April 18, 2020

BCT: Southern Vision Quest

I was still riding high so-to-speak after pulling off the BCT High Plains Drifter 100 a week earlier. I was determined to finish what I started, a vision quest of sorts. This time I wouldn't need to start at 3a, so that was a bonus. It was looking like this would be my last chance at a long desert ride before 'summer' kicked in during the upcoming midweek.

I hoped my legs were up to the task as I did a 50 mile ride the day before over at the Phoenix Sonoran Preserves. One way to find out.

The plan for today: Stage from Rock Springs and ride the Black Canyon Trail, BCT, to the southern terminus at the Carefree Hwy. Then return via BCT, but complete both the Boy Scout & Little Pan Loops, plus add in the often skipped Tech Loop on the way back to Rock Springs. Total route was around 65 miles give or take.

I did want to get going early though, just not under the cover of darkness. 6a would work nicely.
On the trail before sunrise.
I could tell the water level at the Agua Fria crossing had dropped since last week, I almost rode across without getting my feet wet. Almost. The Skyline climb went by quickly and it was shaping up to be a nice day.

On to the Cheapshot segment.

Nearing the second crossing of the Agua Fria. Site of my tire woes a few weeks ago.

The near crossing is the deeper water channel and soon the far portion of the Agua Fria will be bone dry.
Next up was the 2+ mile climb away from Table Mesa Rd. There were a bunch of people camped near the trailhead, but otherwise is was a quiet morning. I'm always glad when I crest that climb as the riding tends to pick up pace considerably.

Saguaro forest in Doe Valley.

More from the land of giants.
I stopped for a snack break at the second summit when I couple of riders approached from the opposite direction. One of them was my buddy, Bryan, who let me test a set of Revgrips a while back. (I now have two pair) We chatted for a bit then they continued on. I was about to do the same as the the Boy Scout loop began on the downhill. I'd veer left, staying on trail and save the west side for the return trip as most of it is jeep road.
Northern end of the Boy Scout loop.

Lots of fast trail through here, some dirt roads too.
I made quick work getting to Emery Henderson trailhead. Now only 6 more miles along Biscuit Flats to Carefree Hwy.

Ha! I know both of those fools on the stickers.

This section of BCT isn't the most popular, it's mostly flat and the trail can get a bit hard to follow in a few areas.

Namely here, crossing New River. Not much of a river now, but not much of a trail either. Keep your eyes peeled for sign posts!! And stay relatively straight.

The final miles are wide 2-track and dirt road.

It's kinda funny how nondescript both the southern & northern termini are. Not even a BCT sign here, only a Maricopa Trail marker. Time to turn around and head back.
It was now only 11a, I had made good time getting to the Carefree Hwy. I thought the return ride would be a bit easier, well, at least quicker.

Some of the fun singletrack portions of Biscuit Flats.

Wide open desert down here.

Back through the first trailhead. really wish water was available.

Leaving the trailhead and into some light topography.

Temps continued to creep up and I was starting to daydream about the cool crossing of the Agua Fria.

More fast miles leading to the Boy Scout loop split.

It's getting tough to see with age, but the rock art bicycle rides on.
I was making my way around the west side of the Boy Scout loop when my legs started to feel heavy. My water was now warm, energy levels waning. I trudged up to the first saddle above Doe Valley for a break. I was doing some route calculations to recall how many miles it was to the Agua Fria crossing, then I remembered about doing the Tech loop. That was 3 miles all by itself right before descending to the river. Maybe I'll skip it.

At least Doe Valley has a bunch of great singletrack.

Plus, the long descent to Table Mesa Rd.

A rare group of four Mariposa Lilies.

I was now running low on my warm water. Perhaps one of the campers near Table Mesa Rd. would share?

It's mostly downhill to Table Mesa Rd. from the saddle of Doe Valley.

As I approached Table Mesa Rd, I remembered seeing some flowing water just beyond the camping area.

Perfecto! That little trickle of a waterfall was enough to fill my filter. Not exactly refreshingly cold, but it did the trick.

The meandering swath of dirt leads to water...eventually.

Ahh yes, the Tech loop. It seems this trail is being lost to time, negligence. I rode about 100 feet or so, but it was getting more difficult to follow the trail. Lots of loose rock and encroaching vegetation made it an easy decision to abort those 3 miles. Let's get down to the river.

Ahh, the much anticipated Agua Fria River.

I just stood there cooling off my feet, chugging away.

Owl's Clover still clinging to life.

Back on the Cheapshot segment, getting close, but every mile was a struggle.

I love the routing of the trail through these hills.

Black Canyon City from high above.

Looking back at the Bradshaw Mtns.

The going was slow, it had already taken me longer to get back here than the morning push to Carefree Hwy.

I was taking all the photo op stops along the way.

I was climbing along towards the Skyline summit when I heard a distinct hiss. I looked down and saw this fella, Gila Monster!!

They are the coolest creatures of the Sonoran Desert and can be very elusive. This guy wasn't backing down either, he stood his ground while I snapped some pics. Usually, they simply turn around and waddle off into the desert.

