September 17, 2022

Patagonia: AZT - El Pilar

 The Arizona Trail Association is making steady progress on the Temporal Gulch reroute project. A few more miles of official AZT have been completed and it was time to see if the current additions made sense to add to the AZTR routes.

Mike S. was game to join in the scouting fun. Zach, the ATA Trail Director, and his buddy, Wes, would also be tagging along.

We met at the newly constructed Casa Blanca Canyon trailhead which lies just north of the AZT's crossing under SR82 a few miles north of Patagonia. *The AZTR riders will access this trailhead via a spur trail off the AZT, pic at the end of this post.

Starting out on the well graded Casa Blanca Canyon Rd.

It's a relaxing scene back here and the gentle climbing grade was welcomed.

After 3 miles, our first turn on to FS4105. The grade kicks up a bit, but still plenty rideable.

Canyon Tank was more than full.

Cool abstract kiosk of the Santa Rita Mtns. It's tucked under some trees before the first gate.

The riding surface deteriorates as the grade steepens. Rideable for a bit, then the pushing commenced.

Up top we reached a heavily overgrown 2-track, but it was good riding in spite of constantly expecting a large rock to appear and ruin the day!!

The second gate is padlocked, Zach had the key, but others will have to climb over to proceed, which is fine. Look for the temporary AZT300/800 stickers.

Proceed through the tall grass along a ridgeline.

Fantastic views to the south. The Huachuca Mtns. on the far left and a couple peaks in Mexico.
At the 6 mile mark a third gate appears on the right, it has white markings on top of the fence posts and could be easy to miss. This is the beginning of official AZT.

Zach & Wes soaking in the views.

Wes takes off on new trail that's already getting a bit overgrown.

Beautiful benchcut trail here.

The trail continues its descent into Adobe Canyon.

Flowing water at the bottom!! Time to push up a few switchbacks.
After the switchbacks the trail briefly tops out as it rounds a hill. It then drops into an open meadow where the singletrack currently ends. The route proceeds across the meadow, overland style - trust the gpx!! Water is available at El Pilar tank which can be accessed by riding across/down the meadow to the rider's right about 500'. I giant rock spire marks the spot.

Overview of El Pilar tank.

Plenty of water here as it's dammed and fed by a small creek off the photo to the right.

Looking down at the lower pool from atop the dam.

Riding back up the meadow to rejoin the gpx track.
There's a short, steep hike-a-bike that was a bit scratchy leaving El Pilar. It began to level out rather quickly and only a half a mile after El Pilar we reached the top and the junction with FS4088. The next new section of AZT begins here to the left. Zach and Wes needed to cut the ride short so they rode down FS4088 back to the trailhead. Mike and I could handle the rest from here as it was all new AZT over to Gardner Canyon!!

This open area near FS4088 quickly turned into more benchcut trail.

What a scene!!

We really enjoyed the new 3 mile section of trail as it contour in & out of the terrain.

Mike not enjoying all the sticky cocklebur type of weeds all over his legs!!

Nearing Gardner Canyon.
The new singletrack forms an intersection with the legacy AZT in Gardner Canyon. It was really cool to see how it came together and no need to ride the dirt road.

Only my Wapiti Designs ankle gaiters and socks were covered. Legs took a different lashing!!

The creek in Gardner Canyon was flowing good.

A short hike-a-bike brought us up here. Vastness.

Arm pump flying down Hog Canyon!!

Back on the AZT looking south at the SR82 underpass.

One last gate.

Huge thanks to the Dirt Bags for mowing the trail!!

About a 1/4 mile beyond the SR82 bridge is this sign and the spur trail to the trailhead.

Mike pointing the way to the Casa Blanca Canyon trailhead. Thanks, dude!!
What a fantastic addition to the route. Yeah, there's a bit of hike-a-bike, but it's worth it. No pavement from the Mexico border until the outskirts of Tucson some 126 miles later. Rad.

Zach said the rest of the Temporal Gulch project will be finished in spring!! So, be on the lookout for more singletrack and the hike-a-bike bits removed. Giddy up!!


September 3, 2022

Flagstaff's Big Bang!!

 Flagstaff was calling, I must go. The goal was two-fold, well, maybe three: Ride my proposed Pipeline Fire bypass for the upcoming AZT800, check out a couple of new trails that were recently opened as part of the MEDL (Mt. Elden - Dry Lakes project) and ride with friends. I reached out to the Mike's - Symons & Wehri and they were happy to tag along.

Full disclaimer: I've been taking it very easy since early August as I was involved in an auto accident while visiting my brother in Florida. I've been having some nerve discomfort in my right leg, but I've been able to ride. Figured it would be wise to take it slow for a while. So, with my fitness lacking, why not drive up to 7,000' and climb some mountains? Everything will be fine...

I would be driving my new Subaru Crosstrek on its first mini road trip of sorts. I'm really digging this car and love the color.

The new rig out by Canyon Lake on new car day.
Mike S. & I staged at the Schultz Creek Y and rode up the bottom portion of the new Big Bang trail to another new trail, Afterglow. We then went down Schultz Creek, which I hadn't been on in years and finally got to see the re-route that was done on it many seasons ago. Great little loop. We then met up with Mike W. and headed back to Big Bang for the full climbing experience as I wanted to ride down Jedi since this was my proposed AZT800 change.

Fresh trail on a nice climbing grade to start.

Somewhere around here my lack of fitness caught up to me!!

Passing by a slash pile from the thinning project in the area.

A flat-ish spot for recovery was welcomed.

Mike S. showing us how it's done.

We had yet to see any downhill traffic which was a surprise on this Saturday morning.

Gaining elevation the views begin to open up.

Stop. Rest. Take it all in.

Nearing the top this section reminded me of the upper portion along Colorado's Palisade Plunge.
We finished off Big Bang after a few downhill riders went by and yes, this trail is going to be a popular downhill one. Next time I'll check it out in that direction.

We did notice another new trail under construction, so we rode out to find a worker cutting fresh tread on the new Lower Brookbank trail. *As of Sept. 30, it's now open!! For a gander at the larger MEDL project, check out the interactive map and if you feel so inclined, please make a donation to the cause via Flagstaff Biking Org. Thank you!!

We also noted another new trail at the end of Big Bang after we came back from Lower Brookbank. Let's see where it goes!! It ended up skirting the west side of a private land parcel in the Dry Lake area, another section of Brookbank that was rerouted and linked directly to the Little Gnarly Trail. Cool.

Dry Lake area near the beginning of Jedi trail.

Mike W. hitting one of the drops on Jedi.

Great view of the peaks on the way down.
Jedi got really steep and began to question my desire to route bikepackers down it. The more I thought about it, I thought it would be much better to have them ride the new trails down to Schultz Creek. That's why you do scouting rides, kids. It may look good on paper, but the proof is out on the trail.

We were amazed by the complete destruction of this area, the junction of Little Gnarly & Schultz Creek trail. It used to be a nice gathering spot, now wiped clean.

Schultz Creek was still flowing a bit, must've been a sight when it was raging.

Finishing the climb up Afterglow.
We were all super impressed with the new trails, Big Bang is already a hit. Here's a recent article on it in the Arizona Daily Sun. Keep in mind, while most riders will be going down Big Bang, it is a two-way trail with some narrow technical sections. Be alert and enjoy the ride!!