September 27, 2011

Border Crossing

Ever since our Mexican Riviera cruise in the spring of '09 we vowed to go back to Pueto Vallarta to pick up some more tequila.  Like alot of folks I've had a love/hate relationship with tequila, mostly hate, until that cruise and the discovery of El Trigueño reposado.

Still searching for a replacement
Ever since I've been trying to find a worthy replacement in the states to no avail. The time was right for a quick return trip to PVR to try and round some up. We had some timeshare points to use up as well, so it worked perfectly for a long weekend getaway.  Of course I hadn't considered that most non-food establishments would be closed on Sunday thereby practically nullifying our attempt to pickup a bottle of the desired goods.  We opted to look in town for some good deals.  A few people suggested we venture to La Playa, the tequila superstore.  We settled on a couple of bottles of Don Julio, rolled the dice on a chocolate flavored tequila and had to pick up a super cheap bottle of Kahlua.  Other than that we simply relaxed poolside, had a few wonderful meals and listened to the roar of a severe thunderstorm in the middle of the first night.  Aside from the extremely high humidity the temperature was pleasant, a big change from our arid conditions back home.  Until our next visit down south, adios amigos!

View from our balcony

Tres taco plate: tempura fish, shrimp, and octopus

Sun peeked out just in time

As seen through my fogging lens

Beautiful display of light

Amazing sky

View to the east

Sunset Plaza Resort

Swim up to a Modelo on draft

Huevos Rancheros

Fried eggs

The Bullfighting ring

Our spoils of vacation

AZT SF Peaks round 2

The first visit a few weeks back was so good, many of us immediately started to plan a return trip.  This time of year turned out to be extremely busy for most, but luckily, Chris decided to join me on a 40+ mile ride along the AZT.  This was the first time on this section of trail for Chris, so I was interested to see what his impressions were.  Our starting spot was a little different from last time since we weren't camping out, plus I really wanted to finish this ride railing down Shultz Creek. A twisty turny downhill run of about 4 miles.  We met up early and hit the road arriving at the Shultz Creek TH around 9:15a.  Our route for the day would be an out-n-back starting with Shultz Creek up to the intersection with the AZT then head west on the SF Peaks passage up and over the shoulder of Humphrey's Peak down to FR418.

View from Shultz Creek TH
No caption needed here

New signage at the Snowbowl Rd crossing
 We were pleasantly surprised to find the new connection, south of Aspen Corner, had been completed in the 3 weeks since our last ride.  No HAB needed!!

We even ran across a couple of mtbr buddies on the trail. It's always nice to run across old/new friends while out exploring.

BrianC taking some reflecting snaps

The AZT is multi-use, share the trail

Chris is already comtemplating if the ride can get any better.

View from Aspen Corner

Chris sums up the day in one swift motion!!

Kathleen sans her trail dogs on this day

We took a slight detour and rode down to check out Bismarck Lake, really to see if there was any water at all.  There was, but only enough to call it a pond.  We then ventured on the circumference trail to see if it connected back to the AZT....sure does!!

The forest can yield some funky creations

This is where our Bismarck Lake scenic tour converged with the AZT

Chris carving up some sweet singletrack

Rolling through another aspen grove
We made our way down to FR418, broke for lunch & headed up one of the easier 4 mile climbs you'll ever do. 

The scent of Autumn was in the air

In a few short weeks the trees will be dotted with gold...
After rolling up and down across the high meadows of the ride we descended for 5 mostly uninterrupted miles to Snowbowl Rd.  We still had 13 or so miles to go and about 1 hour of daylight left so we picked up the pace as best we could.  The last couple of miles on the AZT seemed to take forever, we were anticipating the forest road of the Weatherford Trail to lead us straight back to the Sunset TH, but we consistantly were duped by the multitude of dirt road crossings we had bisected on our way out.  Finally we found our runout to Sunset TH and ironically enough the sun was setting.  We knew we had 4 miles of rolling downhill bliss on Shultz Creek, but would we have enough light?  Halfway down we had our answer, no.  Luckily Chris had his helmet light and for the last 2 miles I kept a close wheel watching for any sudden bobbing of Chris' wheels to alert me of upcoming obstacles.  By the time we arrived at the car the stars were out, the temps were cool, and we had slayed 50+ miles of high alpine singletrack!  Time for a Beaver Street Brewery run and some of their fantastic Oatmeal Stout, well deserved on this day. Cheers!!

