August 29, 2020

SoAZ: Borderlands

 2020 has put a kink in our semi-regular #locorides board meetings, read: crazy rides with friends. The time was right and a small crew of fellow nutjobs assembled at Parker Canyon Lake for a jaunt south to ride along the Mexican border and to check out first-hand the proposed new starting location for the AZT800 & AZ1000 routes.

It was going to be a warm one, but the miles should go by fairly quickly. At least that's what I told myself. We rolled out shortly after 8a on a bumpy 2-track, but the vast horizon made up for the rocks in the road.

Cloud cover early on was welcomed.
At one point a couple of Border Patrol agents came by on ATV's, they mentioned to us about seeing a lot of activity down here. We figured as much, but pedaled on. As it turned out, they were the only people we saw in hours.
All roads lead south from here!! Photo by Shannon.

That tilted horizon was more indicative of the border road grades!! Photo by Shannon.

Felt like we were riding through the African safari.

That beard has a lot of white these days, while Shannon is decked out in her usual colorful setup.

Border roll call.

Somehow, a successful timer shot!! (L-R: Wendi, Andy, Me, Beto, Shannon & Tristan)

This is where we reached the border, looking east.

Pointing west.

The road we arrived on, complete with mud bog.

First hill climb test right out of the gate and Andy, on a singlespeed, bests the up & coming kid, Tristan. Watch out though, Tristan's the real deal and only 15. Beto making a hard charge up the hill - he cleaned it!!

I didn't really look at the elevation profile prior to the ride. Lots of steep ups & downs!!

Wendi rocking the singlespeed as well.

Caught Tristan for a brief moment. This kid can climb!!

This was my first time riding along the border, the 2016 AZTR750 only started at the border, then immediately went north.

The towering Huachuca Mtns. & Miller Peak at 9,470' create the backbone of the Arizona Trail in Passage 1. Most of that passage is in Wilderness, so any bike route needs to bypass it, hence the scouting ride to check out a new start location.

Andy & Wendi, two bikes, two gears total. Badasses both.

Border monument 105, getting closer to our target: 103.

Peering south over the fence into Mexico. Such beautiful landscape down here.

Border monument 104.

Side canyon after side canyon, more climbs than you could shake a stick at.

Here it is!! Border monument 103. The new start location of the AZT800 & AZ1000.
For a little background info, border monument 102 is the southern terminus of the Arizona Trail, but since it's located inside Coronado National Monument, bikes aren't allowed. So, the traditional start of the now retired AZTR750 was the junction of FS4781 & FS4780 (Border Rd.) only because it was the closest access point to the AZT.

An idea was proposed by a Tucson buddy, Tim, to have the start at an actual border monument. I thought that was a cool idea and began looking at topo maps. The monuments are labeled on the maps, so it was easy to find. On satellite view it also looked like a large dirt clearing was at 103. Perfect. In addition, there was a dirt road leading NE to FS4781 and joining the traditional route just south of the intersection with Montezuma Pass Rd. Again, perfect.
Plenty of space for a future group start. Side bonus is, the riders will stay along the border for 1/4 mile before turning north and any vehicles can simply drive up the road pictured and not dust the riders.
We dropped down the border rd. from 103 and a short hike-a-bike greeted us, I'm sure the riders will appreciate that!! The route, then turns north on an old 2-track that quickly becomes more rider friendly.

The Huachuca's become the focus for the next 2+ miles of gentle climbing.

We were all glad to have a shade break as it was getting rather toasty. 

There was a small trickle of water at the Montezuma Pass Rd. junction, but we didn't filter since we had planned on stopping a bit farther up the road to check out another watering hole.

Trust me here, this was a really cool group shot showing the drop-off on the left. See it? 

The San Rafael Valley after climbing away from the border.
We took a snack break at the watering hole, water. Bone dry. It was now quite warm and I knew my water was getting low. We had planned to tack on Sunnyside & Scotia Canyons for another 5 miles of riding.

Storm clouds building like clockwork as we reached Sunnyside Canyon.
We thought about it for a minute, then made the wise decision to head straight back to Parker Canyon Lake. That was a smart life move as my next drink of water was my last, I was out. Thankfully, there was only a mile to go.
I was ready for some cold drinks at this point. Photo by Shannon.

Shannon takes off on some prime AZT Passage 1 singletrack!!

Passage 2 start, Canelo Hills East & the end of our ride.

Parker Canyon Lake.
Special thanks to Beto & Shannon for bringing a couple of post-ride MOD pizzas!! Delicious!!

I really like the new start location for the 800 & 1000 routes. If you have never ridden the borderlands region, I highly recommend it. Don't believe all the negative hype you may hear. We saw a grand total of ZERO people during our 6 mile trek along the fence. This isn't a border town crossing, it's remote, rugged and stunning. Check it out, see for yourself.


August 28, 2020

NoAz: Route Scouting

Kent was the only brave soul to join me on a scouting ride up north. The route in question was a series of dirt roads linking I-17 at Schnebly Hill Rd. over to the Arizona Trail near Happy Jack. We'd then ride the AZT north for about 20 miles before tying more dirt roads together making a loop.

This would also serve as a shakedown ride on an extended demo from Binary Bicycles, George's personal Super B. I was planning to take it bikepacking the following weekend in SW Utah on the Bristlecone 200.

Purple & Green, it's a Hulk bike!!

As soon as we left the I-17 corridor, all was quiet.
It had rained a day or two earlier, the roads were mostly dry, but some puddles hung around. We did encounter a few feet of sticky mud, so beware, this area turns to death mud when wet!! The little bit we found didn't hinder forward progress.

One of the few times we had an open view.

Only short bits of chunky riding too.
Before we knew it, we had reached the AZT without a hitch!! The dirt road route from I-17 was declared a winner, now it was time for some singletrack miles.

Kent's first time on this section of AZT.

So far the bike was riding great, but I knew I'd be swapping out the Ergon paddle grips. They don't cooperate with the screw in my right wrist.

Sublime singletrack on the north end of Happy Jack.

Nearing our crossing of Lake Mary Rd.

Railroad grade riding on the south end of Mormon Lake.

We took a side detour to Navajo Spring to find the water troughs filled with clear agua.

Reaching Double Springs CG, near our AZT exit.

A few miles of forest road would get us over to Munds Park.

But, first we had another trail to explore.
I had seen the Crystal Point trail on Trailforks and it had a few positive reviews, why not give it a test run? We'd be approaching it in the preferred direction, that meant a half mile + chunky climb, then a 2+ mile descent. Sounded good to us.

The climb started off mellow, then more rocks and a few power moves. It kept going, with the challenges increasing. It was a blast. I finally got caught on a tricky move not far from the top. The climb was a real leg/lung burner and one I'd love to try again, just not at mile 57!!

At the top, we began our descent towards Odell Lake. It was fast and mostly free of rocks, what a hoot!! Like the climb, it seemed to go on forever, not that we minded. It ended near the lake, one I never heard of and we rode past a multitude of high end cabins/homes.

Crytal Point singletrack near the top.

Odell Lake. Never knew it existed.

We rolled through Munds Park and hopped on the shoulder of I-17 for the 2 mile spin back to the vehicles. At least there's a wide shoulder.

Caught a nice sunset over Mingus Mtn. on my way home.
It was a great day in the pines and the route was a resounding success!! Thanks for coming out Kent, let's ride again soon!!