A place to share words and pics. Mostly bikes, but my photog eye does wander.

Bikes let the good times roll. In solitude or with friends. For a half hour or 8 hours. Pedals become the gears that turn the earth as the sun seems to track their motion, day after day. Miles become food, and you're hungry. The bike stops being a vehicle, or toy, or transportation and becomes an extension of will, allowing you to journey beyond the pain of self into the realm of almighty, joyous nature, she that feeds our souls. Pedal yourself into the maw of creation. Pedal yourself silly.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Black Canyon Trail brought to you by Skyline Entertainment

The Black Canyon Trail (BCT) is really some of the best trail around for extended miles and miles of singletrack weavery and nature viewery. I finally got on the Little Pan/Skyline segment one weekend, which runs south from Rock Springs, and it was all it was billed to be. Met up with a group of other riders and we proceeded to eat up the feast that BCT affords the strarving mountain biker. 

 Right from the get-go is a little climb/descent/water crossing. I took my shoes off and pushed across. I wasn't of the mind to wet my feet with 6 more hours of riding, but Gilamonster had water shoes with SPDs in them. Clever. We later learned, however, that riding in the river is not good, since it will corrode your hubs and bottom brackets. It certainly didn't help my BB, even though I just pushed across. Next time, carry. But on the bright side, it was hella fun.
"I don't care, thi is fun!"
 What the BCT really give to the rider is consistency. This trail is the same up, same down, in and out, in and out, with each climb graded perfectly, each rock bridge sturdy, every view worth stopping for. Every section out there is worth the drive and ride, if not more than once. I SSed the north section from Hidden Treasure Mine to Rock Springs and it was all doable, and I'm no mutant. The challenge is really of enduring the BCT, because it can go on for miles, 61 now, from Mayer to Emery Henderson. Longer if you take the not-talked-about-boring-section down to the Carefree Highway and some more new stuff up north. 74 miles in total.

The first good climb of the day, taking us away from the Agua Fria.

Ready. To. Go.
A bit of the descent after the climb out of the first river crossing.

Here in the lower elevations of the BCT there are lots of saguaro.

Resting by the river. Four crossings that day. The water was a bit extra refreshing.

Much of the trail hugs the sides of the foothills.

This sign has felt the force of the river, by the looks of it.

Gilamonster coming back up the Little Pan. Great loop, do it counter-clockwise. But I'll try it the other way someday too.

The walk of river rock shame. No fun, especially in riding shoes.

Lots of 4 wheelers out there that day. The river is a popular place. Watching them climb the rocks was impressive.

The look like they're having a good time.

Photo magic.

The Skyline segment heading back towards Rock Springs.

I ride this trail in my dreams.

We even got to see some wild horses. Well, some of them looked like donkeys, so I'm not sure what was going on.

Switchback delight. BCT has some good ones.

There's supposed to be an old indian fort around here somewhere. I'll bet up there is a good place.

The riverbed here was the consistency of clay. He didn't get much further than that!

Riding out on the second alf of the Little Pan Loop.

This is about as bad as the climbing gets. It might go on for awhile, but it won't destroy you.

Its a fine trail to ride there. Heading back towards Rock Springs.

Doubling up.

Heading back to the lot. I didn't really want it to end, even though we were at 6.5 hours.

Lucky us, we got to see an eagle on our way out. There are some that nest out there.

Monday, March 21, 2011

50 Year Trail, I'ma get to know you.

The wife needed to go down to Tucson for a conference, and I was asked to come along as drive support, so what else better to do with a few free hours than try out some new singletrack? The 50 Year Trail was ripe for the picking, being just up the way from the conference. I'd heard good thing about it, the chutes, the boulders, seen some pics, but there is no better way to get to know the character of the trail than to get out and get the dirt in your teeth.

I started at Catalina State Park, took the road out to some nature trails then realized I had swing back the way I came a bit to catch 50 Year out of the Equestrian area. Baby heads of boulders abounded for about 3 miles, then the trail cleaned up and got good rythym to it, other than the hobbled bounce from one infantile rock to the next. Glad I wasn't on the rigid for that part.
The Santa Catalinas look good in any light.

