June 25, 2016

Sky Island Fun

It's a natural reaction here in the Valley to head north when simmer is in full swing, as it is now. I like to do my rides a little different than most I would say. Shannon proposed a day cruising around the Mt. Lemmon summit trails and then threw this gem on top of it: 'We could ride Oracle Ridge as an out-n-back (OnB)'. Yes! Yes, we could. The caveat being we both knew when the shitshow on Oracle Ridge began, so we'd just turn around beforehand.

We met up and took off for the cool temps of Summerhaven. There was already cloud cover and a few sprinkles hit the windshield on the way up the Catalina Highway. The AZ monsoon season is starting to rev it's engine, we'd need to be wary of our surroundings all day as the storms up top can be wicked.

We really didn't have a set route or goals for the day, no GPS track to follow, just pick a trail and ride. Old school style. 'Wanna go ride Aspen Draw?' she asked, yep, let's go.
It was 66ยบ, a little humid, 1 1/2 miles into the ride and I was sweating like crazy!!
A 3 mile road grunt got things going in a hurry.
We reached the dropoff area for the DHers and I arrived first, waiting on the opposite side of the parking lot for Shannon to round the bend. At first she wasn't too keen on riding all the way to the top as the trail up there takes a roundabout way back to where we were. I think Shannon knew what I wanted to do when she arrived. Up we went.
That turkey is riding on air!!
Ye shall not pass.
Meadow trail.
This would make a cool spot for camp.
A bit hazy down below, but still tremendous views.
Took a short OnB towards Sammie Ridge, grunting our way back up to the trees.
Hopefully the guy in the lookout tower has a relaxing season.
Top of the ski runs.
The payoff!! Cruising down Aspen Draw. Photo by Shannon.
Roots, rocks & ruts create different riding challenges than what we're normally used to.
Focused on the line.
Did I get transported back east? Photo by Shannon.
We had been messin' around on the upper part of the mountain for over two hours!! Time for a lunch break. A pulled pork BBQ sandwich hit the spot as we watched the interesting crowd come & go at Sawmill Run.

It was now time for the main event: Oracle Ridge!! Oh, the stories abound about this trail. You'll hear tales of the Traverse-O-Death, miles of HAB, exposure, steep rubbly jeep roads, catclaw, etc. Most of these come from riders taking on the AZT300/750 race in April. Both Shannon and I have done the full Oracle Ridge descent. No doubt, it's tough and some of those descriptors are accurate, but not on this ride. Much to our friends' surprise, we're smarter than that!! We were only planning on riding out about 2 miles, then turning around before the trail completely goes to shit. Believe it or not, those first two miles are really good!! Only a few short HAB's here and there to mix it up.
We were both surprised to see this section of ferns, practically hid the trail.
The lone down tree.
Oof!! Photo by Shannon.
Plenty of non-thorny vegetation for a change.
Most of the trail up top contours nicely.
Way too much fun being had!!
Surveying the land. Photo by Shannon.
Down the knife edge!!
This made for a nice photo op after I went OTB negotiating a step-down turn!!
Our turnaround spot near Dan Saddle.
This was a great location to toast our route choice of the day. Cheers to you Shannon!! 
Ahh, yes. There's the HAB. Oracle Ridge will always get it's pound of salt. I was stabbed by a pointy succulent in my finger, bleeding like a stuck pig for a few minutes.
Plenty of time for a tech session!! Cleaned it.
High above Biosphere 2 on Biosphere 1.
Alpine flowers beginning to pop while the desert blooms are but a distant memory. Photo by Shannon.
We wrapped up our super rad epic ride of massive proportions back near Sawmill Run. We neglected our final climb sprint challenge though, a little end-of-ride competition we started last year on our Temporal Gulch ride. We'll need a make-up climb!! I doubt our legs were too tired, we blistered the pacing all day averaging a staggering 2.8 mph!! Those are the best kind of rides.

What's better than a post-ride dinner plate sized fresh baked chocolate chip cookie? Not much. Unfortunately, everyone else in Summerhaven had the same idea and the line wrapped around the deck at the Cookie Cabin. Drat. Next time!!

We managed to stay dry the entire day, but on the way down the mountain the rumbles turned into a deluge. Typical this time of year during the monsoon flow. It was raining so heavy we had to yell at each other in the car. WHAT!?! The rain dropped the temps in Tucson down to a pleasant low-70's. By the time I got home in Queen Creek it was 105. Bleh.
Yeah, we drove through that.
Thanks for the great ride Shannon, so much fun!! Isn't that what it's all about?

June 17, 2016

Flagstaff ATM

The ATM that dispenses cash is nice, but I prefer my ATM in Flagstaff, aka: Around the Mountain. This is such a good ride I try and do it every year, yet somehow it fell through the cracks in 2015. So, when Kelly, fresh off the Grand Canyon Bikepacking ride, lobbed me a softball to do the ride on Friday, it was a no-brainer.

