March 26, 2016

AES: Sedona BFL Modified and DNF'd

The AZTR750 was fast approaching, this was going to be my last big effort ride leading into that event. I wanted it to be extra grand, I mean who doesn't want to make an AES race harder? More Sedona singletrack couldn't possibly be a bad thing, right? The Forest Service had recently adopted a bunch of old social trails back into the official trail network, so why not ride those as part of my loop. I also have been riding Broken Arrow trail a lot on these big rides, so I opted to skip that in favor of a loop (or two) through the Hogs area.

My route was set, I was ready to ride some red rocks!! I also figured since I was adding more terrain, I should probably start a couple hours ahead of the group. That meant my alarm was going to buzz at 3am for a 7am arrival. Much to my own surprise, I arrived on time!! Jeff & Nancy also wanted to get an early start, so the three of us grabbed the prime parking spaces at the local IGA - not like it mattered. They weren't tagging along on my extra bits though, I was on my own for that nonsense.
Even the ride to the ride is gorgeous!
A few ups & downs & roots to begin with, then the main event begins on Hiline.
Hiline is a signature trail in Sedona for obvious reasons.
Looking back towards Bell Rock.
High above Red Rock Crossing.
I did have one 'oh shit' moment along Hiline. I was on the exposed section of trail, much of which has vegetation on the cliff side, but this one area of about 20 feet is barren. Barren, except for the lone small tree to the mountain side that seemed to have an exceptional gravitational pull this particular morning. I rode too close to the tree - avoid the cliff area, and happened to hip-check the trunk. This bounced me a solid 6+ inches to the right, putting my tires on the cusp of going down an unforgiving slope of rock, cacti and pointy shrubs. Let's just say my heart rate increased a bit. I tagged the tree hard enough to leave a bruise on my arm!!

Shortly after my near incident, Jeff caught up just as we reached the apex of the climb. It was time to rip some curvy red lines down to the slickrock segment. So fun.
Jeff taking off from the overlook.
Moab on a small scale.
The slickrock leads to this, a steep, loose chute of rock that I'll be happy to walk down.
The banks of Oak Creek make for some nicely shaded riding.
I caught up to Jeff for the last time at the water crossing. Not too bad for a barefoot plunge.
This was where my route would alter course. Instead of heading directly to Old Post & Herkenham, I'd veer right onto Ridge, Sketch, Carroll Canyon, Old Post & Skywalker. This brought me to the top of Herkenham where I spotted the fast guys of the AES race. I still had a planned loop on Scorpion & Pyramid before returning back to the top of Herkenham.

Ridge started off with a robust HAB. Not too long, but you gained viewing elevation rapidly. I passed by a hiker and a little ways up the trail somehow my backpack got caught on my seat adjustment screw!! I was doubled over the frame trying to untangle myself when the hiker approached - I could hear her laughing!! I almost needed assistance to undo the loop knot, but at the last second it came free. Jeez.
Nice views from Ridge trail.
Sketch wasn't as sketchy as I thought it may be.
Great signage at all the junctions.
Skywalker had plenty of flow.
While taking a snack break at the top of Herkenham I chatted briefly with a few of the AES riders. I knew I wouldn't be catching up to any of these guys. I peeled off and started down Scorpion, really cool trail. Pyramid was just as fun, but did have one steep section that I walked down similar to Hiline. At the bottom I rejoined Scorpion and decided to check out the entire length. So, I rode up Scorpion to the split with Pyramid.
Scorpion trail.
Really nice additions to the trail system.
Beginning of the steep descent on Pyramid.
Stunnng topography around every turn.
As I readied myself to head back down Scorpion a rider came towards me looking a bit confused. I asked her if she was doing the race and when she said 'yes', I informed her she was no longer on route. I invited her to ride with me for a bit as I'd be linking back into the race route soon enough. She came over from Los Alamos, NM for the event, but got turned around at the top of Herkenham.

