February 1, 2014

East Valley Traverse (Demo Version)

Mark and I bounced around a few route ideas for the weekend and settled on a shuttled East Valley ride, Hawes to Gold Canyon. He had to bail a few days prior due to studies, something about gaining knowledge. Little did I know that Jeff & Nancy were also on the prowl for some bigger, but not huge miles. They quickly accepted and the shuttle ride was back on.

We met up at the finish over at Peralta Elementary school, dropped off my car & headed west to Red Rock Community park on the west side of the Hawes trail network.
I'm rearing to go, legs...not so much. Photo by Jeff.
It was a chilly (by Phoenix standards anyway - upper 40's) overcast start, but more than comfortable. We started out on the TRW trail, an old stomping grounds of sorts for me, but new to Jeff/Nancy. From there we crossed Power rd & entered the Hawes network of trails. We made our way onto Hawes trail to Saguaro, then up Ridge to Saddle trail. My legs were still shaking off the effects of the Gila100 & I felt very sluggish most of the morning. We opted to skip the Secret loop and beelined our way to the Twisted Sister turnoff. TS is a really cool trail, some grunt short climbs, a little bit-o-tech and sweet mountainside routing with incredible views of both Red Mtn & Four Peaks. We made the turn onto Big Rock trail, then Wild Horse to the NRA pit.
A splash of sun on Red Mtn. Photo by Jeff.
I was simply going to ride through the pit out to Usury Pass, but Jeff suggested we ride up the jump lines. He recalled a singletrack connector higher up the mountain. I vaguely remembered looking for this trail a few years ago without success, so why not try again? This time we found it and it was a real nice addition to the ride, way better than breathing the exhaust on Usury.
Much better than a paved shoulder climb any day!
The jump line singletrack dropped us out across from a horse staging area. Plenty of 4x4's were there taking to the open desert. We rode a short way up the road to the next entrance, although sandy to start, it was rideable. Soon we were on the Pass Mtn. trail just about where it gets real good.
High above Bulldog Canyon.
A few rock features for good measure. Photo by Jeff.
Of course a little HAB could be found. Photo by Jeff.
Most of it however was fantastic singletrack up to the saddle. Photo by Jeff.
Saddle break, snack time!
It was here, when I dug deep into my pack that I hit a gooey substance. What the??? It had a bit of a stench to it, but I was certain I cleaned out the perishables from the Gila100. Or did I? Pizza? Nope. Burrito? Nada. Pickles? No chance. Banana......ding, ding, ding!! A week old, blackened mushed banana was at the bottom of my pack. Bleh. 

*Edit: found out after the ride I also had a ruptured gel packet in a side pocket & a spilled bottle of home brew neon green sealant in my top pouch!! Time to clean the pack.*
Just ride & don't look down!! Photo by Jeff.
Jeff negotiating down the scar. Photo by Nancy.
The run-out off the scar is sketchy at best, a sharp 90ยบ righthand turn awaits your white-knuckled grip on the handlebars. The rest of the descent off of Pass Mtn simply beats you up, wheel grabbing rocks at every turn, super chunk all the way, loving it!! I wouldn't want to ride this trail all the time, but it's definitely in the rotation. We took the first left off Pass Mtn so we could connect over to the Goldfield Mtns quicker. A short stint on the County Line tr put us in an area frequented by equestrians. There's a desert island of sorts in this section of North Mesa with a few rambling unsigned trails. We followed along for a while, then did some bushwacking before finally jumping out onto McKellips rd. I'm sure there's a better way through there than what we picked, but this day wasn't for that.
Superstition Mtns. still seem so far away! Photo by Jeff.
The Goldfields are still a bit of a mystery. Most riders don't know about it or are apprehensive about exploring a mostly unknown area. I've been through here a couple of times now and really enjoy it. I still don't quite have all the trails down, because each time through I spy new ones!! It seems to me the area is split between jeep roads & singletrack, no signage, only markers indicating which forest road you're on. The area doesn't disappoint if you're looking for big views close to the city.
Nancy pulling ahead on the climbs per normal. Photo by Jeff.
Some real nice trail out there...if you can find it. Photo by Jeff.
Superstitons beginning to tower above us. Some photoshop fun on this one. Photo by Jeff.
Fun descent off the ridge.
I rode this section of trail the other direction last time, fun both ways.
Nice view of Weaver's Needle here as well.
We popped out on AZ88 at the giant Tonto National Forest sign. A short bit of pavement riding later we saddled up to the snack bar at the Blue Bird Mine. A few people were hanging out there enjoying the nice weather and asked us about our ride. Jeff and I patiently waited for our mid-ride snack of a loaded hot dog & fries and a BLT to arrive.
For a small place it has a nice selection of grub.
Sadly, no gold nuggets were found on our ride.....or were there??
Rare group shot!
We decided to pass on riding back up AZ88 to the First Water trailhead, instead we looped around the back of Blue Bird Mine on a dirt road to connect into the Lost Dutchman State Park. It didn't 'actually' connect, but we made it work with a little improvisation.
Sometimes you have to crawl through barbed wire on my rides. Photo by Jeff.
We found the brand spanking new 'mountain biking' trail inside the park, but I'm guessing it's more for the park visitor than a system trail. It was a bit too twisty for our liking, but I'm sure a bunch of fun for campers at the park.
Mountain bike meet mountain bike trail. Photo by Jeff.
We soon figured out we were looping back towards the park. A short back-track and dirt road connector put us back on our route. Time for some Jacob Crosscut fun!! This is a XC version of the Pass Mtn downhill, if that makes any sense. While mostly flat, you'll work for those miles bouncing off boulders and avoiding untimely cactus encounters. I really enjoy this type of riding, it's a trail that fully engages you. One slip of concentration and your flow stops.
It's tough taking your eyes off the trail while pedaling! Photo by Jeff.
Big sweeping views!! Photo by Jeff.
My last ride out here on the JC trail had me feeling good, since I knew we'd be bailing down to the neighborhood streets for some fast miles over towards Silly Mtn.
Saguaro forest of sorts. Photo by Jeff.
Not a bad backdrop for a ride.
A little digging on Google maps had us in search of an elusive connector from Apache Junction (AJ) to Gold Canyon (GC). We are trying to avoid riding near the heavily traveled US60. I have been scouting this area for the better part of a year as time permits and have yet to find a good route from AJ to GC. This day showed a bit of promise, until we spotted another barbed wire fence at the end of a long tall community wall. The wall crossed a drainage and was elevated enough for us to easily navigate under. Now we were inside a gated community and initially the gates didn't open! Uh-oh, we're locked in! Circling around for a minute, we triggered the sensor and were set free.
Who doesn't want a sea foam green desert dwelling??
By this point in the ride, we voted on a direct route back to Peralta, cutting out some 11 miles of fun trail through GC. It was getting late in the afternoon and I promised not to be gone 'all day'. 4pm isn't all day, right? We ended the ride on some seldom used singletrack on the south end of the GC network, this route finished up quickly on very smooth singletrack. What a day.

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