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 116ยบ 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.

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