The return back down Scorpion was a hoot and we quickly rejoined the route. Two other ladies were on route taking a more relaxed pace on the day. The first girl decided to cut the route short & took the road back into town. I continued on down Ledge-n-Airy & Last Frontier.
Somewhere along Last Frontier.
Eventually I connected to Girdner. It's a love/hate relationship with this trail, some really good stuff, but the countless sandy/rocky streambed crossings get old. A few were rideable, but most required a dismount.
A few pools along Girdner.
A bit much to navigate through.
Yay, another streambed crossing.
Adios Girdner, now maybe I can make up some time?
I was really looking forward to the next bunch of miles along the route, some of my favorite for flowy singletrack. The real fun began after exiting Rupp where it links to Cockscomb, then onto Aerie and over to Mescal Mountain.
Mingus Mtn doesn't seem so evil from here.
Caramel chocolate chip brownie bar from a co-worker. Yeah, that was good!!
How I love thee, Aerie.
Mescal Mtn. approach.
Mescal Mtn is a mix of singletrack and slickrock ledge riding.
A few riders taking an alternate high line the opposite direction.
Opted for extreme today.
The line hugs the rock about halfway up.
I was feeling great, coming off a rider's high after that section. I was already looking forward to riding the Hogs in a short while, when my chain skipped down to the granny ring out of the blue. Every once in a while I'll drop a chain or something, nothing unusual, but this time I couldn't shift back out of granny?!? A bit annoyed I down shifted a few gears in the rear to make it manageable and continued on towards Chuckwagon.

I was now getting hungry for lunch and Famous Pizza was going to be the spot, slightly off route, but before the crappy Thunder Mtn. trail - which I also planned to skip in favor of Andante. I just had to knock out a couple miles on Chuckwagon and some fast pavement before lunch. Then this happened....
That's not good.
I stood on the trail in disbelief  as my non-drive crank arm lie in the red dirt. Well, looks like my day is done. I didn't have a large enough allen key to try and futz with it, but by an incredible stroke of luck I was only 50 feet or so of downhill trail away from pavement. I coasted down to the road just as another rider was going by. I flagged him down to see if he had the proper tool. He had one down at his vehicle, so I coasted some more. It was here when I realized what the issue really was, the spindle stripped out. No allen key was going to revive this one. Again, I lucked out as I was on the road that led to pizza and it was mostly downhill. So, I Fred Flintstoned the flats, walked a couple of uphills and flew down the rest.
Crippled Voodoo.
I lobbed Jeff & Ray a text to see if either of them had finished and could come pick me up. Ray, of course was already done riding and on his way back down the hill to PHX. Jeff had just wrapped up his ride and came to my aid as I finished lunch.

In the end, this was a blessing in disguise. I would much rather DNF the Sedona ride than have that happen in a few weeks during the AZTR750. That could really spell trouble. Now, I just needed a new set of cranks...and pedals. My hijacked Shimano flats from my 25+ year old BMX 20" Freestyle Flatland machine were starting to make grinding noises near the end of the ride.

Back at Bike-n-Bean the gang all cheered when I showed up with my hobbled machine. Many asking when the Voodoo was going to be retired. Not yet, not yet. There's still a few more adventures left on that rig.

March 20, 2016

Constellation Trails

I rounded out another three day weekend of riding (the wife was away on a business trip, so why not keep riding?) and prepping for the upcoming AZTR750 by heading up to Prescott. Kurt had requested some help in maintaining a local trail, so I thought I'd give a little back for a change. It felt good to do the work and the trail was better for it in the end.
Afterwards I wanted to check out the Constellation trails. I had heard about them, but had yet to ride over there. Reports listed them as a kinder gentler version of Dells riding. I almost went over there solo, until I remember that Mark had just relocated to Prescott. He was free and lived near the trails, 10 minute ride he said.

