September 27, 2015

Two Sixty to Pine: Highline Control

3rd time's a charm, right? My prior two attempts to ride the Control rd. from the Highline trail over to Pine were thwarted by poor trail conditions & my lack of conditioning!! The first time was a few years back on a bikepacking exploration ride of sorts with Chad. The second was more recent, last December with Arturo. I was determined to make it this time!!

I rounded up the reluctant duo of Jeff & Nancy to join in on the fun. Jeff always seems to raise an eyebrow when I present him with rides, yet he continues to show up. I must be doing something right. I have a sneaking suspicion that it's Nancy who nudged him in the right direction.
Two Sixty trailhead sans snow.
Our plan called for a shuttle ride, point to point if you will. We met up at the Pine TH, then boogied over to the Two Sixty TH just below the rim east of Payson. At the start temps were cool & sun shining, setting the stage for a perfect day of riding.

As soon as we left the trailhead, I noticed something was different. The handful of deep ruts that Arturo and I experienced in December were gone!! Fully re-routed on sweet singletrack.
Fresh re-routing on Highline. Photo by Jeff.
I already knew the first few miles were going to be good, but some more trail work in the area really made for a fantastic start to the day. We couldn't stop grinning or pedaling. Jeff took most of the early pics because I didn't want the flow to end. Finally, after 3 miles of forested singletrack, I had to dismount for a trail obstacle. Most people only hear horror stories of riding the Highline trail, but that section is 30 miles to the west! (*Also slated for major trail work)
Rippin' rim country. Photo by Jeff.
Nancy all smiles too. Photo by Jeff.
Highline trail exceeding expectations! Photo by Jeff.
Evidence of a fresh re-route.
Forest Service employees actively moving boulders/tree branches into the old corridor. Photo by Jeff.
The next big re-route I noticed was on the long downhill towards Christopher Creek. Before, the trail dipped down into the drainage where it tended to get overgrown. Now, the trail meanders up on the slope while still maintaining a downhill flow.
Missed my timing by 1 second for a good synchronized shot.
More fresh tread in the early morning glow.
Fun techy switchbacks to play on. Photo by Jeff.
Well contoured trail replaced.....Photo by Jeff.
...This. Photo by Jeff.
There were still plenty of challenges on the trail, not everything was buffed out. Photo by Jeff.
As we approached Christopher Creek, my rear tire began to spew sealant. My first flat in...who knows when, it had been a while. I topped off the sealant and was back in business a few minutes later.
Fix-a-flat locale.
Don't slip! Photo by Jeff.
I had my tech game going, felt good on the power moves all day. Photo by Jeff.
Did we time warp to Sedona?
In a matter of minutes we felt like we were riding in Flagstaff, Prescott & Sedona.
I think this trail is about to become more popular.
The switchbacked climb out of Christopher Creek was fantastic, although I ganked 2 of 'em. The variety of the trail continued to amaze and we soon reached the Derrick trail split. We made really good time to this point and decided to stick with the Highline over to Horton Springs. We also knew this section of trail probably hadn't been re-worked, but it was only 2 1/2 miles, so we went for it.

The trail started off ok, climbing away from the Derrick trail. Then it became more steep and had large rock hits & sharp turns. Time to break out the HAB. Now it's a ride!!
Fairly steep through here. Photo by Jeff.
Some tight chunky lines. Photo by Jeff.
I was surprised how much the trail climbed since I thought the overall elevation was about the same to Horton Springs. I guess that's what made this section so tough, intensified grade followed by a super sketchy equally chunky descent. I'm always a big fan of downhill HAB. Not. Overall, the poor sections didn't last too long, but they were strenuous. Not sure I'd take a bikepacking rig on this section. At least the other option on Derrick & Horton Springs trails is rideable albeit longer.

We arrived at the spring where a few hikers were also enjoying the oasis. This is a very cool spring as you can witness the source of the water flowing out of the mountainside only a few feet from the trail. I'd recommend this as a day hike as well.
Jeff & Nancy help give the spring a sense of scale.
A secondary spring tucked away to the right of Horton Spring. This one had man-made help creating pools.
This turned out to be a perfect spot for lunch and to fill up on water. It was a bit warm, not hot, and I had gone through a good portion of my 100oz. For some reason I neglected to add more water to my bladder, only re-filled my bottle. Duh.

After a nice break we were back at the trail. The next section over to the Hatchery flew by, the trail was so much fun.
Every so often...Boom! A huge vista would open up.
Handlebar high grass made the trail tough to see for a bit.
Crossed Tonto Creek as we exited the Highline trail below the Hatchery.
The Highline pops out about a 1/4 mile below the Hatchery, so we ventured up the road to check it out and to see if there was a water fountain. There's a small exhibit inside the visitor's center which was really neat to see. We were all surprised by the scope of rivers & lakes this hatchery stocks, some as far away as southern Arizona.

Mostly central AZ, but there are a few outliers.
I don't think I'd like to ride with that on my back.
Fish tales galore.
The tiered residence of the outgoing fish, the bigger the get, the farther down the hill they go.
We didn't find a water fountain or usable hose, so we pressed on. Next up were 29 miles back to Pine on the Control rd. As I mentioned above, I had yet to put tires on it, but was fairly confident the road was in good condition.
We passed by a few isolated communities wondering if some were in direct competition. 
World's largest water bed?? Or simply the area's fire hydrant.
Near the junction of Roberts Mesa & Control rds.
Both Roberts Mesa and Control rds were in great riding condition, well graded and well traveled. A bit more traffic than we would have liked, but it wasn't horrible either as almost all the vehicles slowed down when passing us. The overall elevation trend was downhill to Pine, but let me tell you, there were plenty of opportunities to climb! Thankfully, the slopes were friendly, there were just a bunch of sneaky uphills when I thought we'd be going solely downhill. In short, it was a bit of a grind.

We did luck out on water though. We were about to filter from the East Verde River when we came upon another small community. A church was on the corner and had a working hose on the side and couldn't have come at a better time.
I start down a long downhill section. Photo by Jeff.
 My legs were getting tired as we made our way up the final climb to AZ87, I was ready to be finished. We bombed down a very short, but shoulderless piece of pavement before darting into the woods to finish the final mile or so on the AZT into the trailhead.
Pine TH.
Not sure why there's an AZT gate over here, the AZT leaves from the other side of the parking lot.
To answer my question: yes. The 3rd time was the charm. We had such a nice day and the extra trailwork surprises on Highline really enhanced this ride. I can't wait until all 50 miles of the Highline are finished (especially those shared with the AZT!!).
Full Highline trail.
I think the three of us all agreed that a really nice shuttle ride up there would be to leave a vehicle at the hatchery trailhead and ride from the Two Sixty trailhead over. Two options are available, do what we did and stay on the Highline all the way OR head down the Derrick trail and climb back up Horton Springs trail. This option only adds a few extra miles.

As always, it's great to ride with the SS duo, Jeff & Nancy, thanks for coming out. Read Jeff's take on the ride here.

Photo album:

1 comment:

  1. I just gotta say... it's so strange being able to see through the front triangle of the voodoo. (no frame bag)