April 20, 2019

Arnett Canyon Loop

I've been meaning to head back over to Picketpost to ride the portion of the new Arnett Canyon Trail that Shannon, Beto and I missed on our Superior Adventure. This seemed like a perfect opportunity, since I was headed there anyway to drop off some AZT300 rider gear for their finish. It just so happened the the 300 winner, Huw Oliver, had just wrapped up an incredible rookie run at just over 2 days!! Kurt & Kaitlyn were there to greet him and it was fun catching up before I headed out.
Arnett Canyon trail splits off the AZT barely 0.2 miles south of the trailhead and slaps you in the face with stunning rock formations.

Picketpost Mtn. from a different perspective.

I was surprised to find Arnett Creek still flowing.

Although portions were bone dry above ground.

Desert rivers/creeks are notorious for their disappearing acts.

I love that there is so much shade along the trail.

This fella didn't want to give up his grazing turf.

This is where we ventured off last time, today, I'd veer left.
Riding away from the creek, the size of the cliffs are on full display.

Mining claim.

The trail meanders up a series of bench-cut rock shelves.

Not quite the top, but an impressive overlook.

Picketpost Mtn. taking familiar form.

The trail is routed magnificently through the rock maze.

At the top, take the dirt road down to the left.
I was expecting to see a few more signs directing the way, but nada. I poked around a bit, there's a yellow gate at the top, but an old No Trespassing sign shot to pieces on it. It also appeared there was another trail skirting off to the right. I knew the route needed to head towards the old L.O.S.T. routing, so I opted to head down the dirt road.
Apache Leap stands guard over Superior.

I almost missed this turn, careful with your speed as you near the trees!! Look for a trail cutting back, down under the canopy.

Looking down the connector trail.
I heard some people talking below. I dropped in and found myself practically in their camp. I hopped over the flowing Queen Creek and made my way through the various campsites.
Land of the L.O.S.T.

Great place for a quick getaway.

There were a few large groups setup, but nary a person.

Coming out of the trees, the route follows a series of dirt roads towards town.

The L.O.S.T. is an official AZT connector trail.
Soon enough I was back on singletrack. Well, the remnants of singletrack.
The trail has been taken back by Mother Nature due to lack of use in recent years. The US60 widening project essentially closed the trail a few years ago. Hopefully, with the opening of the Arnett Canyon trail, it'll come back to life. Good thing there are still plenty of carsonite posts guiding the way.

Not much trail to find here. Follow the signs.

The trail eventually ends at the Superior airstrip. I crossed US60 to make a loop back to Picketpost via Silver King Rd./FR8/FR650/AZT.

Nice dirt road cruising.

How quickly Picketpost appears distant.

Hedgehog cactus on full display.

Vintage trail marker signals my entry to the AZT.

I've taken this same shot a few times this spring. Each one dramatically different. The water is shrinking.

Sweet bit of trail leading down to the US60 culvert.

Done. Love these signs along the trail.
This was a really nice, short loop. I imagine it could be done even in warm weather if started early. Superior is beginning to put themselves on the mountain biking radar. There's an entire trail system planned on the east side of Picketpost and Arnett Canyon will link right to it.


April 13, 2019

96 Ranch

I've been meaning to get some training rides in with Jason & Jennifer Hanson since they live in an area ripe with remote dirt roads. Today was the day. Our schedules finally aligned and I left the routing up to them. My only stipulation was I needed to be back by 6:00p or a 3 1/2 hour ride. They suggested we take a spin out to the withering 96 Ranch. Sounded cool, let's go!!

We started heading south on Barkersville Rd., a nicely graded dirt road angled slightly uphill to necessitate pedaling.
Heading west on Smoke Rd. New-to-me dirt.

Smoke Rd. was in surprisingly good condition considering it must see far less traffic than Barkersville Rd.

Arriving at the remnants of 96 Ranch tucked in a valley of the Ninetysix Hills.

Relics of a place withering to time.

This adobe structure was the best preserved of the bunch.

The compound was spread out, I wonder what life was like in its heyday.

Saguaros lining the road, creating a stately fenceline.

The pillaged insides of the adobe structure, bees buzzing nearby.

A sunken storage room taking advantage of the natural cooling effects.
Another car arrived with some would-be explorers, so we began plotting our return ride. It had only taken a little over an hour to reach 96 Ranch and we really didn't want to go back the way we came. A quick delve into the area topo maps revealed a possible loop continuing west on Smoke Rd., then south on some random dirt road to link into Freeman Rd. This would then bring us back to Barkersville Rd. Sounded good, so we pedaled west.

Oh, snap!!

A splash of color at the top of the pass.

We found our turnoff and to our surprise, it was very rideable!! Lots of lupines too.

I think this is near Gato Tank, things began to get interesting here.
Our beautiful 2-track morphed into well defined game trail singletrack. It continued in the direction we wanted to go and matched the topo map. We were golden for a mile or so. Then the game trail began to split and slowly fade to nothing. We were now in full bushwhack mode. The topo map was showing a perpendicular road approaching, one we wanted to be on. Our wandering wasn't getting us any closer to it due to heavy vegetation surrounding a wash we needed to cross. Eventually, we found a decent place to cross and soon arrived at the road...with a barbed wire fence separating us.

No trail here, but sacrifices were made.

Jason displays the fine art of hoisting your bike over barbed wire.
The road was very promising and things began looking up.

Then we hit unrideable sand!! This went on & off for a while.

A tale of two halves: Sand to the right, packed dirt to the left.
Jason and I were riding near each other when he noticed a Gila Monster on the side of the road camouflaged by a shadow.

He was trying to get away before I snapped a shot!! Making a dash for the bushes.

By far the coolest desert animal out there. I've lost count of my sightings, somewhere between 16-20 all within the past 6 years.
 We finally made our connection to Freeman Rd. and I was a bit disheartened to see we were near mile marker 3. I took a peek at the time...uh oh. It was 5:30p and I knew we wouldn't be finished in 30 minutes. Quick calculation had us still 25 miles away!!

I made the call home to apologize early for being late!! We had dinner plans. Gah! Jennifer put a call out to Shelby to come get us, but had to leave a message. So we continued on.

A short bit later we received confirmation that Shelbly was on her way. I was still going to be late, but hopefully, not too late.
Freeman Rd. was lined with purple.

Golden hour hues take over.

Our bailout arrives after about 8 more miles of riding. Thanks, Shelby!!
I ended up being an hour late. The route was very neat, but I'd do a bit more research on the connection between Gato Tank and Freeman Rd. It's definitely a loop I'd do again. Thanks for the tour of sorts Jennifer & Jason. Let's do it again soon.