April 7, 2019

AZT 22 / FR201 / Goldridge

Mike S. and I were back in Sunflower to finish off what we started a few months ago: Trailwork on Goldridge. We were chased off the Arizona Trail by death mud a few months ago and finally coordinated a day to get out there.

We dropped my car at the Deer Creek trailhead which happens to be the terminus of the Goldridge trail. Things got going from Bushnell Tanks and we navigated across Sycamore Creek without getting our feet wet!!

I mentioned that we'd get a good idea of our day ahead before going under AZ87. That corridor was clear of vegetation in the fall and we were both curious to see how much it encroached during the ensuing wet months.
Believe it or not, this is NOT overgrown trail. The AZT sign is in a bit of an odd location here. This is the vegetation we'd be dealing with however.
We did find some short areas that needed attention, but nothing too bad. Onward to Passage 22!!
We were surprised to see water flowing under the AZ87 culvert.

Hiker caches.

Never know when you'll need a large cooking pot while on trail.

Our day started under blue bird skies.

It didn't take long to pass by our death mud turnaround from last time, barely 3 miles in.

Of course there's the obligatory hike-a-bike chunkfest.

Plenty of opportunities for our loppers. Here's a before pic.

and after.

Passage 22 doesn't see a ton of traffic, the trail is faint in many locations.

Seasonal creek flowing nicely, it may be spring fed since I've never seen it dry.

Cairns & skulls mark the way.

Near the AZT halfway point and our exit towards Cross F Ranch.

Fancy new signage since my last visit.

Correction: I Love Hike-a-Bike.

The upper portion of this descent was a bit more rowdy than pictured.

The trail drops down under a shady canopy of trees following the creek from earlier.

Leaving the access trail near Cross F Ranch via a short re-route.

I'm fairly certain I have pics of every one of these!!
We were now done with phase 1 of our ride. Up next was the grind up FR201 after a short bit of pavement riding. We were both anxious to get the climb over with since we had no idea what condition the Goldridge trail would be in. We just hoped it wasn't too bad and we'd be able to trim it all the way through.
Cross F Ranch hideaway.

The climbing begins on tarmac.

Almost as soon as you hit the dirt of FR201, the pitch steepens. A few of the lower grades are painfully steep, but short.

Then the climb mellows and the views expand.

Looking back, the elevation gained is obvious. Mt. Ord watches over us.

Hillsides still bathed in swaths of gold.

Just when you think FR201 is steep, you peer across the canyon and are thankful you're not climbing THAT dirt road!!

More nice grades, but a glimpse of what's to come.

Up, up, up we go.

A false summit appears to the left of the tall peak.

Gazing back towards civilization, the Superstition Mtns. poke up on the distant horizon. (center)

Alas, the final switchbacks to the top!!

Some funky, but very cool looking rock formations. They even match Mike's bike!! Some great camping spots up here.

Snack break at the start of Goldridge trail (#47 on the Tonto NF maps)

We drop in and find clear trail up top and the remains of a not too distant fire.

Sure glad I lugged my hand saw!! Removed 3 limbs across the trail.

Reminds me of a more rideable Oracle Ridge.

This fella was a bit too much for the hand saw. We left 3 down trees.

The tall pines gradually give way to Jojoba, Manzanita and Holly bushes. This is where I expected things to get choked shut.

Trail corridor remained clear!!

I was in disbelief at our good fortune.

Dropping a ton of elevation, temps warming, but still hardly anything to trim!!

Our trimming efforts were minimal on the entire Goldridge trail, someone has been doing great work up there. Thank you!!

We begin the final plummet to the valley floor, still a ways below. If it wasn't for the ultra steep sections of fall-line trail, this would definitely give the Ripsey ridgeline a run for its money for the 'Best ridgeline riding in Arizona'.

Looking east: Roosevelt Lake, Pinal Peak and the Four Peaks barely visible.

Loose, fall-line steep trail. Everyone's favorite: downhill hike-a-bike.

We were entering the wildflower zone.

Caught a couple of butterflies in flight in front of the Mazatzal Mtns.

This has been the longest wildflower season I can recall.

The grade finally chilled, but still a far way to drop down. The trailhead is visible from here.


My brakepads had completely glazed over on the upper descent, barely worked.

Again, not a lot of traffic on this trail.

Seemed like it was a series of ridgeline riding all the way down.

Hillsides awash in color. 

We blew right by this easy to miss lefthand turn.

One last turn to the trailhead.

Done!! Deer Creek Trailhead at the junction of AZ87 & AZ188, south of Rye.

Deer Creek & South Fork trails enter the Mazatzal Wilderness and are off limits to bikes.
We were both pretty stoked on the ride and the good fortune to find the Goldridge trail virtually vegetation free. I think we were equally as surprised by how early in the day it was, maybe 3:30p?? Not used to finishing a ride with this many unknowns so early. It seemed wrong. But, I'll take it. Thanks a ton for coming out, Mike. The AZTR riders who tackle this route will surely enjoy not getting sliced & diced to pieces.


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