We tried to find a connector trail skirting by Willow Lake, but nothing materialized. We then tried some of the more difficult trails in the Dells to see if it would link to the Constellation trails. It may have, but that 10 minute ride had already turned into 45. Did I mention that Mark had never been to the Constellation trails? He's a jokester.
One of the basic rules of HAB....
If you're not HAB'ing, the views probably suck. Willow Lake here.
We cut our losses and exited to pavement for a few miles. A quick study of the trailhead trailmap told us we could essentially ride the entire network in less than 10 miles. So we began checking off the trails.
A history lesson of where the name came from.
Mark hitting a tight channeled switchback with ease.
The runout through a small chute.
I wasn't nearly as graceful.
Big views to the north, Bill Williams Mtn & Humphrey's Peak can be seen here.
Mingus Mtn doesn't look so daunting from the north side.
Mark cleaning a big up & over power move.
We wrapped up our tour and headed back to his place for a brew. It was great shredding some new trails with this cat. It's been a while.

March 19, 2016

Slate Creek Divide

Mt. Ord. It calls to me every time I drive by heading to the pines. I've been meaning to ride to the top for a few years now, but never seem to make the time. It's just a dirt road climb after all. I knew the views up top would be amazing since you can see the peak from so many vantage points near and far.

Then it occurred to me, I wonder if I can link up FR201 & Goldridge trail to Mt. Ord from the bottom, the old way up? I think what initially held up my plans to concoct a route was I thought riding on the shoulder of AZ87 was the only option. It's not. I poked around on the topo maps & satellite imagery and was able to draft a plan that would be a 53 mile loop with two climbs. Two big climbs.

I lobbed the necessary bait with just enough detail to sucker in Jeff & Nancy. They are great riding friends, probably putting way too much faith in my routing abilities. It usually works out just fine, but that's how all adventure routes should be, just the right mix of WTF and amazing riding.

We called an audible re: start time based on the warm forecast, which turned out to be a really wise decision. The forecast may have been for warm temps, but it was downright frigid for these desert dwellers at the start.
The last thing we wanted to do was get our feet wet barely 10 minutes into the ride.
We began on a short lava rock section of passage 21 along the Arizona Trail (AZT).
We transitioned under AZ87 onto passage 22 and I warned Jeff & Nancy, while most of the next 5 miles were good, there was some crap. The AZT held true to form, heck we still managed to blow by a couple of turns even with a GPS track and prior trail knowledge!! D'oh.
Vintage trail sticker. 'Border to Border' Yeah, I think I'll do that.
Hey! Get on the trail!!
Last time through here, someone strung a hammock across the trail!! When trees are available, use them.
More from the AZT time capsule.
A mere 7 miles from the halfway point of the AZT.
Brake check!!
Beautiful trail under a creek-side canopy.
Is it mandatory that every string of wild horses have a white one?
We popped out on the Old Beeline Hwy, done with singletrack for a bit, as we were about to embark up FR201. This dirt road is also known as the Slate Creek Divide as it's essentially the boundary between Maricopa & Gila Counties. It's well maintained, has a few grunt pitches and gains a little over 2000' up to the pines. It is here where we'd return to singletrack on a mostly downhill roll along the Goldridge Trail (#47). I had warned Jeff about bringing loppers for this section, he didn't believe me. I had a pair loaded in my pack, but as the day was already growing long and the trail in need of much more than I could provide, we plowed through.
Our second climb of the day staring us down. We'd be climbing Mt. Ord in a bit, from way down off-photo to the left.
FR201 throwing us a bone.
Amazing. Simply amazing.
Almost to the top, that last switchback ahead signals the arrival of the big trees.
The temps were cozy at the top, the scent of pine was everywhere. There was only one camper up top as we took a snack break at the Goldridge trailhead. It's not really a trailhead so-to-speak, but there's a sign!
Cool striated outcroppings.
Goldridge Trail #47 borders the Mazatzal Wilderness.
Down we go. Let the games begin. The upper 1/3 of the trail is really nice, with an occasional piece of deadfall, but most we were able to ride around. A few short uphills keep you honest. Slowly but surely the Manzanita choked down our right of way on the trail. At first just nipping at the handlebars, then poking your hands/legs and finally it got so overgrown it literally stopped me in my tracks on a few occasions.
A fast wide open section up top.
One thing was constant the entire way down: incredible scenery.
Vegetation creeping...
...and now full-on choke hold!!
A wave of Manzanita attempts to drown my friends!!
Ahh, there's the pose I was hoping for.
The trail opened up a bit and was really fun dropping down the ridgelines.
Roosevelt Lake way off in the distance.
The next bit became very steep and loose, a winning combo for downhill HAB.
Not all of the steep stuff was super sketchy, a bunch of it was downright fun.
Nearing the bottom, things finally mellowed out for some fast carving.
Ooh, so much greenery.
We dropped into Deer Creek trailhead a bit after noon. A few miles on the shoulder of AZ87 led us to a dirt road I had scouted out via satellite. These are the ones that can throw a monkey wrench into your plans. There was one section I knew we'd have to scramble through, but it looked very short. I just hoped it was manageable and not a cliff!!
Wide shoulder, hooray! Mt. Ord looming with our dirt turnoff quickly approaching on the right.
FR177 was in surprisingly good condition. Here topping out on a saddle.
Mt. Ord inching closer as we hit a speedy section of dirt.
The washed out section of wasn't too horrible, but did require some bike hand-downs & hand-ups.
Safely across, the riding surface remained good.
Our portal under the Beeline Hwy and what's that? Super secret singletrack connector?!? YES!!
Messin' with Sasquatch.
We were more than ready for a lunch break as we crossed the arid Slate Creek, nary a drop of water to be seen. It was around 2:30p when we rose from our shaded rest stop at the bottom of the old road up Mt. Ord. I think we were all a bit leery at what lie ahead. How steep was the road? Was it in good condition? Only one way to find out.
Shade and grass at the bottom.
The first two miles were really nice, mellow grade and good riding surface.
The road ticked up just enough to make you work.
We marveled at how quickly we rose from AZ87.
Jeff & I ended up leapfrogging each other for a while during our extended HAB efforts. Meanwhile, Nancy mashed out the pedal strokes and left us both in the dust per usual.
A small tribute at the top of the old road.
Confluence of dirt.
During one of the many rubbly HAB bits we could see plumes of dust kicked up by vehicles on the newer upper access road. I knew we weren't far from getting better riding conditions, just had to get there.

