October 20, 2019

AZT: Happier Jack

The Arizona Trail Association launched a monumental trail project two years ago: Happy Jack Singletrack. The project was one week from being officially finished, but Igor and I had a free Sunday to check out 17 of the 18 new miles of trail. *The final mile was completed this past weekend, Oct. 26th.

The original alignment of AZT took trail users on roughly 25 miles of jeep roads through the forest. The emphasis on 'rough', i.e. rugged, like lava rock embedded ruggedness. It really wasn't a pleasant experience. Last year I had the opportunity to lend a hand during one of the volunteer trail building weekends and had a ton of fun watching the new tread come to life. Here's that report.

Fast forward to this ride. Igor and I met up at the southern terminus of our planned ride near the Blue Ridge Ranger Station. Of course we both missed the turnoff to the parking area, but quickly sorted it out and sped off to our start point at Gooseberry Springs trailhead.
Let's get this started.
The first few miles on the day included a re-route from a couple years back. The tread has held up great and we soon arrived at the final bit that still needed to be built.
Shuffs Tank. The new trail will be routed north & west from here.

Found some flagging on the west side of Shuffs Tank. Notice the sea of lava rock.

Typical cattle tank, this one was a bit extra murky.

Part of the legacy Happy Jack singletrack. Still plenty of bumps up there.

There was just enough color throughout the ride to feel like a genuine autumn ride. Oh, and the cool temps!!

This stretch before Bargaman Park could use a little TLC.

Locals gathering.

Bzzzzzzzzz. Don't touch anything metal when riding under these bad boys. Zap!!

A relatively smooth line through the burned out chunk.

Lots of new metal AZT signage along the way.

One of the few times where there is a break in the trees to unveil a wider view.

Igor cruising along the newly minted trail.

Like the parting of the Red Sea, rocks? What rocks?

I'm sure there's a colorful story to the naming of this watering hole.

The trail builders left a gift.

One of 17 AZT Supergates on the Happy Jack passage. Thanks Rob!!

This rocky jeep road marked the end of the new singletrack. There was about 20-30 feet of trail missing before the road, so be sure to have a track to follow or you may miss the good trail!!

Last time Igor was up here, he witnessed this tree getting struck by lightning!! Took a huge chunk out of it.

Entering Jacks Canyon.
I was pretty stoked to clean the climb out of Jacks Canyon. It's not super long or steep, but it'll make you work for a bit. My legs were up to the task, so I can definitely tell my fitness is slowly returning to prior levels.
The last of many water tanks along the way.

Pristine singletrack near the AZ87 crossing.

More splendid riding as the ride wrapped up.
I was beginning to feel lethargic near the end and had to take a final calorie break with about 2 miles remaining. Overall, I felt really good the entire day. It was so good to get out and up in the rim country before the snows begin to fall.

Finished!! AZ87 crossing.

Hadn't had one of these in a while, so why not?
I want to give a heartfelt THANK YOU to all those involved in making this project a reality. It was a much anticipated improvement over the old rugged jeep road routing. I do believe this section of trail will become a summer riding destination for those wishing to escape the heat. Of course, this is still Happy Jack, there are rocks, just not miles upon miles of them. Go ride it and see for yourself.


August 16, 2019

Payson: Trail 200

I had been home from the Tour Divide for a month and a half and had done a few rides. The heat was really affecting me, mostly due to a mild spring and just as things began to crank up - I left for a month of cool weather riding up north. Upon my return it was consistently 110ยบ and I couldn't seem to get out to the trail before the sun came up. Not a good combination.

I needed to get up north, back in the cooler pines of northern Arizona. Mike was free on Friday, but we needed to be back by 3p, so our choices were a bit limited. I then recalled a trail in Payson I've been meaning to check out for a couple of years. Trail 200.

It must have been 20+ years since I've ridden any trails within Payson's town limits. There are some good trails there, just not a ton of miles. The town does have plans to add more trails, check out the Payson Area Trail System (PATS). From what I could gather, Trail 200 was a figure eight and about 7 miles or so. There's really not a trailhead, just a small dirt shoulder in a cul-de-sac.
The trail skirts a few houses before diving into the goods.

Almost instantly we knew this was going to be good.

Mike negotiating a switchback.

Singletrack through the trees and a random giant boulder.
We saw a well developed trail forking off to the left after the boulder. The trails I had ridden many years ago were that direction and not far away. Seemed like a logical connector trail.

We found this rock outcropping, not sure the significance of the Dream Catcher & astronomy pictographs.

This area had quite a few spider trails.
Cool looking tree bark. Photo by Mike.

The mid-section of the figure 8 was a short, loose grunt that had my legs & lungs burning, but the view at the top was well worth the effort.

Peering across Houston Mesa to the Mogollon Rim in the distance.

Mike getting some chute action.

The trail is well built with a few tough moves.

It also has its share of quick luge-like bursts.
Miniature Thor's Hammer. Photo by Mike.
We were cruising along the far end of the figure 8, in & out of trees. I came to small section with a few embedded mid-sized rocks. I rolled over the first and was about to lift my front wheel over the second, but was a smidge too late. My front tire halted forward progress at the exact moment I applied maximum force to the pedals. Guess what happened next? That's right, rear wheel started to elevate, but in slow motion fashion. My weight was completely shifted forward and I slowly extended my arms until I was practically in a handstand. I cleared the bike and stood up, no harm, no foul, but check out how the bike ended up!!
Not staged!!! It's practically hung like a Christmas tree ornament.
We had a good laugh over that one. Then resumed the twists and turns through the trees.
More giant boulders.

It was getting into the low 90's, but the tree cover kept the temps manageable.
Once again we were cruising along and passed though a redrock open area with a small ledge. I rolled it and as I began rounding the next corner it sounded like a gunshot...PSSHHEWW!!! Mike's tire was flat instantly, sealant spewed all over.
This was quite the puncture. One Dynaplug & two tire bacon strips wouldn't seal it. Time for the tube. 45 minutes later, we were pedaling again.

We were really enjoying the layout of the trail and the topography.

Plenty of tech moves through this section.

A little reminiscent of Hiline trail in Sedona, not quite the penalty for failure though.

Comes complete with a wooden bridge.
A few of the areas had plenty of B-line options to session.

Wait a second, did we transport via portal to Sedona??
Portal to a Sedona Vortex?? Ok, this is getting creepy.

JRA: Just Riding Along and snap!! These happen to be the pedals I rode on the Divide. I guess they would've broke on me somewhere along the climb up Marshal Pass.

Now it has a Prescott vibe.

Mike spotted an optional rock to play on.
We were getting short on time for Mike to get back by 3p thanks to the blown tire and extended lunch break with too much BS'ing. It took us 3 1/2 hours to ride a little over 7 miles!! Ha! Super fun trail though and I'll be back for sure. It definitely links into the Boulders trail for additional mileage. With some route sleuthing I'm sure I can come up with a loop of sorts around Payson. I know Mike would be game...