The Gila Monster sighting really lifted my spirits, having a long downhill ahead didn't hurt either.
There was another rider making camp at the top of the Skyline climb. I mentioned the Gila Monster sighting and he said he'd never seen one. I told him where to look as it was nearby, hopefully he found him.

One more water crossing before the final climb out.

Home stretch on some great trail.

Done. Ugh. Took 6 1/2 hours on the return portion, only 5 hours on the southern leg.
I guess the legs weren't quite ready for that kind of abuse following the 50 miler the day before. The afternoon heat was another factor. I am glad I knocked it out albeit not pretty. That about puts a wrap on the long desert day rides until fall. It was a good run, especially these past couple of weeks.


April 17, 2020

NoPho: Phoenix Sonoran Preserves

The west side rides had been good to me over the spring. Why not keep it rolling? It looked like the weather was going to stay mild for at least one more weekend allowing for long-ish desert rides before pointing the car north going forward.

I've had this route in my back pocket for the past few years, never got around to giving it a go. My Burrito Brother, Seron, had essentially come up with it, I just added a bit to it. It's affectionately known as the STD&P route. Haha, not that kind of STD!! This kind: Sonoran, Thunderbird, Deem & Pyramid, fool. The route isn't intended to ride every single trail, but it's also not one to simply cut through a system either. The goal, get a nice sampling of each area. In the end it should be somewhere around 65-70 miles since there's a bit of paved riding to get to each system.

I opted to start at the Southern Sonoran Preserve, SoSo, then head up to the Northern Sonoran Preserve, NoSo. That way, I'd come back through the staging area where a cooler would be waiting in my car to top off water, etc. That was the plan anyway.
Heart rate elevated from the get go. I forgot how much the entrance trail climbs.

City views come quickly.
There were a few photographers set up on the side of the trail. I stopped to ask what they were shooting. They pointed to the large Great Horned Owl nest in a trailside Saguaro. The nest was full too, I could see the tips of their ears, but not much else...until later.

Massive nest cradled by Saguaro arms.
I began my way through SoSo by going clockwise around the northern loop. I had only ever ridden it the other direction. The first half was fairly quick, then a sizable climb coming around the north side before finishing the loop. It was nice getting it done early instead of doing it after returning from NoSo.

The climbing mellowed a bit as I made my way around the southern loop.
I only made one wrong turn, a dead end out-n-back to a gated community. At least it was only a 1/4 mile round trip goof. Back on the main trail, I was keeping my eyes peeled for a connector trail leading to NoSo. It had been built/ridden in since my last visit which was years ago.

So far the route was a nice mix of good climbing grades and fun downhills.

The connector trail, kinda 2-track-ish at the start.

It soon narrowed and came alive with wildflowers!!
I entered NoSo via the popular Apache Wash trailhead. There are a couple of easy, fast loops at this end of the park, might as well knock them out early. I made a route snafu here by riding the Apache Wash loop first, which is farther west than Cliff Walk/Esplanade loop. Not a huge deal, but it meant a bit of backtracking. I felt like I had settled into the ride, but it was getting a bit too warm for my liking. Keep in mind, our spring had been very pleasant, cool actually. The first few days of warm weather are always an eye-opener. Even us desert dwellers aren't ready for the heat this time of year!!

NoSo has more sustained climbs, one of which forthcoming.

I think it was on this climb where I felt the wheels starting to come off.

A brief respite from the grind.

I didn't recall the trails being so loose. I guess time & usage had taken a toll, either way I walked more than I ever had on these trails.
If I was going to pull off this route, something needed to change. The Google told me there was a convenience store barely one mile from the northern trailhead. I was almost there and needed a boost.

At the 7th Ave. & Carefree Hwy trailhead.

A cold chocolate milk, ice cream Snickers bar and some food hopefully did the trick. Back at 7th Ave. ready to finish off NoSo.

Lots of snake sightings reported this spring. I hadn't really seen too many, this was maybe no.5?? I really don't mind rattlesnakes, they're cool and let me know they're there. Thanks bud.

I looped around the south side of NoSo via Ocotillo. That was a fun rip with short ups & downs. Here, back on the connection to SoSo.

Back in the heart of SoSo. Making the final climb before heading down to the parking area.
By now I was feeling much better, but my earlier struggles really slowed things down. It was almost 2:30p and I still had a bunch more to ride. Hmmm. It's over an hour drive home too. I really didn't debate it too long, especially after I realized I forgot to bring my cooler for the car!! Gah!! That pretty much sealed it. STD&P - DNF. Jeez, it was only an S x2. Oh well. I'll try again next winter...

Oh yeah, I passed by our friend on the way out. Hello there!! All the photographers had long since disappeared, pretty cool sighting.
This route will happen. I need to be a bit better prepared for the mid-ride resupply that's for sure. In the end it was good to ride the Sonoran Preserves again, it had been way too long.

It wasn't a bad thing cutting the ride short as I was planning on another sizable ride the following day up on the Black Canyon Trail...