Nancy was waiting at the road junction while Jeff had dropped back a bit. He was running a gear a smidge too hearty for this climb on his singlespeed. As is typical, he stuck with it and we all began the final ascent towards the summit.
Smoother road, but still a kicker.
Roosevelt Lake and Four Peaks off in the distance.
Are we allowed up top or not?
We reached a gate with plenty of singage, but it was unclear if it was ok to proceed. One sign listed hours, which we were well within, while others indicated only authorized vehicles. There were a few cars parked next to the gate, but no one was around. We debated on what to do and checked out the sights from our perch below Ord's summit.
We can almost see our starting point of the day here, Bartlett Lake as well.
Layers upon layers of mountains.
Goldridge trail is over there somewhere.
By now a few hikers had returned to their vehicles. We inquired about the summit and were told nobody was up there. With that bit of information we knew we were going up to finish this thing off.
Closing in on the summit.
Forest of towers crowding the peak.
Jeff providing a sense of scale.
Prime location for a lookout tower.
Nancy on auto pilot.
It's difficult to describe the feeling up here, as if we could see the entire state.
We hung out up top for 10 minutes or so, then Jeff announced how much daylight we had left. Time to boogie. The good news? The remainder of the ride was 99% downhill. Go!
We rode down the upper access road at breakneck speeds!!
A great reward for putting in the work.
It seemed like only 5 minutes ago we were up there!
Nearing AZ87 and the top of the Old Beeline Hwy.
We had seen a high number of 4x4 vehicles during the day, now we know why.
The Old Beeline Hwy doesn't go through any longer, they wanted to make sure of that. This was one of FOUR such barricades.
Made it back to our cars in Sunflower with a little daylight to spare.
Wow, what a ride!! Maybe sometime soon there will be a trailwork day to trim back the Goldridge trail, otherwise it's a tough, but very rewarding route. C'mon, it's only two climbs!! I don't think this one will keep Jeff & Nancy from joining me on future adventures, fun times out there. Psst: I have another route from Sunflower to try....

Check out Jeff's recap as well, all different pics for a slightly altered perspective. Well done!

Here's the route: