December 9, 2016

Queen's Loop

I finally had all the pieces in place to do a 100 mile, mostly dirt, loop from my front door. The Ocotillo rd connection was my missing link that I needed and was verified during my ill-fated fork experiment ride.

I was also itching to get the Ti rig out on a long day to see how it felt. I got things rolling shortly after 7a as I couldn't quite get moving early enough for a 6a departure.

The first 20+ miles are flat & fast along paved bike paths and canal banks.
Easy miles to get the legs warmed up.
By the time I reached the Mesa bike park I was ready to shed some layers. It was here that I also decided I should probably trim off a few trail miles so I wouldn't finish too late. Plus, there was a rugged jeep road section about 3/4 through the loop that I didn't want to ride in the dark. I skipped my customary lap around the bike park and dove into the Hawes trail system making a more direct route over to Twisted Sister.
The Hawes locals getting the trails ready for the season.
Peace rabbit.

I had to walk a few of the climbs since I still hadn't geared down the ratios on the new bike. Soon, very soon. The morning was perfect, clear skies, cool temps & empty trails. Friday rides are great.
This stately Saguaro splits Camelback & Red Mountain.
Four Peaks from the NRA singletrack.

I was making good time and stopped for a pizza break at the Pass Mtn trailhead. By now a few hikers were out and about on the trails, but not much else. I cut out a few more miles of trail making a beeline for the Goldfield Mtns.
I love this view of the Superstitions from Usery Mtn Park. They seem so far away, but it's easy pedaling to get up close from here.
I have a standard route now through the Goldfields. It doesn't suck.
The Goldfield jeep roads are surprisingly tame for how rugged the surrounding terrain can be.
Just like that, the Superstitions are on top of you.
I posted the above pic on social media noting how I was making good time. I didn't realize at the time I was exactly halfway through the ride here. 51 miles down, 51 to go!
Spectacular views from the Jacob Crosscut trail.

I've noted on many occasions about the ruggedness and tech factor on the Jacob Crosscut trail. It's slow going over the last 3 miles or so, but I also heard major trailwork was scheduled. I was curious to see if anything had been started.

I reached the signpost signaling the beginning of a 0.9 mile boulder surfing downhill, so far no trailwork to speak of. As I bounced my way down the trail I spotted some flagging!!
Believe it or not, this section isn't too bad!! Notice the flags.
I couldn't believe what I was riding over the final 1/3 of the descent. It's a real trail now!! Look out 750 riders...
I'm going to assume the fine folks over at SALT, who are doing the re-route, will complete the 0.9 miles of work soon. The question then becomes, how much, if any, farther up the Jacob Crosscut will they improve? I don't think it needs much, but there are a few sections that could benefit from trailwork.
Silly Mtn Park is an appropriate name for the trails here.
I popped over to Subway for some fuel to finish up the loop. I did some more trail trimming through Gold Canyon and reached the top of the rugged jeep road with plenty of daylight to spare. The final 30 miles of the route trended downhill too. Always a nice way to finish a big ride.
A little more rock surfing to start the long downhill.
Superstitions from the east.

I was hoping to reach the US60 crossing before nightfall, but the jeep road miles kept coming. I linked up with a few unfamiliar dirt roads then connected through an isolated neighborhood before more miles of dirt north of US60. I stopped a few times to enjoy the show Mother Nature was putting on for me. Arizona sunsets are the best.
The light show begins.
This pic didn't quite capture how pink the sky was, but you get the idea.
One final blast of light before I broke out the lights.

I entered the OHV area after crossing US60 for 5 miles of flat open desert riding. This open area on the fringe of the city sure makes you feel alone, coyotes howling in the distant, but otherwise eerily quiet. This kind of ride really helps you prepare mentally for the long days of multi-day bikepacking events.
Exiting the OHV area onto Ocotillo rd.
I was now on the dirt portion of Ocotillo rd. I could see taillights up ahead of me, but although the vehicle was moving slowly, I never caught up to it. I'm guessing it was an employee of the CAP canal since both of the gates I came to were now closed & locked. The first one I could easily skirt around the side. The second one required a climb over. From there it was all flat pavement and bike path back to the house. I finished up just before 8p and still feeling fresh. I felt like I could've kept gong for at least another 6 hours if needed.

The bike rode great, but I'm looking forward to easing up the gearing as well as raising the cockpit so I can ride in a more upright position.

This loop will become an annual ride for sure. I may do it again in March when the days are a bit longer and temps are still tolerable.

Here's the flyover: Queen's Loop


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