April 5, 2014

Dirty Century on the Black Canyon Trail

Honestly, I was planning on riding the AES Prescott Mega Monster. I swear. Then I saw the forecast: High of 55º & 30% chance of rain. Translation: You'll be wet for 30% of the ride and chilly. It's official, I'm a desert rat and if I don't have to ride in the rain I'm opting out. However, 55º in Prescott means 73º down the hill in Black Canyon City (BCC), where the Black Canyon Trail (BCT) happens to reside.

Once again I had a ridiculous notion that I could ride 100 miles of mostly BCT singletrack in a day. I didn't really try to get any takers on this ride, especially when Ray seemed skeptical. With that, the plan was set, go solo from the BCC (also referred to as Rock Springs) trailhead heading north on the defunct AES route. Return to BCC where my car would have food/water for the second 50 miles. No shuttle required.

Early Friday morning I received a text from the Red Rock Chica (RRC) asking if I had any big rides coming up. I mentioned my plan and invited her to tag along for the first 50 knowing that she was still rehabbing a troublesome knee. She agreed, i.e. took the bait, and we met up around 6am the following morning ready to ride.
Brisk start to the day, but the first climb helped warm things up.
21 miles of dirt roads to get the legs revved up, downhills notwithstanding. Photo by RRC.
It's not a real ride on the BCT without the soothing sound of gunfire.
Here we go, top of the Antelope Creek segment. First time down for RRC.
Entering the über contours.
I had to break out the AES jersey for this ride. Photo by RRC.
Antelope Creek is a hoot, but the crushed granite makes for some slippery cornering. Photo by RRC.
Vistas growing wider.
What's she enjoying more: trail or tunes? (I'm going with trail)
Approaching a re-entry to the land of the Saguaro.
Caught chasing some cattle. Photo by RRC.
We made our way across the flats of the Hidden Treasure Mine segment into some small hills. The BCT through here is classic cross-country type riding. I came up to one of the technical rock crossings, I wanted to get a pic of RRC making a clean ride over it. Instead she came riding up yelling at me, 'I have your camera!!'. Huh? Does not compute. She had to repeat herself a couple of times before I comprehended what was going on. Did I forget to zip up my pack? I've done some dumb things like that before, almost losing my car keys on a ride up here a few years ago. Instead, I found my zipper had separated on my main compartment and my DSLR fell out on the trail!! RRC to the rescue!! At least my pack has a dual zipper on that compartment so all was still good, just a bit paranoid about losing my camera again.
Mountain bikers playground.
Yes. Photo by RRC.
We were about ready for a snack break as we came near Bumble Bee, but were sidetracked a bit talking to a couple from Colorado. They were in town for a riding vacation and were looking for info about the section of trail we just completed. We urged them to go up to Antelope Creek and ride back down, they could even shuttle it if they didn't want to grind up the last 3 miles. I hope they had fun out there, I know we sure did.

Back on the trail, I had stopped at the top of one of the chunkier bits when RRC comes rolling up touting a new orange cape she found on the trail. My first thought was, how did I not see that lying in the trail? Well, duh. It was my jacket!! That's twice I've dropped items, good thing I had company or I would have been retracing my path all morning looking for that stuff. Sheesh.

We ran into another rider heading north all decked out old school style and rocking it. He warned us of some angry bees ahead, but by the end of the conversation we determined he meant last year!! No bees today.
More beautifully contoured trail.
35 miles in, all smiles!!
The dirt road ahead was our first climb of the day hours earlier.
Peer pressure and a camera makes one focus...nailed it.
Closing in on Black Canyon City.
We came up to the first potential water crossing of the day...bone dry. Only a few isolated pools could be seen. This area was flowing only a couple months ago, but our dry winter took care of that. I could tell the RRC was slowing down, this was a huge test for her knee and she was ready to be back at the car.

The second water crossing looked more intimidating. We fumbled around on the bank for a bit looking for a suitable place to cross. There were some boulders downstream that had potential, but they were at least 100 yards away!! Screw it, let's cross here, the water was only mid-thigh deep last time up here. RRC went first, stepped in to test out the water - feels great!! Next step...bloop...over her waist deep!! Not sure how she didn't topple over and still kept her bike from being submerged!! Skillz.

I had my cell phone in my lower shorts pocket, better move that up a bit higher. I stepped in a bit to the right, same result. So much for a dry phone. Again, not sure how I didn't fall in the river and keep my bike above the murky waters, but I managed.
We should be able to walk across, right?
About the time my phone stopped working. Photo by RRC.
If anything it was highly entertaining!! Only a few miles remained before we were back at Rock Springs. First was the 8 switchbacked climb, it's been a while, but I cleaned 'em all.