September 7, 2011

Hangin' Loose in the Desert

Last year I saw a picture of a really bizarre/cool looking cactus, courtesty of mtbikeaz, that I just had to see for myself.  This type of Saguaro is known as a crested Saguaro. My first visit was with my small point-n-shoot camera and I was racing against a setting sun.  I did manage to find it and get a few sunset shots.  I decided a return visit was in order and I'd take the dslr along for the ride.  I like to refer to this stately giant as the Shaka Cactus.  Thanks again Mike, for turning me on to this desert gem.

September 5, 2011

Flagstaff - AZT SF Peaks Passage #34

The Arizona Trail continues to provide the goods.  Just when you think it can't possibly get any better, new trail is cut into some of the most breathtaking terrain.  I've been really wanting to do a campout/ride up in the Flagstaff area and this past weekend fit the bill.  Sent an invite out to a bunch of riding buddies and began preparation for the two night stay.  We generously had an offer by M to be our camp cook and thank goodness, since I'm fairly green at the whole camping thing.

Our trip up north didn't get off to a grand start, running around doing last minute packing, Seron getting held up @work, then our 2 other buddies had their car overheat!!  We wanted to be in Flag before sunset to get camp setup, so I was sent north to meet up with Cameron & find a good spot.  I hit the road around 4:30p with temps hovering around 116º in the valley!  Before I had hit the open desert north of town I read a troubling freeway sign: CRASH I-17 is CLOSED at mp### Sedona Exit.  That's going to make getting to Flag before dark impossible, so I tried to decide on an alternate route.  Soon after I received a confirmation text from Cameron that traffic was halted about 50 miles south of Flag.  Onto Plan B.  I decided to go through Cottonwood & up through Sedona...the scenic route!  I ended up rolling into Flag only 5 minutes after Cameron!!  We made our way over to the camping area and scouted out a the dark.  About an hour and a half later the rest of the gang showed up.  Time for some eats then off to bed anticipationg a truly spectacular day on the bike.  We would not be disappointed.

Cup-o-joe to start the morning right

We were all a bit bummed by the sight of this sign, website stated campfires were allowed.

Our home for 2 nights

By 8:15a more people started showing up, then some more and finally a few more.  We had 12 riders break camp for our adventure on the AZT. I'll let the pictures tell the story...

The group is gathering at the start

Gotta keep the trail dog, Whiskers, hydrated

The trail is that good!!

Whiskers in hot pursuit

I often find myself in this situation during rides.

A small window of opportunity on our climb up from Snowbowl Rd.

We even were treated to some dive-bombing

Sections of trail like this are so rewarding

Whiskers tallied up an impressive 25 or so trail miles on this day

Beautiful clearing just north of Aspen Corner

The next 4 miles of gradual descent left everyone in smiles

What a wonderful place to be

We coule very easily get used to riding in these conditions

Break out the booties

3 of us added the 8 mile loop around Dry Horse Hills, started out great

Rolled through some sections of burnout

Fantastic views, but they were a tough get

After a long section of steep. loose, rutted, channelled HAB & a mild case of bonking, I was ready to be back on the AZT!! Not even the downhills offered much relief as they were MX trails

Finally back at FR418

The climb back to Birsmarck Lake was so smooth you hardly noticed the 700' elevation gain

Almost to the 5 mile downhill

The skies began to rumble, so we kept up a good tempo

Coming back into Aspen Corner

The final touches are being put on the AZT up here, connecting the north/south section.  Only about 150 yards needs to be worked on with route flagging & some cutting of trees already complete. The crew up here has truly outdone themselves.

Section of new flagging

We couldn't escape Mother Nature on this day, as the last 3+ miles were done in a steady rain.  My shorts took the brunt of the wet trail conditions. 

The next day was all about the downhill, 2 shuttle runs down Shultz Creek Tr.

Thunderheads were brewing early on

One of the few drops on the trail, surprised a few of us the first time down

Such a welcome sight this time of year

Although they were SOLD OUT of the Oatmeal Stout I was craving, I found a very nice 70 Schilling Ale that soothed the palate

It's a good thing I knew where I was going
A special thanks to Seron & Gill for allowing me to share some of their photography, the panos & shots of me riding are always appreciated.