January 30, 2020

SoMo: Hau'pal & Ma-Ha-Tuak

This is a two part post. Both on the relatively new trail in the northwest corner of South Mountain (SoMo) Park called the Ma-Ha-Tuak Perimeter Trail. The first report is a really dumb route I decided to do, riding the trail eastbound. The second was a much more sensible route riding it westbound. The trail itself rides fine in either direction.

I had briefly heard about the new trail and had seen some Strava rides with it. It looked cool since it finally enabled riders on the NW side of the park to make a loop that was all singletrack. I wanted to check it out, but I also saw this other 'trail' on the east side of the Ma-Ha-Tuak Range called T-Bone Ridge (Now named Hau'pal). The interesting thing to me about T-Bone was it climbed almost as high as the nearby Alta trail, but at first glance didn't connect...or did it? A quick scouring of satellite imagery and I found a faint trail linking the two. It was ON. Now, since I had no idea what the trail conditions were going to be like, high probability of a complete shitshow, I didn't invite anyone to tag along. I figured the Ma-Ha-Tuak trail was decent enough.

I staged at the Ranger trailhead and connected over to the bottom of T-Bone via the Max Delta trail. That was a fun, swoopy kind of trail with one short steep kicker. T-Bone started off nice enough, well I was riding anyway, it was a solid climb up to an overlook where I needed to catch my breath.
Max Delta trail with the Phoenix skyline in view.

Rest break before trudging up THAT!! Yikes.
To say the next section was steep would be like saying the Grand Canyon is just a ditch. The grade kicked up considerably, so much so, I had to be wary of foot placement or risk sliding back down. There were a couple of pinch points between rock outcroppings that really gave me pause. How exactly am I getting through this? It was a delicate balance at times, but I made it to the upper ridgeline. This was clearly not a mountain biking trail. But, I've always said I'll ride anything once or at least take my bike with me!!
Hey look!! Someone actually riding their bike!!

Start of the upper ridgeline.

Elevation attained rapidly.

That's the trail. Some tricky moves in there.

Looking across to Telegraph Pass and the Summit Rd.

Finally!! The semblance of a rideable trail.

Looking back at the short piece of non-sketchy trail.

Made it to the junction of my satellite spotted trail. The main trail dropped off the north side of the mountain and didn't look any less forgiving.
Snack break!
I spotted the faint trail from satellite imagery and began to head west towards Alta trail. I was fully expecting some sketchy maneuvering, but it turned out to be a fairly solid connection.
The faint trail can be seen zigzagging up the hump of this ridge. Alta trail is visible to the left of the high point near the Saguaro.

Junction with Alta trail.

Same spot, looking back from where I came.

Another view, this time looking west across the Ma-Ha-Tuak Range.

I decided to take the milder descent down the Alta switchbacks, cleaned all but two.
About once a year or so I put tires on the Bajada trail. I'd be riding it in the mostly downhill trending direction, but that doesn't mean it has any flow to it. Lots of well places embedded rocks and steep drainages are sure to keep you in check. Today was no different.
A gentle slice of Bajada.

Maricopa Peak is not the high point of the Ma-Ha-Tuak Range. Go figure.

The tame side of National trail.

I've been meaning to ride this bit of Maricopa trail, today it would lead me to the Ma-Ha-Tuak Perimeter trail.

A few ups & downs as it winds its way around the mountain.

But first, a side trip down to the new South Mountain Freeway. I sure hope they add a gate here, as the Maricopa trail continues on the other side and there currently isn't an easy way to get there.

Back at the split, a new post marks the beginning of the new machine built piece of trail.

Contoured climbing is the name of the game on this trail.

The newly minted South Mountain Freeway cuts through a small section of the mountain as it winds through the foothills of Ahwatukee.

So far the climbing was modest.

The payoff was a fast rip around the mountain.

This trail sure doesn't fit the character of SoMo's trail inventory. Where are the rocks?

Nice pano of downtown.

Guardrail section followed by a short steep grunt that I had to walk.

The middle section of the trail was a bit older, narrow in bits, contained some rocks, but was still enjoyable to ride.

Back on the machine built stuff as I neared the 19th Ave trailhead.

Looks like a storm is brewing.
I rode past the Hau'pal junction on the north side, looked harmless from the bottom!! I quickly reached the 19th Ave trailhead and began a stout climb to a saddle with some hike-a-bike thrown in. From there it was a quick spin back to the car at the Ranger trailhead.

The park did a really nice job routing this trail. While it may not be technical like many other popular trails at the park, that doesn't mean it's easy. It was definitely get your heart rate up and there are plenty of downhill payoff sections to reap the rewards of climbing.



A couple of weeks later I had a few hours between jobs and wanted to ride the Ma-Ha-Tuak trail in the other direction for comparisons sake. I met up with Jenn who was looking for some cardio work and I knew this trail would deliver.

Again, we staged out of the Ranger trailhead and started on Max Delta. This time I used the Crosscut trail to link over to the 19th Ave trailhead where we'd pick up the Ma-Ha-Tuak Perimeter trail. It was a really nice way to start.
Fun downhill along the Crosscut trail.

The pushing started early...cardio gains!!

Again, well contoured ups & downs heading west.

The poppies are starting to bloom, it's going to be a banner year for wildflowers in the desert.

Stay on the trail!!

I love when the desert has that thin veil of green.

Moar hike-a-bike!! There's a couple real punchy climbs.

