November 23, 2018

AZT: Tiger Mine to Kelvin

Evan was still nearby plowing through rides during his Cranksgiving roadtrip and I had a day free to join in the fun. Where to go, what to ride? The weather was looking favorable, so I suggested setting up a shuttle and riding the section of Arizona Trail northbound from Tiger Mine trailhead (Oracle) to Kelvin. It's some of the most remote miles of the AZT, some of my favorite miles I might add. The section has been getting some attention the past couple of years and rides really well. I'm always surprised that more riders don't get out there as loop options are readily available.

We met up at the Kelvin TH where a thru hiker was also returning to the trail. He was heading south, so we'd see him hours later, in a bid to be the oldest AZT thru-hiker...yo-yo style. That's Mexico to Utah & back to Mexico. Solid. We took off for Tiger Mine and no surprise here, started pedaling a bit later than we would have liked. We're both smart enough these days to always carry lights!!
Iconic Tiger Mine trailhead. The little bump on the horizon under the Arizona Trail sign is Antelope Peak. That's our halfway point. :o

Evan's all smiles riding this section in daylight and on fresh legs!! What a difference.

It doesn't take long for the remoteness to settle in.

There's been just enough trailwork completed recently that this entire section is a blast to ride now.

The Black Hills, where the cattle outnumber the humans by a long shot.

Don't stray off the path here.

Catclaw on steroids. This sums up AZ vegetation. It's all out to get you.

We had been noticing a helicopter flying nearby most of the morning. We stopped as it approached and noticed it was herding cattle!! Talk about a 21st century cowboy. It seemed to work, but at what cost?
We've been riding for hours, why is Antelope Peak still so far away?!?

Snack break before the long descent to Bloodsucker Wash.

While Antelope Peak never seems to get closer, Mt. Lemmon rapidly fades away.

The view to the east.

Down we go, 5 miles of mostly downhill gliding.

Not many signs of civilization out here.

Evan sticks a tricky switchback.

A few splashes of color from the confused bushes. It's late November!!

Where's Waldo?

Bloodsucker Wash.

Beehive Well. We ran into a few hikers here, our first trail users.

Finally!! Antelope Peak grows near.

Cholla forest #2, at least the trail was clean.

Now on the north side of Antelope Peak, we begin to put it behind us.

The Freeman Rd. trailhead / oasis. Much has changed over the years, but this shade structure and bench are pure gold.

Obligatory AZT sign snap.

What is this? AES, #locorides & Vanderkitten!! Hmmm...
It was a bit later in the afternoon than we would've liked, but we knew we could knock out the Boulders segment before sunset and perhaps get well into the Ripsey area before needing lights.

Some call it Mushroom Rock, I prefer Elephant Butt, well...look at it!!

Barely one hour after leaving Freeman Rd and both Antelope Peak & Mt. Lemmon are dipping below the horizon. The miles come easy along the Boulders segment, but watch out for storm ruts!!

Looking north, a new set of peaks begin to unveil.

Heading towards Ripsey Hill.

Golden hour takes hold.

In our haste to beat sunset to Ripsey, we missed some newly built singletrack bypassing a buzzing powerline section.
We made it to the gate signaling the beginning of the Ripsey Wash descent and noticed some LED's on the far ridgeline. A hiker we passed, the guy from this morning actually, told us a group of hikers were up there camping for the night. It was cool to have a visual line of sight as we made our way down & up to the Ripsey Ridgeline. We donned our night riding gear and pushed off into the void.
Evan putting his loppers to good use down in Ripsey Wash.

Google pushed an update to the Pixel2 camera out, night assist mode. I found a rock to balance the phone and gave it a shot. This was taken at 8pm, the only light was a near full moon. Pretty cool.
We chatted a bit with the hikers camped up top, they were in complete amazement that we were out riding this trail at night.
Night assist #2. Evan flipped on his light while staying stationary for this shot. Rad!!
We made steady progress down to the trailhead. I wasn't exactly on my switchback game, but not too bad.
Night assist #3 at the Kelvin Trailhead.
Once again it was a great ride on the AZT with Evan. Seems like we have a knack for not only going big, but hitting the best trails around. Until next time...


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