May 31, 2015

Flag-dona Weekend

Armed with a three day hall pass, I pointed my car north. I'm not ready to tackle any huge bikepacking rides yet, so I opted for a suitable plan B: two days riding around Flagstaff and one day in Sedona on my way home. Sounds like a winner to me.

Ray was kind enough to let me crash at his place up north, so before I stopped by I made my way over to Mountainaire / Kachina Village for a quick loop through Kelly Pocket.

This hidden gem of a trail is virtually isolated from any trail system, but it can stand on its own. It's only about 4 miles long, but seems to ride longer. A nice lollipop route can be made from Raymond County Park utilizing the adjacent forest roads for a sweet 9 mile spin.
Directly across the street from the Shell station off of I-17.
The first 1/4 mile starts off chunky & rutted, but quickly turns to this.
Optional log roll.
It has a singletrack skills clinic feel to it.
Natural balance beam & more rollers.
Short steep HAB to keep things honest.
Junction with Fry Canyon.
On the forest road return.
Back at Ray's we cracked open some brews and discussed our route for Saturday. We settled on doing the Flagstaff Loop Trail (FLT) from Ft. Tuthill in a CCW direction. Both of us had ridden significant sections of the FLT, but we wanted to tie it all together and check out some new additions as well. Plus, the following weekend's AES event was also being held in Flagstaff and we had the chance to scope out an iffy section of the course due to road construction.

We were rolling fairly early, but first we had to do a lap or two through the new Ft. Tuthill bike park!
A Bell Helmets grant from an online contest got this project going late last year.
Look closely, that front wheel is going airborne!!
We satiated our gnar craving (didn't take long) and made our way out of Tuthill onto the FLT. Our route ran near the airport and was new to both of us, it was a nice mix of trail & forest road before finally giving way to some primo singletrack. The kind that has just enough rock hits to keep it entertaining, but not enough to wish they wouldn't be there. Ahh, mountain biking.
A beautiful morning to be out on the trails.
Ray squared.
We were whooping it up pretty good by the time we crossed the AZT. Such a fun trail and it was about to get faster. The FLT from the AZT to Campbell Mesa is 'pedal to the metal' kind of singletrack, buffed out and fast!! We zipped through here and Campbell Mesa, crossed under I-40 and rejoined the AZT heading north.
The pavement portion was short lived, crossing over the railroad tracks, then darting off into the forest once more.
The lowest I've ever seen the growth in this meadow, the benefit of an early season spin.
This guy can't be stopped!!
We paused for a bit on our slog up through the volcanic ash, let some equestrians through along with another group of riders. This section has some really nice spots, but the cinders can suck some of the life out of your legs. We were both ready to exit the AZT when the loop trail veered left onto the Christmas Tree trail after the US89 underpass.

A short HAB up Fat Man's Pass led us onto Forces of Nature. What a fun section of trail. I winds in/out of giant boulders with short ups/downs thrown in. It commands your attention, but is highly addictive fun!
Forces of Nature.
We stayed on FoN in lieu of Pipeline, more bouldery techiness ensued. This time the trail kicked up a bit more and had some HAB sections.

We were about 3/4 the way around the FLT and decided to cut a few corners to speed things up & give my wrist a bit of a rest. A short jaunt onto Pipeline led us to a spur trail down by the Elden gravesite. From there it was the Easy Oldham trail out to the Elden Lookout road.
Never knew about this.
Ray blasting off down the trail.
We were curious to know the condition of the Elden Lookout road as it was under construction for annual maintenance. Reports had indicated it would be open on weekends, but as we rode down towards the barricades we had an inkling this wasn't the case. Closed indeed, complete with a 'No Bikes' sign. This meant Ray would have to alter the AES race route scheduled for the following weekend.

We quickly re-joined the FLT near Observatory Mesa and were pleasantly surprised by the sweet singletrack here. A well graded climb to attain the mesa, superb trail up on top, then a screaming downhill back towards town had us grinning.
Rip it!!
I could climb for days on trail like this.
We opted for the fastest way back to the truck to meet our lunch date, skipping a few miles of FLT leading back into Ft. Tuthill. It was a great loop, a hearty test for my wrist and good to be pushed a bit faster than I normally ride. I think Ray enjoyed the more relaxed pace for a change, can't hammer all the time!!

