March 15, 2019

Superior: Apache Tears

The Arnett Canyon trail has been under renovation lately to become the new alignment of the L.O.S.T. (Legends of Superior Trail) It was slated for a grand opening celebration on March 24th, but Team Loco had other ideas. Our schedules lined up and the weather was looking great for a pre-grand opening on the 15th. I recently slapped together a rugged looking route around Superior and the wheels were in motion.

Like clockwork, on ride morning I got snagged by work a bit longer than anticipated and didn't meet up with Beto & Shannon until around 10a. If things went sideways, we'd have some bailout options.

The ride got underway out of Picketpost trailhead, the famous Picketpost Mtn. as the backdrop as we pedaled briefly on the Arizona Trail southbound. And when I say briefly, I mean like 0.2 miles. We found our turnoff, climbed a short solid rock grunt and things immediately opened up.
Yeah, we get to ride here.

Some machine built trail to elevate it out of the oft eroded wash below.

A couple remnants of ephemeral waterfalls.
This short bit had some sandy sections. Needs moar tires!! Photo by Beto.

This pic has it all: friends, singletrack, creek, wildflowers, canyon walls and blue sky.

Arnett Creek still reaping the benefits of melting snow up high.

Most of the creek crossings were rideable, Shannon demonstrates.

Some mighty fine rock work too.
Splashdown!! Photo by Shannon.
Somewhere in here we came to an obvious fork, from what I could tell online, the left fork was a short bypass loop into a side canyon. We stayed right following Arnett Creek.
Plenty of shade to be found under the canopy of trees. A rare treat in the desert.

Finger Rock marked the beginning of Telegraph Canyon.
At the canyon junction there appeared to be another fork, but this time the left fork had some branches lying across the trail. Again, we stayed right.

In hindsight, I think we should've stayed left at the first fork as the second right led us into rugged Telegraph Canyon and away from Superior.
We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

We did find more running water.

...and a whole bunch of storm damage to climb over. Let the #locorides adventure begin, cue the music.

Beto tries his luck this direction.
Behold, the splendor of Telegraph Canyon!! Photo by Beto.

On the other side we found some deep pools.
And a series of cascading small waterfalls over the craggy terrain. Photo by Beto.

We slogged up a final sandy wash and popped out on Telegraph Canyon Rd. aka: FR4.
At least now I had a good sense of bearing, we'd just hang a left and return towards Superior and rejoin my drawn track.
The more jagged east side of Picketpost Mtn.

It was fun riding the road in this direction. The AES Picketpost Punisher route goes the opposite way.

Just a few downs & ups...

Superior nestled beneath Apache Leap.

My track ran into a private property snafu. Missed that on the topo.
We backtracked a short way, then found a connector via a typical fall-line powerline road. Thankfully, there was only one steep climb. We dropped onto the shoulder of SR177 and rode south into a headwind until our turnoff on FR315.

We ran into a bunch of OHV drivers staged at the entrance, they had just come from where we were going. It was time for snacks as the daunting climb of the day was staring us in the face.
Nice dirt to start the climb. Photo by Beto.

The climb began innocent enough.

Elevation gained.

This is about the area where the road began to slant skyward. We watched Beto to see how far he'd ride it. Far.

Hard to believe we were just down there!!
Notice how far behind the photographer we are!! Oof. Photo by Beto.

Picketpost Mtn. already feeling small and distant.
Shannon workin' it.

Finally!! We top out into a sea of boulders.
 This is where I figured we'd be able to pick up the pace, the big climb was done and the profile indicated a series of short ups & downs on jeep road. Then again, this IS Arizona.
Beto checking the freeride scene.

The first bit was stellar, fast ripping 2-track.

Then things got rowdy. The always popular downhill hike-a-bike.
It was hard to imagine 4x4's climbing or descending this stuff, but they do it. Impressive for sure.

As if the giant boulders weren't hazardous enough, mix in a small trickle of flowing water and slick mud.

That's more like it!!
This side of the route was definitely going much slower than planned, but we hadn't given up hope on a complete loop yet. 'Anyone bring lights?' I had a helmet light, that was about it between the three of us. Oops.

We were now cruising on some rider friendly 2-track dodging puddles here & there. I came up to one and slowed down as I splashed through...then my wheel sunk. Deep.
Goop!! OTB I go!! Yes, I tucked in my arms!!
We rounded a corner to a glorious sight. A sheer wall of boulders covering our route. Who doesn't love a solid over-the-shoulder HAB effort? I opted to carry my bike across my shoulders so I could just walk up the rocks. A few shifts here & there to adjust the weight on my shoulders, but it was fine and over fairly quick. Sure made for a priceless photo...

Hike-a-bike badge unlocked!!

Our reward. Good thing as we needed to filter some agua.

Another chunky descent and a few not so pleasant options out of the valley.

The climb out wasn't too bad as most of it was rideable.

I can see why this area was so popular with the rock climbing crowd. Boulder problem upon boulder problem.

Resolution Copper mining area, complete with its own roadmap.

Mining thataway.

Beto saving us from certain doom!! So strong.

The road finally mellowed out thanks to the heavy mining use.

More activity as we near the pavement that would lead us out to US60.
It was now around 4:30p and we knew there was no way we'd finish the route in daylight. Our only feasible option was to ride down into Superior via US60. The catch? No shoulder whatsoever and typically fast moving traffic. Not the ideal situation, but the good news was it was 100% downhill. We'd just wait for a gap in the traffic and GO!! And GO, we did. I think a car or two passed us as we got up to speed, but the next few miles we had the road to ourselves thank goodness. I caught a glimpse of my GPS during the descent and it was clocked at 42mph!! With a substantial crosswind!! Yikes! Just hold on. At one point I noticed a cascading waterfall next to the road, but wasn't about to slow down.

Both Shannon & Beto were getting blown around more having their framebags acting like sails. We survived and took the business route through downtown Superior to find a carnival in full swing.
Off we go!! At least there was a shoulder to start.

A few short minutes later we arrive down in Superior from atop the cliffs.

We noticed a few buildings undergoing renovations, it's nice to see some life in Superior.

It was only fitting that we ended the ride through a carnival.

Downhill run??

The bustling Superior 'airport'.

Superior is poised to become a mountain biking destination.

A full stock tank of water is only a short distance from the waterless Picketpost trailhead.

Late afternoon rays on Picketpost Mtn.
I'd love to head back up to Oak Flat and finish off the second half of this ride. The scenery is world class, but so is the effort getting to it. It's always a blast sharing these types of rides with the #loco crew, thanks for coming north Shannon & Beto!! Until next time...

The next day I asked K if she wanted to go hunt down that roadside waterfall we sped by during the ride. She was game and we found a parking spot east of the tunnel and hiked along the road until we found it. The best view was from under the roadway.
Queen Creek Canyon.

Flowing Queen Creek and Slayer!!

Towering cliffs above US60.

Falls as seen from below US60.

Plenty of flow over the concrete.

Caught a rock climber on our way out.

Quite a few deep pools to soak in on a warm day.

St. Patty's lunch...then dessert from Old Ellsworth Brewing Co.

Fields of Globemallow near our home.


  1. Fantastic day with a fantastic #LOCO crew in a fantastic wonderland. Let's do it again!!