50 Year really smooths out after a few miles away form the  park.

Some shades of the impending spring bloom can be seen in the green that's creeping from the desert floor.
 50 Year is a good fast rolling cross country trail. I wanted to get some good miles in, and it let me do that, all with fast, flowy sections and slow boulder crawls as I got up over the chutes. There wasn't but a whisp of clouds in the sky all day. The sun was beating, but not like it will in a few months. My flesh wan't vaporizing yet. My forehead wasn't raining upon my sunglasses. Visions weren't creeping before my eyes between each pedal stroke, the effect of a wandering mind being pushed out of your head by the blast of nuclear fusion. No. The trail kept me focused, kept me cool. This is the time of the year to sample these treasures. In a few months, I'm up north.

I had to wait for a few minutes for him to moooooooove.

Its easy to get 27 miles when the terrain feeds you tires this consistency of trail.

It's like a botanical garden out there.

As I rode to upper 50, I was really happy to find a nice slow, steep, attainable climb up through the boulders. It was the kind that fed your legs just the right amount of gravity to make you feel powerful, with energy to spare. I kept going up and up, to where a PB&J would find my hands. Lunch overlooking the chutes was devine.

Boulders make for good riding and lunching.

Lunch time view.
The Chutes roll on the tops of the ridges that fly off of the Catalinas. Fast and flowy, they're over quick, but fun enough to loop around for a third shot like I did.

The Chutes.


The new horse has been treating me very well.

Rollin back south to the car at Catalina State Park. Good ride. I'm ready for another visit.
 It was a really good ride. Got in 27 miles in four hours of playing around. 3000ft of climbing. Had lunch on some boulders. Felt the wind through my remaining hair, got dirty shins. These are days I like.

3D Color image of the ride. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Day of the SoMo Epic

Freeskier and myself hatched a plan to make of day of South Mountain by going coast to coast to coast. We had planned to take on the Skyline at BCT, but the weather did not look like it was going to play along, so riding down home seemed like the perfect cure for the no BCT blues. I'm on South Mountain quite a lot since its down the street, but rarely venture to the west side. Sure, I've been on Bees and Gila, but National after Buena Vista? Nope. The new Marker 33 turnoff? Neither. The cliff hanger that is the descent to Bees? Oh, my no. Well, this day was the day, and it was everthing a day on the bike should be.

Looking back east at just the beginning of the ride. The Superstitions are in the far background.

Our route took us straight up Beverly Canyon from 46th street and then straight up National. I had thought of heading out on Javelina, then Mormon, but it turns out this route just isn't awesome enough. Freeskier had the right idea, if we're doign a big ride, lets make it a big ride. It was my first time riding UP National (at least to the Mormon turn-off) and I'd have to say it was pleasant. I think I'd do it again and I'd venture to say most of it is rideable. Its amazing how differnt a trail can look if the bike is pointed the other way.

I caught the valley of the sun in the sun. Looking north from National. Camelback is in, well, the back.

Freeskier made his way up the mountain with ease. He loves that granny gear and makes that bike motor. I've tried to shake the granny myself, and have done well the last eight months since I got the SS and then the 1x9. Slow, strong pedal turns suit my molasses motivation rather than spinning like you're trying to power the city. But hey, both work, and I've done both, and I'll probably go back one day, sooner if not later. Both worked perfectly on this ride.

Hunker down and go. National has lots of this stuff.

Riding National would take us directly under the towers. They start out a bit far a way.

Then get a bit closer....

....and then we finally get there. Slow going too. I had some derailer problems and Freeskier had been nursing a leaking tire. I eventually tightened a few bolts and his tire sealed up, so we could leave those mech issues behind us.

The trail west of Buena Vista is tons of fun. I keep slapping myself for not getting over there sooner. National really delivers.

This cactus has to get HD.

National after the towers loses elevation as it comes down to meet Telegraph Pass. Here its smooth, fast, techy, treacherous, slow and about everything in between. There isn't much time to play it easy, National seems to demand attention. But that's ok, because we had the intention of giving it hours of attention.

National coming down off the saddle, moving towards Telegraph Pass. Give it to me, sweet singletrack!

"Look at this cactus!"  The west side of SoMo has lots to offer as well. I should visit more often.

Telegraph Pass peels off of National here, down to meet Desert Classic.