Historic Brewing Co. was our next destination before calling it a day on the cool deck in the pines. Thanks for the great hospitality Ray, but I still had one more ride to do on my way home.

Sedona was calling.

My goal was to ride a route with more flow & less chunk. I found a route in an old mtbr forum that sounded promising, so I loaded it up and gave it a whirl.

I parked off of Vultee Arch rd and as I was preparing to leave the parking lot a hiker warned me about the warm temps and made sure I had enough water. I told him I was from Phoenix and he simply said 'have a good ride!' I thought it felt quite nice out. I then immediately jumped onto Chuckwagon for a CCW loop.
It's really tough to take a bad picture in Sedona.
Exiting Chuckwagon at Long Canyon rd.
What is it about riding new trails? Not necessarily newly constructed ones, just new to your tires. The unknown, the thrill of seeing a new slice of Earth, it's just awesome. I had a few 'new' trails to check out on this day and Canyon of Fools was one of them.

CoF is one of those trails that needs a couple of test runs. It's primarily a downhill trail through a tight twisty canyon often only marginally wider than your pedal girth. It has high banked turns, jumps and some chunky tech descents thrown in. In short, a blast!!
Next time I'll hit upper Canyon of Fools.
Let the fun begin!
Be alert for other trail users as there are many blind turns!!
Rather cozy in some spots.
 Next up was a CCW loop on Anaconda & Snake trails. This was an interested loop as it really didn't have much, if any, red rock. It was mostly a well graded climb to the top of Garnet Hill then a bomb down the other side. I think I chose the better direction too as the descent seemed a bit more loose than the climb up.
Well signed and maps!
Top of Garnet Hill.
My final loop was a more familiar one, a CW loop connecting Dawa, Cockscomb, Aerie, Mescal and Chuckwagon back to the car. What a fun few miles of rippin' trail!! It was also nice to not worry about high volumes of trail traffic since it was too hot for most tourists to be out on the trails. The entire ride ended up being exactly what I was looking for and I finished early enough to be back in PHX before sunset. Perfect ending to a fantastic weekend of riding.
Near the Aerie trailhead.
Such a great view from Aerie near the beginning of a super fun, twisty, rollercoaster downhill.
Natural features utilized masterfully.
Mescal Mtn. playground.
Upper Canyon of Fools split, new since I last rode here over a year ago.
Being an Arizona State grad, it's clear to me Sedona is Sun Devil Country!! Nature doesn't lie. Sorry, Wildcat fans.
Rolling south towards Cottonwood, the formidable Mingus Mtn. towers above.
Here are the routes for the three rides:

May 17, 2015

Back in the Saddle

I'm still a bit surprised how sane I stayed during my ride hiatus. I had plenty to keep me busy, from the AZT race, a couple of long hikes that I wasn't really in shape for, being a cheerleader for K as she participated in her 2nd Pat's Run and some much needed trail work on a local nemesis. I found the two months actually went by fairly quick.
Spring was in the air.
11th annual Pat's Run in Tempe.
Spent some time cleaning up a section of the Jacob Crosscut trail.
My trusted steed sat idle, in pieces for 2 months.
Our yard gave a us a surprise showing.
Nearly two months after wrist surgery I was given the green light to begin riding again. I knew I had to keep things tempered a bit as my wrist still bothers me as I break through the scar tissue to regain full mobility. I also knew I had all but lost any endurance conditioning I had. My mind wanted to bust out and go on a 60 mile ride, thankfully I knew better.

I decided to go on a bit of an exploratory ride from home. I've been trying to find a direct dirt route from my home over to Gold Canyon to complete a big single day loop when the weather cools off in a few months. I was also lucking out considerably as our May temps in the desert have been unseasonably cool and wet.
I love our town on the outskirts of the big city.
I took off from home heading almost due east along Germann rd. Soon, I was on a stretch I had never been on and was surprised to find a steel mill out there!
Nice view of the San Tan mountains.
Steel mill at the end of Germann rd.
I reached a dead end and a few private property signs. However, to my left was State Trust Land and I have a recreation permit for legal passage. I detoured to the north looking for a way to cross the heavily overgrown wash. A mile up the dirt road I had my break. I was now staring at a long barbed wire fence running north-south, I needed a way into the vast open desert. Again, my luck proved good as there was an obvious opening in the fence. I continued my trek east, at first on some very faint 4x4 tracks, then it became apparent I was simply riding in the desert.
Not much out here.
 I crossed a few washes, some muddy after the recent rains, but still made eastward progress. Things were looking good. I could see Ironwood rd approaching as cars zoomed along this southeast valley artery. Of course before I could get to Ironwood I'd have to find another opening along a barbed wire fence. This time my luck wasn't as fortunate. No openings whatsoever. I followed along the fence for a good 2 miles, nothing. The fence was too high to safely climb over too.

