November 14, 2015

East Valley 100: Rock y Road

The past couple of months I've been trying to find a more direct dirt connector from my neighborhood in Queen Creek over to Gold Canyon. Each time I've been derailed: private property, no trespassing, barbed wire, closed access to State Trust Land, fenced off canals, etc. I've been wanting this connector to happen so I could put the finishing touches on a 100 mile single day loop from my front door. I had the first 75% dialed in from recent bikepacking rides. But, alas I relented and closed out the loop on flat boring pavement. Bleh.

However, there is a hopeful solution coming soon with the recent expansion of the Queen Creek Wash trail eastward. This will tap into the soon to be constructed Central AZ Project Canal multi-use path with additional access points coming in from the Gold Canyon side. I can't wait until this happens.

In the meantime, I set out on my ride bright and early one recent Saturday.
New subdivisions going in on the early canal segment.
The first 13 miles are on bikepaths & canal banks.
A few miles of pavement follows, then it was time for a lap around the Desert Trails Park.
Skills area.
A short stint on neighborhood roads brought me to the first singletrack of the day at Hawes. I didn't want to simply make a beeline through this trail system, way too much fun. So, I added a few miles to hit most of the grin inducing lines.
Spectacular views of Red Mountain in the early morning light.
The Wild Horse trail cuts around the north side linking into Usery Mountain Park via the new Maricopa Trail connector.
There happened to be a foot race going on at Usery, but by the time I got onto the trails only a few stragglers were left. I believe it was a 25/50k running event, impressive stuff.
Kind of nice riding through a cholla forest on wide trails!
Pass Mountain with its signature band of rock.
Superstition Mountains still a ways off, but I'll get there.
I was starting to get hungry for lunch as I exited Usery. I made the Goldfield trailhead my goal for a food stop as it was close to halfway through the route. I was making really good time so far, but also knew I couldn't keep that pace going through the Goldfields & the Jacob Crosscut trail. 50 miles down in 5 1/2 hours, yeah the first half rides fast!

While I chowed down on lunch I was treated to a cool version of Pink Floyd's Meddle album from a parked car at the trailhead.
Rugged beauty all around in the Goldfields.
Lichen covered rock everywhere out here.
So much more to explore in this area.
Some good singletrack is hidden throughout, if you can find it!
I knew the Jacob Crosscut trail would be the slowest section of the route, I just wanted to keep moving. I was feeling good about all the upcoming tech sections, bring it!! Even with all the on/off dismounts I cleaned a bunch of sections for the first time.
Transitioning from the Goldfields to the Lost Dutchman area at the AZ88 crossing.
Even with my good riding fortunes on the techy trail, it still took 2 hours to ride the 8 1/2 miles to Cloudview rd. in Gold Canyon. I was ready for another food break and the swoopy trails of the Gold Canyon network.
Goldfields, Usery & Hawes all visible from the Jacob Crosscut trail.
The Jacob Crosscut may be tough, but it gets you right up to the Supes. Awesome.
Flat Iron juts out high above.
It was about 4pm when I finished my second burrito on the day. I had about an hour and a half until sunset and was hoping to at least be on my exit from Gold Canyon before dark. I didn't have a set route through these trails as I know them really well and would just make it up as I went. I cut out a few that I normally ride, but did make it a point to ride the newer Jodi's Dream. I was happy to see some erosion control mitigation had taken place since my last ride out there. Such a fun trail system.
Not a bad place for dinner.
Tough to beat Gold Canyon during the golden hour.
I love this sweeping view of the Superstitions.
On my way to the Apacheland exit when the lights came on.
It was about 6p when I finally hit pavement in Gold Canyon. I was planning on one more stop at Basha's  up the road, but didn't want to leave my bike unattended. There happens to be a Subway around the corner and I haven't been to one in years, but on this day I started to crave a teriyaki chicken sub. Winner.

An older couple came in and the fella started asking me all kinds of questions about my bike, where I rode from, where I was going, etc. It was cool to see his excitement, they even offered to drive me home!! I told him my ride was waiting for me outside against the glass.
Last glow of light in Gold Canyon.
I departed after a nice break, still some 25 road miles to go. There were a couple miles of dirt left though as I connected from the shopping center over towards Silly Mounatain park. That's where the park ranger met me as I descended into the parking lot. He informed me the park was only open from sunrise to sunset and he followed my lights around the front of the mountain. I'm not sure what surprised me most, the rules of the park or the fact that there was actually a Ranger out patrolling the area!! He was very cool though. I didn't realize I was actually 'IN' the park, the double track from the shopping center eventually turns to singletrack, then angles downhill to the parking lot on the outside of a fence. No signage anywhere. I told him how I ended up there and he provided an option for future rides out there past sundown. He also advised of the potential $2500 fine!! Yikes! No thanks. He did confirm my next mile or two of my route over to Goldfield rd. All in all, not a bad experience, but one to be avoided in the future.

The road miles peeled off quickly as they were just downhill enough to keep a steady 15+ mph without much effort. I cruised into home just under 14 hours on the day, 103 miles & 6k of climbing. Fun day for sure.

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