May 8, 2011

Picketpost - End of Trail

A few weeks ago I decided to make an attempt to ride south on the Arizona Trail from the Picketpost TH to where the construction crew were cutting in the new trail.  This new trail is a re-route around the White Canyon Wilderness which will allow mountain bike access on the AZT down to the Gila River - very cool.

  The weather was cooperating with highs forecast to around 90ยบ that day and I planned on being at the TH around 6am.  The only question I had going into this ride was how much more trail exsisted since my last ride down to the end.  On that ride it was 12.5 miles one-way, this ride would take me 15.5 miles to the end-of-trail.

View of Picketpost Mtn.
As I rode south and gained elevation I came across pockets of wildflowers still in bloom in the waning spring.

Approaching the 12.5 mile mark of the ride I really started to get excited to ride on brand new trail.  The few pictures I had seen looked amazing, I can't thank the trailbuilders enough for this incredible route.

Approaching the 12.5 mile mark
The new cut-in starting to the right of the jeep trail

Various spots along the new route

End of Trail as of May 8th, 2011

Time to take a break for lunch and enjoy the view.

These 3 shots show the constuction of the trail as it approaches from the south

Rugged terrain to build a trail

Great place for a lunch break!

End of trail view

Golden Spike shot, looks to be less than 1 mile before the two ends meet up!!

As I left my perch from lunch I had a little hike-a-bike (HAB) to do, mainly because the new trail is still very loose and thick.  I didn't mind as it wan't too long before I was back on the goods heading north to the TH.  Temps were still comfortable, water was plenty and I had a bunch of food just in case.  The return to the car only has a few climbs of note and I was mentally taking a tally of the remaining ones.  Would I still be strong enough to make a good effort?  As I approached the one albatross remaining I really wanted to make a good effort, my legs were feeling good so I just kept the pedals turning.

View of the one big climb heading north back to the TH

To my suprise the final turn came into view and I was not going to be denied.  Cleaned it all!  I was pretty stoked about that, since the last time I attempted the climb I was a beaten man and walked a bunch.

As I meandered along the trail getting closer to the car I couldn't believe that this entire day was going by and I had yet to see a soul.  I usually see a few hikers or horseback riders out here, but not today.  Fine with me.  I crested a hill and what I saw was a little disturbing, billowing smoke.  What was on fire out here?  Only a few ranches in the area.

Smoke as seen from about 5 miles out

As I got closer to the trailhead I knew the desert was burning.  Was my car ok?  Are the roads open?  I saw some flames a few hills over with about a 1/2 mile to go to the parking lot.  I really wasn't worried about my well being since I was so close to the car, but I could start to smell the thickening smoke so I picked up the pace to the TH.

1/2 mile from the parking lot

As I rolled into the parking area I became a bit more concerned as the flames were approaching 10 feet height and only about 20 yards from the front bumper of my car!!  Pack up quick & get out!!  There was another vehicle parked next to me, but no owner.  I snapped a few shots as I left for perspective.  I had to wait a few minutes in the lot for the smoke to clear - it was THICK! 

Luckily there were no injuries from this brush fire and the Boyce Thompson Arboretum was spared thanks to the help of the local fire departments.  I am very thankful that I wasn't 30 minutes later, I may have been forced to turn around and head back to FR4, some 6 uphill miles back.  That would not have been pleasant. It surely was a day of mixed emotions, the exhileration of sampling new terrain and the dismay of seeing 1300 acres of prime desert destroyed.  The desert will rebound slowly, be safe out there!


  1. Nice write-up. Think I'll go check it out...

  2. Thanks! There are a few more recent ride reports since this outing as the trail is now complete. I poked around your blog as well, nicely done!! I recognized a few pics & realized we have done quite a few events together! If you're doing the AES APC65 in Jan, look for the green Voodoo & say Hi!