August 15, 2015

Pine, AZ: Good, Bad & Ugly

With the forecast calling for temps near 115º I knew it was a good weekend to head north. I was in the mood for something a little different. Pine, AZ came to mind as there were a few trails near town I've been wanting to check out. Plus, this would be a good time to ride more new-to-me AZT. My list of bike legal AZT miles is dwindling and this would essentially be my last chunk of such miles before leaving only Wilderness terrain to complete the full Arizona Trail.

Pine sits at a comfy 6000' and 20º cooler, that still put the Pine forecast in the mid-90's. Not exactly a 'cool' ride either. I opted to go solo on this one, not confident on the bike friendliness of the route. I arrived at the Pine trailhead around 9am to an almost full parking area. Twenty minutes later I was on my way into passage 25...but I was still on passage 26!!
Right after this gate I missed my turn by that tiny sign in the background. Oops.
My GPS track wasn't very detailed at the start and I didn't realize I missed my turn for almost a 1/2 mile. I soon figured it out after seeing too many Highline trail markers. Ok, now I'm on passage 25: Whiterock Mesa. That name just rings HAB.
First, I had to negotiate around this huge downed tree.
The route crosses over AZ87 just south of Pine. From there the trail is pretty good, only a couple of dismounts on techy bits dipping in/out of drainages. I passed a few hikers and that was it for the rest of the day.
A small sampling of things to come.
Plenty of shade early on.
The trail hugged the mountainside providing a sweeping view to the south. AZ87 cuts through the trees.
After switchbacking down a large slope, the climbing began and led me to the junction with the Walnut trail.
More climbing ensued and sure enough I began to push the bike.
I took a nice 10 minute break in the shade as things were warming up. The climb was getting more and more steep, but the terrain was still good.

Right about the time I topped out on the mesa the trail surface went to complete shit. What images does your mind conjure up when I say 'Hardscrabble'?? If visuals of baseball, cantaloupe and watermelon sized loose rock appeared, you'd be correct. The grades were never steep, it was simply to much energy to attempt riding. So, for the next hour+ I HAB'd up, across and down enough rocks to build a cairn visible from space. The following pictures are all from a three mile stretch of trail.
My mind began flashing back to the Cottonwood/Bronco trails of Seven Springs Rec. Area!!
Not exactly fun to walk on either.
The shameful downhill HAB. (Much steeper than it looks)
This is what 1.2mph on a SPOT tracker looks like.
Vintage AZT
I was actually looking forward to reaching the powerline section. The elevation profile had the trail trending downhill there, but would I be able to ride it?
The trail was starting to show signs of life!!
What's this? Smooth, fast, non-fall-line powerline trail?? In AZ?? I'll take it.
A few miles later the AZT turned left at FR194. Time for an OnB to the Wilderness boundary.
A few miles of rippin' fast forest road.
About 50 miles north of the AZT's halfway point.
Thankfully, I came to the Wilderness boundary as the trail was deteriorating to earlier conditions.
I only need to complete about 15 of those 349 miles to Utah, most of them are on the North Kaibab trail inside the Grand Canyon. (To be completed over Labor Day weekend!)
I was now done with the AZT for the day and covering ground quickly on the smooth empty forest road. The earlier HAB messed up my timing for the day and when I reached Hardscrabble rd I had a fairly easy decision to make.
Strawberry, here I come.
My original plans called for a spin down Hardscrabble rd. to the Pine/Strawberry trail. Instead I took the forest rd. to the left leading to a short paved connection to Strawberry and the Bearfoot trail. This was the trail I really wanted to check out, I had heard good trail reports about it and I'd be riding the Pine/Strawberry trail in a few weeks for the Fire on the Rim race anyway.
Stumbled upon this: oldest standing schoolhouse in Arizona. Cool.
It was now early afternoon and the temps were now firmly into the 90's. My detour paid off as I now went through the bustling community of Strawberry where I could make a pitstop to grab some cold drinks.
Relief was on the way.
Refueled, I was ready to tackle the Bearfoot trail. I found the pullout off AZ87 and followed a short bit of jeep rd. I was now under a powerline and of course this one went straight up a hillside! Just as I was about to begin my HAB slog up the incline, I noticed the Bearfoot trail peeling off to the right - sweet!!
Adios powerline.
The trail only needed two signs as there were no alternatives on the way up the canyon.
The Bearfoot trail is about 6 miles long in total. There are ups & downs, smooth and chunky bits, some open areas with expansive views and other sections surrounded by trees. It's a fine mix of terrain and would make a good out-n-back ride as well. I was a bit surprised in the amount of rockwork found on the trail for erosion control. The folks in the Pine community are really building high quality trails. There were rock shoulders constructed, rock armoring over suspected water channels, nice arcing switchbacks, some buffed out fast pieces of dirt and still plenty of bumps & small tech features to give the trail some character. Well done, Pine, well done.
Just high enough to overlook town.
Rippin' fast.
Soaking up the rim country views.
Fantastic bench cut trail.
More speed please.
Near the end was this stream crossing. Fresh flagging indicates a future bridge is in the works.
Fern forest.
The Bearfoot trail ends at the junction with Pine Canyon. I was running a bit low on time so I didn't stay on Pine Canyon back to the Pine TH, instead I took the more direct route down through the Boy Scout camp and through the neighborhood to AZ87. A short stint of pavement brought me back to the Pine TH.
Pine Canyon trail at the end of Bearfoot.
Mileage show is via the Pine Canyon trail.
Signage near the Boy Scout camp.
I'm glad I finally did this loop as I had it planned out for the better part of a year. Next time I'd like to take the AZT out to Oak Spring, hang a right onto the Walnut trail and connect through via the Pine/Strawberry trail. From there, jump on the Bearfoot trail down to Pine Canyon - staying on that trail back to the Pine TH. That's almost all singletrack and little HAB as the Pine trailbuilders continue to rework trouble spots on the area trails.

With this ride in the books my completed AZT miles are up to 640 miles!! (591.8 via bike) I'm hoping to complete the entire trail over the next couple of years.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post John. Thanks for sharing. I am hittin the Bearfoot trail tomorrow.