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.