I just had to squeeze in a few hours of work first, then we were off to the high country, cool temps and killer trail. I typically prefer to drive up north the night before a bigger ride to help acclimate to the elevation, but that wasn't an option. How would my riding legs respond? So-so at best.

We grabbed some late morning burritos at Late for the Train, parked at the Shultz Creek 'Y' and began our loop with a modest 14 mile climb up Shultz Creek trail & then onto Waterline rd.
The first half of Waterline is through a burn area, but the grade is perfect.
One thing the burned trees provide: views that go on forever.
This large fin of rock is quite the oddity, the tunnel is a cool side effect.
She had to slow down a tad for the photo op.
The entire way up the climb I couldn't stop yawning, I was ready for a nap!! I really just wanted my legs to wake up so I could keep pace, but that didn't happen until much later. Kelly had done the climb about a month earlier and noted the abundance of deadfall, something like 25 downed trees across Waterline. Thankfully, the workers had made their way up the road and all was clear.
Such an incredible section along the climb.
Aspen Alley as we near the singletrack turnoff to the Inner Basin Trail.
I wanted to top off my water up at the green cabin spring a little past the trail split. To my surprise the spigot was not turned on, nothing was dripping either. We started to see some hiker traffic as we made the turn downhill. Kelly mentioned how she liked fast downhills, she wasn't kidding!! Zoom!! Gone.
I was quick on the trigger, there goes the blue blur.
I figured I'd catch up down at the parking area. I had to stop and snap a few pics along the way too.
Everything has morphed green, no sign of snow except at the highest elevations.
I was surprised to see her stopped at one of the turns down the trail. It's a good thing she did as I captured one of my favorite snaps from the ride.
Love this shot.
We passed a few hiker groups on the upper twists & turns. Then trail straightens out a bit and she was off like a shot once again. It worked in my favor, as I came up on a few more hikers already off the trail. One downed tree slowed me to a stop, but Kelly was able to ride under it, so we'll can it a 1/2 downed tree.

I had never really ridden around Locket Meadow Campground, so why not today. I didn't know if there was water available here or not, there isn't. Bring a filter if you need H2O. We were fine, but it would've been nice to top off just in case.
Obligatory Inner Basin pano.
We flew down the washboarded descent on FR552, my bike making all kinds on loud rattling. WTH? I couldn't quite hear where it was coming from, but I thought something was going to fall off during the larger washboarded sections.

While the desent from Inner Basin was fun and fast, I knew what was coming on FR418. Two long steady grinding climbs that my legs still weren't ready for. We'd start out riding together at the base of the climb then slowly I'd fall back. Total slacker.

We were about to top out on the second hump of the first climb on 418 (Two climbs Kelly, not one!!) when a camper truck was heading our way. It pulled over at the top, I assumed to find a camping spot. Kelly rode up to the guy and asked if he had any spare water, she was now out after realizing some had leaked out in the drive up. Gah!! He had plenty to spare and at the perfect moment, talk about luck. We left Kelly's nameless knight in shining armor and continued our trek towards the AZT.
Continuing on FR418 and I'm way behind again!
A few snow filled chutes in the alpine.
AZT junction!! Time for lunch.
Late afternoon light really lit up the aspens.
We took a nice long 'Schilling picnic break' (Eszter gets the naming rights on that one!) before heading up the AZT for the final climb of the day. Buddyz Chicago style pizza & throwback Mountain Dew got it done. While I waited for the Dew to kick in, Kelly took off. I caught up some 5+ miles later when the climbing was done.
Ferns are growing rapidly, farther down the trail they were handlebar high.
Never noticed this sign before, near the Snowbowl split.
The last big meadow before the long descent.
Tuck & Zoom!!
Caught a glimpse of a deer running into those trees.
Three rides up on Humphrey's in two months this year. I'll take it.
Filter effect. Wing Mtn on the left, Bill Williams Mtn on the far right.
While we were taking turns snapping pics I finally figured out where the loud rattling was coming from. My fork light was hanging down a bit, missing a ziptie!! The mount was loose on the fork making all the noise. Good thing I caught it, a second busted tie could've meant disaster! New tie installed, all was quiet on the long drop down to Snowbowl rd.
Alfa Fia Tank.
We met up at the lone down tree near the top of the descent. From there on down, all I saw of Kelly was some lingering trail dust hanging in the air, she was flyin'!

We were about 40 miles into the day at the road crossing and guess what? My legs finally woke up!! We didn't take any pics the final 15 miles or so finishing at a good clip. Shultz Creek is a really fun downhill run, but I actually prefer a different way down off the AZT. It's far less crowded, skinny singletrack the entire way and feels like an undulating bobsled run. Check it out: Lower Moto, Middle Earth, Chimney to Shultz. If that doesn't put a grin on your grill, sell your bike.

Thanks for the stellar day trip Kelly, hopefully next time I'll keep pace a bit better!!