March 26, 2017

AZT: Picketpost to Kelvin w/RRC

I was hoping to get a nice long ride in on Sunday, but work seemed like it wasn't going to let me off the hook. Then at the eleventh hour my shift was picked up and I was free for the day. I was supposed to ride with Evan on a Picketpost to Kelvin shuttle, but he made plans to ride it Sat. when it looked like I couldn't break away.

I had seen the Red Rock Chica (RRC) post a pic of her riding some local-ish trails and wondered if she'd be game? We've only talked about doing this ride for something like 4 years!! It's a tough ride, but has a ton of reward for the effort. We  had a good weather window, wildflowers were still on display, but could her knee hold up to the task?

She was very interested, but also hesitant on a big point-to-point effort. That ride she posted was her only ride in the past 3 months!! She's also one of the toughest people I know. Then, I got word from Jennifer that she and her daughter, Shelby, would be riding an out-n-back from Kelvin and offered to drive us back around if we rode through to Kelvin. That would save us an hour of shuttle set-up time. So, I made a deal with the RRC. Let's ride south and evaluate on the fly. We can turn around at any point before the big descent to the Gila and it will be a good day. If we continue, there's good cell reception at the Gila saddle and I'll ping Jennifer and tell her we're riding to Kelvin. There it was, a plan for the day!! Let's ride.

I'm fairly certain she muttered something along the lines of 'Here goes, a ride with Schilling.' as we left the parking lot. Hmmm.
Getting the legs warmed up early on.
Chatted with this thru-hiker for a bit.
One of my favorite views of Picketpost Mtn. from the trail.
Nearing Telegraph Canyon.
Photo by RRC.

Mariposa Lily sighting.
Saguaro yard sale. Photo by RRC.
One by one, the crappy ranch gates are being replaced with Rob Bauer's work of art. Photo by RRC.

We reached the 10 mile overlook and felt good. On to the next checkpoint near the 12 1/2 mile mark.
Making our way to the next potential turnaround point.
All systems GO, dropping into Martinez Canyon. Photo by RRC.

When we dove into Martinez I had a good feeling we were headed to Kelvin. I gave the RRC a trail update of what lie ahead and she was a bit excited to drop down the 7 miles to the Gila. I sent out a text to Jennifer to let her know our whereabouts and to expect us in Kelvin.
It was noted that this would be 'work' the other direction!!
Globemallow orange was everywhere.
Doing what I do best. Photo by RRC.
The expanse that is Martinez Canyon with a side of HAB.
We are just a speck out here.
I had never seen so much color out here.
Nearing our cell signal.
One last push to the Gila saddle, marking the beginning of the 7 mile descent.
Spirits were high as we dropped in. Mt. Lemmon out on the horizon.

I had enough food/snacks for the two of us since we weren't really sure what our plans were when the ride started. By now, my stash of Sour Patch Kids was being readily raided. First one's free!!
Now this is getting ridiculous.
So much green too, the trail was getting overgrown!!
A short bit of climbing on the downhill.
Cactus approval.
Rugged meets ripped!!

I noticed I had been getting quite a bit ahead of RRC on the downhill and when we hit the river valley she wasn't too optimistic about making it to Kelvin. 'I'd pay someone $100 to drive me outta here right now!!' I convinced her we needed to take a short break in the shade by the river, filter some water and pace ourselves to the finish. She was going down a dark road and I was a bit concerned, but also knew she's no quitter. Our 15 minute break was well spent readying for the ride out while we watched some rednecks across the river.
Deep in the pain cave.
Swollen Gila River was easy to filter. Photo by RRC.

She popped in her headphones and told me not to stop. 'It'll be slow, but I need to keep moving!' So, with that, off we went. 16 miles to go.
Always a great view of the river.
White Canyon in the background.
Wall St.
Window through the giants.

We made good time through the first singletrack section and jeep roads. The second portion of singletrack is much more demanding as the trail climbs a series of ups & downs. I'd get ahead, then hang back to check on her progress. I'd get a head nod and keep chuggin'. Near the top of the second climb I figured I'd let her ride in front for a while. A few miles ticked off and I noticed she had picked up the pace!! By the third climb I was the one falling back!! I knew she'd rally, but now I was the one beginning to crack. Where are those Sour Patch Kids?!?
The RRC catching her second wind and leaving me in the dust.
I was in need of a food break and figured I'd catch up at the next gate. She motored on, so I kept going. Maybe I'll catch her at the next gate before the final climb. Nope. She was on a mission to get to Kelvin.
Near the top of the final climb I finally reeled her in a bit. I mentioned that we were coming up to the brass cap marking the AZT completion and the look I got was priceless. 'Ok, I'll stop talking!' I did get a good laugh out of her at that point.
On the final downhill into Kelvin.
Jennifer was waiting and boy were we glad to see her!! Photo by Jennifer.