Looks like we're about to get a payoff for all that climbing.

Ahh, that's better!!

Near the final hill, there's a trail splitting off to the left that leads to the San Juan parking lot and would allow you to make a loop around the hill pictured. It would be a nice lollipop ride from the 19th Ave trailhead.

Hard to believe there's still that much farmland adjacent to South Mountain.

Jenn dips into a wash on the west end of National.
Since I was on a bit of a time crunch, we simply popped out on San Juan Rd. back to the Ranger trailhead. It makes for quick work compared to riding Bajada back to the car.

I can't really say which direction I prefer on the Ma-Ha-Tuak Perimeter trail, both ways have a few short steep climbs and fun downhills. Ride it both ways and decide for yourself, it'll be a solid workout no matter what you choose. Well done, South Mountain.


January 26, 2020

A Cornucopia of Radness

Over the past few months I've done a series of rides in the Sunflower area. It's such a beautiful region and after discovering a loop using FS191 it reminded me to ask the Tonto National Forest about another trail I had seen on the topo maps nearby. Trail #86, the Cornucopia trail is not in Wilderness, but the Tonto's website was listing it as closed to bikes. I had inquired about this a couple of years ago, but never received a reply. I sent another email in early January and wouldn't you know, I got a reply a couple days later. Much to my surprise, I was informed the website had incorrect information published and the Cornucopia trail was indeed OPEN for bikes!! Guess where my next ride was going to be?

Mike W. was game and we hatched a more ambitious plan, just in case I was feeling up to it. I was also in the midst of battling a nasty sinus infection and over the years I've found a good remedy was to ride the snot out of my head. So, we met at the Deer Creek trailhead and dropped a vehicle there, just in case we wanted to climb FS201 a second time for a descent down the Goldridge trail after completing our Cornucopia exploration. Then, again the Cornucopia trail conditions were unknown and it could be a total junkshow. One way to find out!!

Fun section of FS201. Can you see Mike?

Our desintation: Mt. Peeley trailhead, the start of the Cornucopia trail.

A little bit of down on the way up.
I had to walk some of the steeper pitches, but I was still truckin'. Photo by Mike.
Up top, back in the land of the tall pines.
To our surprise, we were greeted with a snowy track on the north facing slopes.

Amazing views of the majestic Mazatzal Mtns.

I took a very cautious approach. I didn't need another silly wreck this year.

The sunny sections were clear and jaw dropping scenery abounds.

A look to the north reveals the Mogollon Rim on the horizon.

A rapid descent brought us to the Mt. Peeley trailhead.

A few cached water jugs with some fancy labeling.

First time seeing this particular AZT sign.

The start of the Cornucopia trail. Looks promising. 1/2 mile to the AZT.

The trail corridor was clear of protruding vegetation.
So far, we were loving it. Photo by Mike.
AZT junction. 2 1/2 new AZT miles for me.

Mike posing with his Transition near the halfway point of the entire AZT.

Lots of peaks visible to the south.

The trail remained clear, devoid of rocks, for now.

We went on the hunt for Thicket spring...

One minute later, we found it flowing cold & clear.

Very informative signage at trail junctions.

We were never really too far from the Wilderness boundary.

The trail surface reminded us of Prescott.

One of two down trees. This one a bit difficult to ride over.
There would be many water crossings on the way down. Photo by Mike.

Mike's turn to play in the water.

260 trail junction.
 The Cornucopia trail dumped us onto FS25A. The singletrack was over, but what a fun, wide open 3 mile rip down the mountain. We were both equally surprised at the quality of trail. Not technical at all, only one section of loose rock, but all rideable.
This decaying ice cream truck? probably has a few good stories to share.

Cozy interior.

This is Arizona, might as well shoot it.
West Fork Sycamore Creek.

We would now be on FS25A for a few miles.
 We rounded a corner and found a large group of 4x4s enjoying a picnic in the road. I think we startled them by riding in from the deadend side of FS25A. They were stunned when we told them where we rode from.
The jeep road was rugged in sections and crossed the creek a bunch of times.

Short singletrack area.

Mike approves.

Well contoured jeep road? What a concept!!

This looks promising...
Duck!! Photo by Mike.
Much of FS25A was like this, but there were a few bouldery dismounts near the creek crossings.

Beautiful red striated rocks.

Another ambitious 4x4 driver.
Another chunky creek crossing. Photo by Mike.
One final short climb out of the creek basin.

More well contoured riding.

Mike flies down the final bit of FS25A, where it meets FS25 to the left. The road to the right is also FS25, but leads to the Wilderness boundary at Mormon Grove trailhead.

New signage at the FS25 junction.

Interesting parcel with some history.
 Instead of staying on FS25 back up a short climb to FS201, I had found a 2-track on satellite that would essentially cut the corner back to the car...
The ride wouldn't be complete without a rubbly hike-a-bike!! It looked good on satellite!!

One final hurdle, a military crawl under a barbed wire fence. Perhaps we should've just rode back to FS201!! Haha.

One final look back to where we came down.
I was fairly whooped, so we opted to skip the second climb up FS201 to Goldridge. Next time, Mike. Instead we made our way over to Jake's Corner for a burger & brew. We're not always dumb.

Great post ride vibe.
The Cornucopia Loop was a resounding success!! It will definitely be added to the rotation of rides in the area. Maybe next time I'll ride it in reverse to see how it climbs.