January 19, 2019


It had been a few years since I attended the Arizona Endurance Series' Antelope Peak Challenge (AES APC) event. I had recently ridden the section of Arizona Trail that the APC uses, but it's so good I didn't mind doing it again.

I had a difficult time getting out of bed the morning of the race, but I eventually got moving and realized I may miss the mass start. Sure enough a few minutes beyond 8a I saw a large group of riders approaching on Willow Springs Rd.

I parked and got ready, starting my ride about 15 minutes after the group.
The famous Willow Springs Ranch arch near our staging area.

Heading south on Willow Springs Rd. towards Mt. Lemmon.
I made quick work of the dirt road and was rewarding with a steady headwind on the gentle climb along SR77. I ground out the miles along the busy shoulder waiting in anticipation for the downhill to Tiger Mine Rd.
Another can't miss AZT photo op. Good to see the Voodoo back under this sign.
I met up with Craig at Tiger Mine trailhead, we would ride near each other most of the morning, taking turns leading the way.
It doesn't take long to get into the thick of the Black Hills.

Antelope Peak, but a speck on the horizon. I was determined to finally hike to the summit on this ride.

Craig making his way up one of the early drainage climbs.

The trail through here has gotten so much better in recent years.

Not quite enough power & momentum to get the singlespeed through this cool rock feature.

Plenty of snow up high on Mt. Lemmon.

Craig grinding away on another climb. Meanwhile, I pushed.
 A few miles later I came across a couple riding a tandem mountain bike, but they were having issues after their rear derailleur imploded. Serious kudos for bringing that rig on this terrain. They were able to get it working enough to retreat off the trail.
Starting the long descent to Bloodsucker Wash.

Antelope Peak starting to look a bit bigger.

Craig arrives at our snack break next to Bloodsucker Wash. 

Beehive Well.

There was a fair bit of HAB leaving Beehive Well, but up top the trail rode great.

The AZT crests a few small ridgelines, drops into valleys and makes it's way towards the flanks of Antelope Peak. Somewhere in here I passed Craig for the last time while he took a snack break.

Cholla forest. Sealant: Check.
 I popped off the AZT singletrack, then veered left, off-route, to find a place to stash my bike for the scramble up Antelope Peak. There's no trail and from this angle I couldn't remember which peak was the highest!! I found two other bikes tucked under a Palo Verde tree and added the Voodoo to the mix. I took a peek at the time to see how long the round trip hike would take.
Antelope Peak is the middle peak although the left peak appears higher at first glance from this viewpoint. There are two riders/hikers coming down off the flank of the left peak.
 I had started up the far peak to the right and thought the middle peak looked higher. I consulted the Trailforks app in topo mode and verified that I needed to be on the middle peak. Nice to have a wireless connection in no-man's land.
Sign the ledger!!

Summit selfie.

I like that Antelope Peak is labeled at the bottom, showing where the pic was taken. The AZT singletrack dumped onto the squiggly dirt road near center, then turned right (north) tracking towards Ripsey Hill.

Looking in a more easterly direction.

South view. The shadows illustrate the up & down nature of the AZT as it approaches Antelope Peak.
The scramble down wasn't too bad, just had to stay focused on not turning an ankle. I made it back to the bike in about 35 minutes round trip, snagging the 75 minute time bonus. I wondered if I could finish the ride before sunset. It was going to be close.

I needed a splash of water, so I made my way over to the Freeman Rd. cache where a rider was cheering me on...
It was none other than Max Morris!! He was on mile 100 or so during his winning Bell Breaker ride. Studly.

Back on Willow Springs Rd. I caught up to another rider, Diedre.
Her GPS had died and I asked if she was planning to ride the upcoming Painter Boy trail. That trail can be difficult to navigate in its primitive nature. She was up for it and we made the turn onto the 2-track together. We passed by a camper and veered onto a more faint 2-track. I started climbing, then pushing, until I reached a split in the track. I didn't see Diedre, so I waited a few minutes and yelled out to her. Nothing. I figured she decided to head back to Willow Springs Rd. which would be the more direct & easy to navigate way back to the vehicles.

Painter Boy singletrack. I was a bit bummed we are now routed around the 'Vague area' and one of the obstacle course type fence crossings.

At least this one's still in play!! Take care when crawling under!!

Golden hour digging in its claws. The trail is easy enough to follow, but there are a few sharp turns that are very easy to miss. Gotta pay attention.

Big moon rising as I was racing daylight to the finish.

Each time I'm riding Painter Boy, I forget how long it is!! I was eagerly awaiting its junction with the 24hr course. It's a fast finish from there, but the Sun had just set. Could I wrap things up without needing lights??

Waning daylight as I crest the high point of the 24hr course.
I weaved into the famed Rock Drop near the 24hr town locale where a few rowdy patrons were whoopin' & hollerin' at me as I pointed my wheels down the Rock. Now, I've ridden this thing tons of times, it's no big deal, even in waning light. However, it's been a few years and I stayed a bit too far rights and instead of pulling up my front wheel as I exited, I leaned back to roll it. I started to shift my weight forward and rode out a short nose wheelie before the rear wheel made contact. Whew!! That was close, but the cheers instantly echoed down from the Rowdies.

There were still about two miles remaining and I finished at 6:15p barely 5 minutes before needing my lights.

What a great day & ride. This is such an awesome route and I'm glad I brought the Voodoo for this one. It was challenging, but something I needed to do.