I could see a series of dirt roads along the southern border, but of course these were marked as private property! A few hundreds yards up the fenceline I came to a padlocked gate under some powerlines. I knew I could easily scale the gate, but it led me into the private land. I was more than ready to exit my barbed wire playpen, so I backtracked to make sure I could easily get out of the private property (I'm guessing it was owned by the power company as it was a vacant parcel of land near the powerlines).
Not sure I fully understand this sign as this is looking into the State Trust Land. Only a few hundreds yards away is another sign indicating you need a permit to access the land. Then why lock all the entry points?
I hopped the fence and rode out to Ironwood still hopeful I could continue my progress eastward. One mile north on Ironwood was an OHV access point. This was going to lead me to what I thought was my real challenge of the route: crossing the CAP canal. Turns out the access point has been closed and that too is padlocked!! Drat.
Too many barriers today.
At this point I gave up for the day and turned into a roadie, cruising all the way home on pavement. First ride back: 21.6 miles and a whopping 200' of elevation.

What I didn't find in successful routing I made up for in saddle time. It was so good to be back out exploring via bike. My wrist didn't feel too bad, just some in-ride stretching was needed.

I was itching to get back onto singletrack and as luck would have it, a new trail in Gold Canyon had just been unveiled: Jodi's Dream. The weather continued to hold off so I cruised over there after work one afternoon. I rode into the trail system from the Apache Junction side to see how the re-routed W.Lost Goldmine trail felt. So-so. While it's now completely rideable, it still doesn't flow very well. There are quite a few unnecessarily sharp turns that suck away any building momentum. The trail is still rocky, but at least in a good way. While it's not a great trail, it at least provides a suitable connector from Apache Junction to Gold Canyon, just don't expect to go fast!
A freshly completed re-route of the West Lost Goldmine trail.
I met up with Michelle on my way over to Jodi's Dream, which is essentially an extension of K-trail. It cuts out a 50' section of jeep road in favor of two miles of twisting, contouring, climbing and descending trail. A perfect addition to an already stellar network of trails.

My Gold Canyon spin wet my appetite for more, so I took advantage of another unseasonably cool May day by taking a day off work to head back out to GC for a group ride. A vacation day well spent, riding fun trails, hanging out with friends I hadn't seen in quite some time and meeting a few new faces too.
De exiting a Saguaro lined section of trail.
The group on top of Snowbird trail.
I rounded out my first week back in the saddle with another exploratory ride through the newly constructed trails at the north end of Brown's Ranch with a familiar duo, Seron & Arturo. It was good to share the trails again with these two fools. We ventured off of the mapped grid where signs warn you like you're delving into uncharted territory. Some of the 'new' trails are simply old adopted trails from the now defunct Pima/Dynamite system - mostly moto type trails. Some are good, some not so good, but all were fun to some degree.
Crossing into the nether regions.
Low hanging Saguaro blooms.
Our northernmost point of the ride.
A very fast, fun newly built trail: Hawknest.
We started our way back towards the parking lot connecting a series of new trails or ones we hadn't been on yet. One trail, Barb's trail, was particularly notable because I rode ride into a buckhorn cholla sending me over the bars turning in mid-air!! As a spontaneous reaction I put my right hand out to brace my fall, big mistake as that's my healing wrist!! For a few moments I thought I broke it again, but I'm sure it was only the intense pain of ripping through the scar tissue. At least my grips & barends took the brunt of the cactus as I spent the next 15 minutes prying the needles out of each. The desert can be a very harsh, unforgiving place if you get bit.
Took a nice chunk out of the cactus!! Photo by Seron.
It still ended up being a great ride, wrist was fine. It felt so refreshing to get back out on the trails. I have to admit I was getting a bit jealous of all the rides my friends had been doing, I needed to get back out there where I belong. My next goal is to increase my mileage and time in the saddle as my wrist allows. Big rides are coming, I can feel it.