Fifty miles down, fifty to go. Ray had stopped by the trailhead to check on us after rippin' through the Prescott short course, we missed him by 5 minutes.

It was time for a foot-long tuna, chips & Pepsi for me, and the yoga mat for RRC. It was warm enough to dry out some clothing from our 'swim'. I also gave the GPS a boost with my charger for 20 minutes, since I didn't want to temp fate again by using a sketchy zip-tied rig. I swapped out 100 oz bladders, cold Gatorades and a meatball sub for later. I also decided it would be best to leave the camera & jacket behind!! I thanked RRC for the company and began the second half of the ride around 3pm. My goal was to be down at the Emery Henderson (EH) trailhead (turnaround point) by sunset.

Down at the next water crossing I was able to ride right through. It was a nice climb up the Skyline segment, I was feeling good. No camera to slow me down I kept a solid pace.
Top of the Skyline segment. (Old pic.)
I breezed through the Cheapshot segment and the west side of the Lower Pan Loop (LPL) to the next water crossing. This crossing was also easily crossed, simply hopped over it.
Similar flow from years earlier.
Of course as I neared the Table Mesa trailhead the gunfire became audible, but it wasn't anywhere near the trail....this time. I wasn't really looking forward to the climb away from TM, but was pretty stoked when I crested the saddle into Windmill Valley.
Top of the saddle looking north. (old pic.)
I took the eastern trail side of the Boy Scout Loop (BSL) heading south opting to climb the jeep road on the west for the return. The sun was still hanging low in the sky with a bunch of fast flat-ish miles to go.
Top of the Boy Scout Loop (old pic.)
Emery Henderson TH. (old pic.)
The sun dropped below the horizon about 2 miles from the trailhead, but it was still plenty light when I rolled through. 75 down, 25 to go!! I readied myself for the nighttime finish, dual light setup was the way to go. I gave the GPS enough juice for the finish, ate half of my meatball sub, then pointed the bike north around 7:40p. I knew it would take longer for the dark return as I was not going to be taking any unnecessary chances on the trail.

I made it back to the southern end of the BSL quickly, this was the first time I had ever gone on the west side jeep road section. It was fine except for one steep down/up section near the top of the loop. I did a bit of HAB, felt good to walk for a while.

The elevated valley by Doe Spring went by quickly and I popped out on the saddle overlooking Table Mesa road. It was sometime around 9:30p and wouldn't you know it, guns were still a-blazin'!! Do these people ever stop shooting up here? Apparently not.

Down at the Table Mesa TH I checked my phone for life, it worked!! Not a minute later K was calling to check on me. I told her of my phone woes, but to keep an eye on the SPOT tracker. I briefly saw an LED off in the distance while talking to her, I couldn't place where they were located. Were they coming my way or at the top of the final downhill to the trailhead?? Either way, I never came across anyone.
Bottom of the LPL, it was a tad darker when I arrived!!
I was glad to reach the LPL, it was the last real challenge on the ride, a nice climb to start, then a water crossing followed by a huge swath of babyheads leading to a crappy jeep road climb.
It's nice to have a GPS track through here, especially at night.
I took my time getting up the jeep road, walking quite a bit since, quite frankly, it sucked. At the top of LPL I was only 8 miles away from the end on an incredible section of trail. I just had to stay awake!! My legs still felt good, but I was getting sleepy. It was going on midnight and I had been up since 3:30a.

The descent on Skyline was fun, one more splash down in the river crossing led me up to the trail split for the finish. The odometer read 98.8 miles, but there was only 0.7 left. No way I was finishing with less than 100, simply no way. I quick out-n-back up to the cattle guard bike ramp gave me enough cushion. I finished just before 1am with 100.4 miles, BCT Dirty Century complete.

I'm so glad I had the weather window open up for this ride, I didn't want to wait until fall to give it a shot. I'll be back to do this again, the BCT is just so good.
Post ride meal hit the spot, so did the caffeine for the 1 1/2 hr drive home!!
Long day indeed.


  1. Awesome. I guess I've got something to shoot for.

  2. Thanks for the bait, jS! And while yes in the last hour of suffering, I might have possibly turned up some gangster rap (one ear only) to pull me to the end, but all those grins were definitely trail-based!!! A great day!!