There were quite a few riders hanging out afterwards, but no Diedre. We were getting concerned since it was now dark, but there was ample moonlight. Sometime around 7p she came rolling in, no lights, no GPS and she rode Painter Boy!! Whoa. Congrats!!


January 13, 2019

Brown's Ranch: Phase 3

The trail dozer is at it again inside Brown's Ranch. Another season of trail building is upon us and the McDowell Sonoran Preserve is wasting no time. I had heard there were a couple of new trails recently completed in the Phase 3 corridor. Might as well check them out.

I staged out of the new trailhead at Pima & Dynamite Rds. It's the quickest access and meant I would finish the ride on a downhill note. I made my way over to Hawknest trail and kept going until I found new dirt.
The new trails are not signed yet, but you'll know when you get there.

The trail is routed through all kinds of boulders, over some rock slabs and the ever present B-line exists.

Such a cool area, I hope they keep adding trails here.

Here, a few different rock slab lines to choose from. Nothing crazy, but some texture to the buff singletrack is always welcome.

This rock slab is steeper than it looks.
 I came to an intersection of new dirt, it appeared there was a third new trail. Might as well see where it goes!!
This is what I like to see, an official 'optional' line. Ride the chute OR go around.

I crossed a dirt road and continued for about a mile before reaching the dozer.

Riding back the way I came in.

The three black trails are the new ones.
While I don't find them overly difficult, the Preserve wishes to rate them as expert since they offer more diverse terrain and some challenges not typically found on the rest of the system trails. As mentioned above, keep your eyes peeled for more challenging options on these trails. There are a few potential wheel grabbing rocks too, don't get caught zoning out!!

I finished off my ride by making a bigger loop with Stagecoach & Hawknest.

These new trails are a nice addition to the system. I hope they continue to build trails with character. There are so many miles of trail, it can't all be spinny stuff...right?


January 12, 2019

AZT Jamboree '19

The annual AZT Jamboree is one of those rides I refuse to miss. It's a charitable ride for the Arizona Trail and covers some of the finest sections of the AZT in southern Arizona. The fine folks at Southwest Trekking continue to offer shuttles for the event, there's an 8am & 10am shuttle. The early shuttle drops riders a bit farther south for a 40 mile ride back to Pistol Hill trailhead, the later shuttle gives riders a 25 mile ride experience back to the party.

I was running my normal late-ish, but arrived with a few minutes to spare. Once again I was rolling the Voodoo singlespeed and was curious to see how I'd fare through the Las Colinas segment.

I linked up with Jeff & Nancy and we got to spinning down the dirt road. The very first pitch of AZT had me off and walking a bit. Some more pushing on the ensuing hills, but I was getting warmed up fast!!
Jeff & Nancy on the early undulations.
We soon reached Helvetia Rd. and the first in a series of punchy climbs. I walked some, but rode more than I thought I would. I figured I'd get through Las Colinas ok after all.
A few riders take off after the first crest of Las Colinas.
More ups & downs followed and I was enjoying the cool morning rolling along the trail. Another buddy from Phoenix, Rob, caught up and we rode a few miles together for the first time in a while.
Rob doing his version of singlespeed hike-a-bike.

Nancy, always the masher.

Rob & Nancy putting the finishing touches on the third climb of Las Colinas.

There's a few steep hike-a-bike sections before the hills release their grip. Jeff is up there...pedaling!!
Shannon & Beto were going to head out from their home and meet me along the way. I thought I may find them at the Cloud 9 gate or down at the next road crossing by an open meadow, but they were nowhere to be seen...
Jeff cruising. Mt. Wrightson capped with snow in the distance.

What do we have here...

Can you find Rob rippin' the descent? Tucson's sky islands stand guard.
I was looking forward to the upcoming SAG stop at Sahuarita Rd. Carlos and pals were manning the aid station, but along the smooth, tame trail my tire sprung a leak. I took quick inventory of the situation and decided to put in a tire plug. A few minutes later I was ticking off the final miles to the aid stop where the others were loading up to head out.

I grabbed some drinks and snacks from Carlos and caught up a bit. Back on the trail I was finally able to ride the new bike ramp bypassing a gate at the Rte83 underpass. If you ride the AZT and like the idea of more rollover cattleguards instead of gates, feel free to make a directed donation to the ATA!! Each rollover costs about $1000.

As I rode toward I-10 a buddy, Mike, came up the trail. He asked where Shannon & Beto were. I hadn't seen or heard from them yet. I thought I would've crossed paths with them by now. We each checked our phones and found out that Shannon had sliced her sidewall and Beto was riding home to fetch a vehicle. Drat. They'd meet up at the finish.
These gates on the other hand are super!!

Entering the I-10 underpass.

Jim catches up at the coolest exit around.

The I-10 Rattlesnake may be one of the most photographed bits of the AZT now.

The MAN, Matt Nelson (ATA Executive Director), serving up espressos and good cheer at Gabe Zimmerman trailhead.

High above Cienega Creek at Three Bridges.
The trail gradually climbs away from Three Bridges with one particular section being a bit of a technical challenge. I made it about halfway through the rocky area before having to walk the rest.
La Posta Quemada Ranch
The final miles ticked by as I made my way beyond La Selvilla CG. I arrived at the finish to a rather large crowd hanging out, tipping back cold ones and grilling. Jeff & Nancy were already in chill mode and Shannon was waiting on Beto's arrival.

Another Jamboree in the books. A huge thanks to Chad for keeping this alive and well. I know the ATA appreciates the support. Thanks again to Southwest Trekking for the shuttle service. See you all again next year!!