We finally made it down to Telegraph Pass and then back up the next climb to get this view of the towers. Not a view I see often, for sure, and a lot of bike pushing to get up there. 

I always figured if you're not pushing your bike, or lost, its not much of a proper mountain bike adventure. Without either of those, its just a ride, but pushing and/or being lost automatically bump the ride into adventure status. If you're pushing while lost, well, then, you might be screwed. Thats just too much!

Going up National after Telegraph was a HaBFest. Rock poured out of the mountain, but not any rock, but unrideable rock, the worst rock to try and ride. So we pushed the vast majority of this climb. Adventure!

All that pushing rewarded us with Marker 33, at last, and after about 4 hours of riding already. A big...10 miles? Oh, my. The ridgeline ride here was beautiful, but lead to the switchbacks of almost certain terror.  Almost.

The Estrellas run north to south in the far west valley, seen here.  National follows the ridge to the right, out of sight.

We were high up, with lots of mountain under us. I've heard you can never really fall off a mountain, but you sure as hell can fall down one. National cuts across the top of this ridge. Click for the larger image.

We made it to SoMo's largest rock cairn. Or the largest that I know off.  Down we would go off the face of this ridge.

The trail hung on to the mountain. I hoped I could do the same.

In other places, the trail seemed to barely hang on.

Freeskier coming down the Mountain. Are his knuckles as white as mine? I really felt the exposure on the descent, it was the most concerned I felt about my riding ability all day. I could feel gravity, through some odd vector, pulling me off the mountain.

The switchbacks are cut in well, but tight with a big margin for error built into the outside turns of almost all of them. The 29er wheels left me feeling high and dry. I skipped most of the turns, or at least put an inside leg and foot out. I know I made one for sure. Live to ride another day!

Here's the ridge we came down. About 900 feet in 1.5 miles, roughly.

It seemed a shame to lose all that elevation so quickly, especially after working for it for so long. I'd rather have fast moving, countouring rollers the likes of BCT for miles other than switchy-death-backs. But its a lesson that we can't always have what we want or that anything is going to be fair. Take your lumps and pedal over to the next climb. I knew it was coming anyway! And it wasn't too bad, really. It got the blood moving just the same, if not more. I was glad to have marked it off the list, and really want to do the ridgeline again, but to maximize riding the descent, I'd like to ride it with my 26er. I bet I could make more of those switchbacks.

From there, we headed up over Bees Knees to Gila, and then hit the saddle and back to the road for an easy cruise back to DC at the Telegraph lot. Funny, after hitting mile 15, half our ride, at the Gila saddle, I felt like the ride was almost over. The work was done! All we had left was some Desert Classic and a choice East Loop back to the 46th street lot. And it was easier riding, nice fast and flowing riding, with pedals turning in rhythym consistently and shoulders and arms pumping over rocks and pressing turns.  We were still at the west end, and about 5.5 hours in but would make it back in the next 2.5 hours. We were flying.

King of the Cacti!

mine. mine. mine Mine! Mine!mine.MINE!

These shots are from another day. I didn't take many pics over here.  I was just happy to ride for a bit, and didn't get many good snaps anyway. But I knew I had these. Gila travels at the bottom of that momentous earth.

The Bees Knees descent. Click it, it looks like fun.

We soon made our way to DC and were out before we knew it. We rode for 30 miles, climbed 5600 feet and were out for 8 hours. What a day on the bike. Big miles, big challenge and big reward. It felt good to conquer South Moutain coast to coast. The real get out is riding National C2C2C. I'll have to put that in the ride rolodex. Its hard to beat riding all day, participating with nature, relying on yourself and seeing some really beautiful territory. There are so many elements to a good ride, but when they come together, it gives you energy, the bike starts to pull you up the mountain. That's when you don't want the miles to end. When you get to the car, its eight hours later, and you say, "I feel good. I could go for some more of that." The legs feel a little shredded, but somehow they're living on inspiration. They want to go far.

Thanks to Freeskier for coming along on the ride. Always nice to have someone to share the memory with, or else I'd all just wither away in my own personal mythology. There certainly was no need to keep this ride to myself and take the name Slayer of South Mountain- too good!

That's a good looking loop.
Who can guess where the big drop was? How about we spread that over the next 20 miles, eh?