February 17, 2017

BCT: Orme to Emery Henderson

My buddy, Evan, was looking to get out of San Diego for some desert riding this past weekend, but he tends to forget to check the forecast since it's 'always' nice here in the winter. Oops. Once again, rain threatened to spoil ride plans the entire weekend, but Friday was still looking good. He was game even if it only meant getting in one ride.

He was interested in riding the Black Canyon Trail and I'm usually down for that ride no matter the distance. I asked him what section he wanted to ride and his reply: 'The whole thing.' I like Evan. He has good ride ideas and I had the day free. This would be an point-to-point shuttle ride of roughly 75 miles from the bleak Orme rd northern terminus down to the Emery Henderson (EH) trailhead. (Not the official southern terminus, that's at the Carefree Hwy another 6 flat, sandy, vague miles away. We weren't missing anything there)

My alarm went off at 4a for my 6a meetup at EH with Evan. He drove in from San Diego late, so neither one of us was particularly well rested for such a ride. The gates at the trailhead were closed, so we ditched his truck a couple miles up New River rd on State Trust Land, then made the hour+ drive north to the Orme rd start.

As first light began to show, the clouds looked ominous at best. Rain spit down on my windshield and I wasn't liking our odds early on. The northern section of the BCT has plenty of volcanic soil, i.e. death mud when wet. I wanted no part in that. We gave the local radar a quick peek and it looked promising, so we went for it.
The Sun makes a brief introduction early on. Photo by Evan.
Plenty of faint singletrack over the northern miles.
Agua Fria River was flowing well, but rideable as was Brushy Wash.
Gate with a view. Photo by Evan.
Sky darkened, but never did anything.
One of the fast smooth sections of trail.
The moonscape kicked up as we approached Antelope Creek. Photo by Evan.
Aid station tent for a trail running race the following day.

Starting down the Antelope Creek segment. Photo by Evan.
We were making good time so far and stopped for a short snack break at the top of the twisty descent into Antelope Canyon. A few other riders were coming up the trail, including my buddy, Guy. He was getting worked over by his choice of singlespeed gearing!! At least we were all about to enjoy a lengthy downhill. Here's a slew of riding pics from Antelope Canyon to Bumble Bee.

Bradshaw Mtns. dominate to the west. Photo by Evan.

Textbook contoured trail routing. Photo by Evan.

Photo by Evan.
A few tricky rocks to negotiate.

Photo by Evan.
A Guy on his bike.

Photo by Evan.

Bumble Bee TH.

Bigfoot yields to no one. Sorry horsey. Photo by Evan.
We took a nice snack break at Bumble Bee and we were still on pace for a sunset finish after 4 hours of riding. However, the trail was about to get a bit more rough around the edges, more water crossings and without really having a set urgency to finish before sunset our pace slowed considerably.

Photo by Evan.
Photo by Evan.
Slippery barefoot crossing here. Photo by Evan.
Arguably one of the trickiest spots along the BCT, this tight righthand switchback is a tough get. Evan cleaned it on his second attempt!! 

New re-route near Black Canyon City cuts out a short bit of jeep road climbing. Test your handling skills on the narrow plank over a deep chasm.
The extra chunky rock strewn section above the city is still there.
Carsonite scarecrow?
Not as deep as it looks...if you stay far right. Soft footing at the beginning, but it was a long slow crossing barefoot. Photo by Evan.
I'm thinking the water crossings will be flowing for a while this year.
The fantastic climb to the Rock Springs split.
Love these cattle guard ramps.

It was now around 4:30p, two hours of daylight left and still 24 miles of trail remained. I half-heartedly mentioned that we could take the Rock Springs trail to the cafe and get pie, then thumb it down to the truck! I wasn't overly motivated to ride the rest of the trail, most of it in the dark.

When we reached the trail junction I waited for Evan to roll up, he asked 'We go this way, right?' I nodded and we dropped back down to our next river crossing. No pie for me.

Shoes came off again for the water crossing and then the Skyline segment climb began. This has to be one of my favorite climbs. I soon forgot all about the pie I was missing and pedaled on.
Evan putting the final touches on the Skyline climb.
WTF?!? I was very displeased to see this. What is it, you ask? It used to be bicycle rock art, pictured below.

This is a picture from 2012, so it's been around a long time. Until some a-hole felt the need to destroy it. I guess I'll put it back together next time I'm out there.
Daylight was rapidly waning as we rode down the Cheap Shot segment. I almost forgot how much fun those miles are. I need to ride these two segments more often!!
Fading light meant I was riding slower. It was going to be a late finish.
We eventually arrived back down at the next Agua Fria crossing, sixth water crossing on the day, and as I shined my light into the void all I could see was water. This spot is typically only a few feet across, not today. It was really shallow at the shore and the river rock was pebble size. Why not just ride across? At this point I didn't care if my shoes/feet got soaked, I had a change of shoes/socks waiting at the truck. Off I went...
Halfway across the river, looking good so far...Photo by Evan.
 Then my shoes got wet, then my ankles, better stop pedaling. I picked up my bike and trudged through the now soft river bottom as my shoes filled with sand. By the time I reached shore, the water was almost waist deep!! Good to know as this was the first time I had ever seen the river this wide through here. Meanwhile, Evan ditched his shoes and found a much more shallow was across.

The only real effort left was the climb up to Doe Valley from Table Mesa rd. Somewhere about halfway up I was startled when two large javelina ran across the trail only a few feet in front of me. Grunting, squealing they darted into the desert scrub and disappeared into the night.
Saguaro alley. Photo by Evan.
Starting the final descent to the Boy Scout Loop, city lights in the distance.

The final handful of miles are fast riding, but in the dark and a now dead GPS they seemed to drag on. Re: GPS, I had my dynamo hub, cache battery and charging cable all on hand, yet I couldn't charge the GPS!?! I first tried the cache battery with the cable, but the unit kept toggling between power & no power. I then plugged directly into my USB converter, but no charge. I suspected a faulty GPS cable when I was able to charge my phone via cache battery without issue. After the ride I discovered my USB converter, Sinewave Revolution, had a broken wire coming out of the converter box. Perhaps the GPS simply needed a power cycle when I tried to use the cache battery. Not sure, but it's a bit of a concern going forward.
At least the bicycle art at the bottom of the Boy Scout Loop is still intact. Photo by Evan.
Put your name on it!! We finished up at 10:45p, missing sunset by 4+ hours!! The ride took way longer than we thought it would.
As far as most people are concerned, a full BCT ride.

 Technically, the BCT continues south for another 6 miles. It's nothing to get excited about. The trail is flat, sandy in sections, tough to follow in others and finishes on a couple miles of jeep road to a nondescript end at the Carefree Hwy. No need to do that on this day.

We packed up, changed and pointed the truck north to retrieve my car. Luckily the McD's in Cordes Jct. was still open for another 10 mins so we could get our salty junk food fix. By the time we got to my car and I drove home it was a little after 2:30a!! Talk about a long day. So worth it, always a good time on the trail with Evan. Thanks for coming over and for the ride suggestion. Time for me to start riding his neck of the woods...

I missed the flyover time cutoff by a mere 0:55 seconds!! Drat.
EDIT: Cropped the track a tad, here's the flyover.

Full photo album

Route details:

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