attack section.
New shade structure at the Kelvin TH provided enough relief.
Poppies were going off at the trailhead.
Neither one of us was overly motivated to get moving from the Kelvin TH, we knew what was waiting. The slog up the Florence-Kelvin Hwy. 4 1/2 miles of grinding. At least the road surface is always in fine shape.

The climb wasn't too horrible although we did hit some warm stagnant air making us sweat pretty good. At the top I had a slightly different return route planned. We'd stay on the F-K Hwy a few miles longer than we typically do turning south on Tecolote Ranch rd. I had been on this road once before and it was quite sandy in sections, but not on this ride. Eventually, we came to Ripsey Ranch and the remnants of the large shade tree.
A bit of deep sand near Ripsey Ranch.
This was such a cool rest area on past rides.
We were now back on the AZT for a return ride up the Boulders section. These 10 miles ride great in either direction making a nice 20 mile out-n-back from Freeman rd.
Antelope Peak on the far left horizon & Mt. Lemmon on the right. The 24hr course is behind the near mountain on the right.
Coolest gate on the AZT...auto closing thanks to a counter balanced weight.
We cranked out the final miles making it back to Freeman rd in just under 9 hours. Great day to be out on the bike!!

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