July 1, 2022

Pine: Highline AZT Loop

 The Highline National Recreation Trail spans 50 miles below the Mogollon Rim east of Pine, north of Payson. The Arizona National Scenic Trail overlaps the Highline trail for 18+ miles on it's western end. There's been a massive restoration project occurring over the years to bring the Highline trail up to current standards for trail users. It's a huge undertaking requiring re-routes, naturalization and stabilization. The AZT portion is finally getting its due. As far as bikers go, it hasn't exactly been a favorite section of trail as it often involved miles upon miles of taxing hike-a-bike.

I wanted to see first hand how it was riding after a series of re-route projects have been completed.  I gave myself two options: If things were going slow I could bail off the Highline at the Geronimo trailhead and drop down to the Control Rd. to complete a shorter loop. If I was making good time I'd continue all the way to Washington Park where the AZT leaves the Highline trail to ascend the rim. I'd also drop down to the Control Rd. to complete the loop.

I arrived at the Pine TH a bit after 7:30a to clear skies and temps in the 70's. Forecast was for a 50% chance of thunderstorms, so naturally I left my rain jacket at home...along with my cell phone much to my dismay when I realized it at the trailhead. My first thought was, drat, no pics on the ride. But hold on, I had my newer ipod in the car and remembered that it had a camera. So, all pics are from an ipod.

Leaving the Pine TH.

The first re-route was barely 3 miles into the ride. Looked promising.

I'm certain this project bypassed a horrendously steep, rutted hike-a-bike.

Giant vistas were the reward.

This fella blended in, only noticed it because I happened to stop. Cool markings.
Shortly after this I was crossing over a soggy spring fed area, I brushed against some overgrowth and got stung by a bee on the inside of my left upper ankle. Ouch!! Had to pull the stinger out too. How rude!!
This was the Highline I remembered. Large boulders in the tread making riding not worth the effort.
There were a few sections like this, but overall the tread seemed fine. Perhaps just a general cleanup and removal of certain boulders would be the solution?

Land of ferns near the Geronimo trailhead.
I had made good time so far, reaching the Geronimo TH before 10a, barely 2 hours into the ride near mile 8.5. Not blazing fast by any means, but it wasn't super difficult either. I made the decision to keep going to Washington Park, another 10 miles to the east.

Taking a snack break at muddy Webber Creek.

Onward. I knew there was a climb out of the trailhead basin, but it was on good trail at least for a while.
That lasted about a mile, then more hike-a-bike as I entered the sandstone layer, one I'm really not fond of.

A slice of Sedona makes an appearance.

Snack time at W. Bray Creek, but what's that in the mud by the water??

Fresh bear prints!! I was on the lookout over the next few miles.

Typical trail tread in the sandstone layer. Meh.

Then it would turn nice and you'd feel like you were getting somewhere.

I startled this guy as I walked passed. Timber Rattlesnake. Good thing he rattled, else I would not have noticed him!!

Another re-route!!

Crossing Chase Creek. Good to see water flowing in all the creek crossings.
The clouds were building providing occasional shade, but no thunder. I could tell it rained hard in the area the day or so before, but the tread was in great condition overall.

Almost there!!

I kept thinking how amazing this trail will be when fully restored.

New signage near Washington Park.

If you're so inclined donate to one or both as each is doing great things for the trails we love.

I reached the Washington Park TH at 1:15p, 5 1/2 hours from Pine. By comparison the other time I rode this was during my AZTR750 ride and it took 9 hours. Granted I had fresh legs and no bikepacking gear, but still.

Filtering water in East Verde River.

Only 15 miles of gravel riding back to the car.

The fire Control Rd. makes for great looping options in the area.

Back on the AZT for the final half mile between AZ87 and the Pine TH.
This ended up being a really good loop if you don't mind some hike-a-bike. I guesstimate I walked a little less than 2 miles over the Highline trail. Pretty sure I walked about 8-9 miles during the 750!! A few more re-routes and this section of trail is going to be prime.

I'm also surprised I didn't get rained on!! Lucked out on that one, I checked the radar after getting home and the area was socked in!!

Route flyover via Ayvri.com

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June 20, 2022

CO: Penitente Canyon

 The stormy weather was holding off for a bit, so Justin and I stuck with our original plan to ride the trails at Penitente Canyon before making our separate ways home. I poked around on Trailforks and found a race route that looked promising. It was from the 12 Hours of Penitence event. It had to be good if they were racing on it, right?

We made the short drive to the trailhead from Del Norte to start the 16 mile clockwise loop. I had ridden the area once before, but had mostly winged it and I know I didn't pick the right trails based on other pics I had seen of the area. I was hoping this route would show the way.

High desert singletrack right from the start.

The first few miles were fast & flowy.

As we wound around the rocks began to make a presence.

Rock crawling type of riding, so rad!! It had a very Gooseberry Mesa feel to it.

Plenty of slickrock slabs too.

There were a couple of fast dirt road connectors added in, great for a race environment.

Back on singletrack before the main climb of the route.

The next few miles were a hoot, lots to play on while climbing.

We both marveled at the trail routing through & over the boulders.

The reward for climbing through the boulders? Descending back through them!!

Great views in the distance. PeakFinder app.

Did we mention the little bit of dirt that was there, was hero dirt? Indeed.

Boulders & slabs.

Nearing the end of the loop.

No, I didn't try to line up the sign with the horizon, I noticed it after I saw the pic. Ha!
So glad we opted to do this ride. Such a great way to end our abbreviated trip to the high country. Upon returning to the car there was a group of three riders who had also wrapped up their ride. We were chatting with them about the Tour Divide and the racers about to come through the area. When we mentioned we had attempted the ride in 2019 they laughed and said we were some of those nutty riders. Haha. One lady commented on my AZ license plate noting that she and her husband had lived in Tempe for a few years. Then she asked me if I had heard about the AZTR controversy over the FKT attempt. Uh, yeah. Justin laughed and continued packing his stuff while the lady was giving me some thoughts about it. After a short bit I let her know I was the RD of the event and their reaction was priceless. They began apologizing, but it was just funny. Small world, eh? 

If you are in the area and have some time, definitely check this area out. It's just technical enough and there are a ton of B-lines to choose from on the bigger rocks.

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