June 17, 2016

Flagstaff ATM

The ATM that dispenses cash is nice, but I prefer my ATM in Flagstaff, aka: Around the Mountain. This is such a good ride I try and do it every year, yet somehow it fell through the cracks in 2015. So, when Kelly, fresh off the Grand Canyon Bikepacking ride, lobbed me a softball to do the ride on Friday, it was a no-brainer.

I just had to squeeze in a few hours of work first, then we were off to the high country, cool temps and killer trail. I typically prefer to drive up north the night before a bigger ride to help acclimate to the elevation, but that wasn't an option. How would my riding legs respond? So-so at best.

We grabbed some late morning burritos at Late for the Train, parked at the Shultz Creek 'Y' and began our loop with a modest 14 mile climb up Shultz Creek trail & then onto Waterline rd.
The first half of Waterline is through a burn area, but the grade is perfect.
One thing the burned trees provide: views that go on forever.
This large fin of rock is quite the oddity, the tunnel is a cool side effect.
She had to slow down a tad for the photo op.
The entire way up the climb I couldn't stop yawning, I was ready for a nap!! I really just wanted my legs to wake up so I could keep pace, but that didn't happen until much later. Kelly had done the climb about a month earlier and noted the abundance of deadfall, something like 25 downed trees across Waterline. Thankfully, the workers had made their way up the road and all was clear.
Such an incredible section along the climb.
Aspen Alley as we near the singletrack turnoff to the Inner Basin Trail.
I wanted to top off my water up at the green cabin spring a little past the trail split. To my surprise the spigot was not turned on, nothing was dripping either. We started to see some hiker traffic as we made the turn downhill. Kelly mentioned how she liked fast downhills, she wasn't kidding!! Zoom!! Gone.
I was quick on the trigger, there goes the blue blur.
I figured I'd catch up down at the parking area. I had to stop and snap a few pics along the way too.
Everything has morphed green, no sign of snow except at the highest elevations.
I was surprised to see her stopped at one of the turns down the trail. It's a good thing she did as I captured one of my favorite snaps from the ride.
Love this shot.
We passed a few hiker groups on the upper twists & turns. Then trail straightens out a bit and she was off like a shot once again. It worked in my favor, as I came up on a few more hikers already off the trail. One downed tree slowed me to a stop, but Kelly was able to ride under it, so we'll can it a 1/2 downed tree.

I had never really ridden around Locket Meadow Campground, so why not today. I didn't know if there was water available here or not, there isn't. Bring a filter if you need H2O. We were fine, but it would've been nice to top off just in case.
Obligatory Inner Basin pano.
We flew down the washboarded descent on FR552, my bike making all kinds on loud rattling. WTH? I couldn't quite hear where it was coming from, but I thought something was going to fall off during the larger washboarded sections.

While the desent from Inner Basin was fun and fast, I knew what was coming on FR418. Two long steady grinding climbs that my legs still weren't ready for. We'd start out riding together at the base of the climb then slowly I'd fall back. Total slacker.

We were about to top out on the second hump of the first climb on 418 (Two climbs Kelly, not one!!) when a camper truck was heading our way. It pulled over at the top, I assumed to find a camping spot. Kelly rode up to the guy and asked if he had any spare water, she was now out after realizing some had leaked out in the drive up. Gah!! He had plenty to spare and at the perfect moment, talk about luck. We left Kelly's nameless knight in shining armor and continued our trek towards the AZT.
Continuing on FR418 and I'm way behind again!
A few snow filled chutes in the alpine.
AZT junction!! Time for lunch.
Late afternoon light really lit up the aspens.
We took a nice long 'Schilling picnic break' (Eszter gets the naming rights on that one!) before heading up the AZT for the final climb of the day. Buddyz Chicago style pizza & throwback Mountain Dew got it done. While I waited for the Dew to kick in, Kelly took off. I caught up some 5+ miles later when the climbing was done.
Ferns are growing rapidly, farther down the trail they were handlebar high.
Never noticed this sign before, near the Snowbowl split.
The last big meadow before the long descent.
Tuck & Zoom!!
Caught a glimpse of a deer running into those trees.
Three rides up on Humphrey's in two months this year. I'll take it.
Filter effect. Wing Mtn on the left, Bill Williams Mtn on the far right.
While we were taking turns snapping pics I finally figured out where the loud rattling was coming from. My fork light was hanging down a bit, missing a ziptie!! The mount was loose on the fork making all the noise. Good thing I caught it, a second busted tie could've meant disaster! New tie installed, all was quiet on the long drop down to Snowbowl rd.
Alfa Fia Tank.
We met up at the lone down tree near the top of the descent. From there on down, all I saw of Kelly was some lingering trail dust hanging in the air, she was flyin'!

We were about 40 miles into the day at the road crossing and guess what? My legs finally woke up!! We didn't take any pics the final 15 miles or so finishing at a good clip. Shultz Creek is a really fun downhill run, but I actually prefer a different way down off the AZT. It's far less crowded, skinny singletrack the entire way and feels like an undulating bobsled run. Check it out: Lower Moto, Middle Earth, Chimney to Shultz. If that doesn't put a grin on your grill, sell your bike.

Thanks for the stellar day trip Kelly, hopefully next time I'll keep pace a bit better!!


  1. Is this the old 'Cosmic Solstice' course John?

    1. IDK Mike, never heard of that one, so perhaps it is??

  2. Great write up, we went part way up waterline last summer but wasn't sure if there was a route all the way around. Now I want to go back and finish atm :-)

    1. Thanks Sallyaston. Yes, make a point to do the full loop, just watch out for t-storms this time of year. Early October is also really great for this ride when all the aspens are dayglo yellow.

  3. Sally, I'm going to do this ride on the 4th of July if you want to join...

    John, are there water tanks that I could purify water from along the ride? Hate to pack more than I have to.

  4. Yes! Stay on Waterline about a quarter mile passed the Inner Basin singletrack. There's a spring at the green cabin that has been turned on. No filter required.
    The other option is Alfa Fia tank, slightly off trail near Aspen Corner. You'll see it as you ride through the last open meadow before the long downhill to Snowbowl rd. Filter/treatment required.