Finished with daylight to spare!! Photo by Jennifer.
We were then informed that Jennifer had ice cold Pepsi and pizza for us!! Whoa. What an awesome surprise. We sprawled out on the crushed stone parking area and devoured some calories. What a day.

Even though the RRC thought she was on a three hour tour, she hung tough and we finally knocked out this ride after so many years of talking about it. What's next? Ripsey? Antelope Peak?

Thanks again to Jennifer & Shelby for being there for us in Kelvin. The food was an added bonus. The drive back to Picketpost was very much appreciated.

Route flyover:


March 25, 2017

Springtime in the Desert

Ahh, springtime in the desert southwest is one of the most incredible outdoor experiences. As long as you don't suffer from pollen allergies, the only downside is it means summer is Enjoy it while you can. So, I did.

I mixed in a few rides and a hike after my back-to-back bikepacking weekends.
Out at Hawes the poppies, firecracker bush & brittlebush ruled the day.
Spotted my first blooming hedgehog of the season.
Red Mountain dominates the landscape out here.
I hadn't been over to South Mountain in a while, so a short after work spin was in order.
Ocotillo getting thick.
The vibrant hedgehog blooms.

Over the weekend the temps soared into the mid-90's, too early for that stuff, so I tracked down Scott & Eszter who were Scamping up in Prescott. Low 70's up there!! They had been riding with Craig Stappler of Tour Divide lore and he was going to hang around for another ride. It was great to meet him after following his dot down the spine of the Rocky Mountain west a few years back.

We started our ride with a climb up Wolverton Mtn. It was a comfortable, steady pace, but about 2 miles in I wasn't feeling quite right. Perhaps the jump in elevation got to me?? Whatever it was, I felt like crap until we topped out and luckily, for me, we ran into Jeff & Nancy. The extended break was enough for me to feel back to normal and the rest of the ride was more down than up.
All the cool kids were in P-town.
On our search for singletrack.
Thanks to a tip from Kaitlyn, we found Moby or is it Moooby??
Yep, there's a bike in there somewhere. Now it felt like a Scott Morris ride.
Pixel train!!
If these bikes could talk...

Craig wasn't messing around, besides it was only 2 miles to camp.
It was a fun day (after the first climb) checking out a few new-to-me trails and riding in the cool pines of Prescott with these three. Back at camp Craig grilled up some juicy steaks & veggies, now that's roughing it!! Thanks! Hope we get to ride again soon.

The next day, K and I went down to Kelvin for a short wildflower hike. She's been wanting to get out and this part of the AZT always delivers in the spring.
All shapes, sizes & colors were popping!!
Some areas were now getting past their peak bloom, but others were still ablaze in color. I met up with Kelly for a quick ride through Sonoran Mountain Preserve North. It was my first time up there in over a year and did not disappoint.
Brittlebush painting the hillsides.
Green & gold as far as the eye can see.
Down in the lowlands, the grass is beginning to fade.

I had to take K down to the airport for a work conference and I figured I'd spend the rest of the day exploring some new stuff up at Brown's Ranch. As luck would have it, Ray and some buddies did just that a day earlier and had some good intel for me.

The new Maricopa Trail connector from the Tonto NF gate at the north end of Brown's Ranch is nearing completion up to the Bronco TH. Plus, there were a couple of new or reworked trails on the far west end of the BR trail system I wanted to ride.
I want my MTV!!
I think this is part of the old West Express.
New dirt and a friendly reminder to stay off the trail when wet!!
When in doubt, buff it out!!
The new Maricopa Trail may be a fluffy brown pow dirt sidewalk now, but give it time. 
I had hoped to ride farther than Bartlett Lake Rd, but a new fence went up over night.
Plenty of flowers still blooming up high. It was chilly up there too.
Nice connection back to the trails from a nearby neighborhood.
Reworked trail among the boulders was really fun.
Golden brittlebush dominated the landscape.

With April around the corner our springtime riding is winding down. This year has been phenomenal, so much green, flowers everywhere, I'm going to miss it when it's gone.