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.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Hawes Whole Enchilada

Freeskier and I had another big ride we wanted to get under our belts in the valley before the oven cranked up, which involved a roll around Hawes and Pass Mountain, in the east valley. This was getting towards the end of our short list for the spring season, as we had already taken down the Somo Epic and the BCT AES plus route. For the future we still had some Ripsey AZT planned and the crushing Prescott Monstercross.

Freeskier had a route in mind for us this day, as he did for SoMo as well, which did not take the Sunday stroll attitude. His legs like to climb, and mine like to follow. We would roll first some new-ish stuff out at TRW, as we started at Red Rock Park, and then head to Hawes by way of the canal to Cardiac Hill, or Mudflaps, or the Widowmaker, or whatever other name can invite gravity inducing, lung searing, leg burning pain. Then we'd meander to the end of Ridgeline to only climb up, what has always been for me a sweet downhill run.

At the top, after taking in some Secret, we'd head to the bottom of Mine, to really find out how bad it is to go up. I had visions of walking, pushing, hacking, baking in the sun, but alas, the climb was over before I knew it, and we started to roll the north side of the range, by way of Twisted Sister and Wild Horse. From there, we'd have to make a decision about Pass Mountain.

The beginning of April brings omen of the impending summer. The sun roars large, but not quite with the fully fanged bite that it will have in two more months. It is still wise to bring lots of water and sunscreen.
Sure, he's smiling here, but the tire would be the goblin that followed him all day long. Remember, take a flat out, check the tire for thorns! It will certainly dampen the mood when, as you pump up the new tube, it is immediately punctured. Air it up. Ride. Air it up. Ride. We made a few stops, and with the heat, the frustration grew.

But a friends trail side repair is my time to capture nature. I'm in no hurry. I've got no worries. The cactus pose and I might even wait for the clouds to get set just right. Time is different. I'm different. Out here, sacred space abounds.

One doesn't ride through the desert. One rides into it. I pull it over me like a blanket, keeping me from my civilized self. And to think, this is about 25 minutes from my house.

The Salt River flows to the north past Red Mountain. Bush Highway meanders along its banks. I used to hike with an old friend of mine, Wyatt, down there many moons ago.

The real treat of the day was this old fella. We were coming up Mine and he was trotting along, heading up across the trail to some spot I'm sure he's been to many times. He hardly noticed us as he found the shade and slid between two rocks, hardly a space and inch wider than he was.

I've been riding in the desert for 13 years, and this was the first desert tortoise I've seen.

He didn't seem to shy to strike a pose. His "lips" were green and wet from a recent snack. It reminds me to Gu up myself.

Four Peaks looms in the east. I've always imagined it as one large peak, under the massive ocean that covered this land many millions of years ago. Now I'm a submarine mountain biker. Cool blue sky. Cool blue air. Crap its getting hot out.
After topping off at Mine, I got to sample some new-to-me trail. Twisted Sister and Wild Horse. We even had plans to scope out the Tequila Tree, where Patron grows from the wild palo verde, giving its nectar to all those that could crack the riddle, as Freeskier had a pretty good bead on where it was. We came to the turnoff, but I had forgotten, and edged us to push on, to have a nice PB&J in the shady wash at Wild Horse. I guess it was Freeskier's adventure to be had some other day. It turned out to be a good non-decision, as we got back pretty late, and the hike and subsequent shots would have surely taken a respectfully lazy bit of time.

I found Twisted Sister and Wild Horse to be great fun. TS winds close to the mountain with some slow, techy climbing moves that I like more and more and my legs get stronger, and are able to push hard and with balance. Then we rode the Wild Horse, which is a 3.5 mile uphill lurch to the NRA pit, where the dirt jumpers make their home. The desert rolls in a special way there, and lulls your power into low RPMs, steady, constant. Would it end? I didn't care, and tried not to think of it. Its like the dream that goes exactly how you want it to.

We were lucky enough to run into a few fellas that were out hitting the jumps. Their bikes were impressive. More like motos, than bicycles. Eight inches of travel. Full faced helmets. Armor. 45 lbs of steel. Its quite a difference from my aluminum 4" travel XC machine and soft synthetic layers.

We rode up the jumps a bit just to see what the fuss was about and found these groomed berms. We looked only. No time to test untested skills when you've still got 20 miles to go. Notice the jump to the left, between Freeskier and the bush. Its a very large line.

Here's the take-off. The landing is beyon where he's standing.

I'm standing on the lip, and still the landing is beyond Freeskier. It rolls down into the wash and into a step-up across a secondary wash. I wished I was 16 again, and daring enough to hit it. But age begets carefulness begets wisdom begets another day to ride.
 From the pit, we rode up Usery Pass Rd towards the Pass Mountain turn-off. We'd been out already about 6 hours, and I had a deadline. I knew the route and also knew that, even thought it was a short 8 miles, they were slow miles, and we would have added no less than 3 hours to our time. Even riding up to the saddle and back would have taken an hour at the least. So it was that we passed on Pass Mountain. Another epic for another day....
For all the planes whose gps has failed.

Phoenix is far off into the Valley, just behind Papago Park. Another friend of mine, Hickerbilly, was singlespeeding through there at about the same time. Its good to be on a bike. 

Its easy to get a shot of Red Mountain as it has its own contrapposto, molded by Time, arhitect of random, unplanned, natural beauty. God of Gods. Bender of wills. How does it shape us? Is anything immune?

Random cactus freak of the day. I wonder what environmental cues may have influences such a garbled mess of spine and thick green skin.

And finally, on the homeward stretch, the seepy tire tires out. Another tube sacraficed. Frustration beads on the brow. Fury as the bike is flipped in the shade. Just a few more miles is all we needed from you.....

But I'm not minding. I look. I see. Contemplate. Wonder. The little winged creatures inside are probably more content than I am, and they don't even notice me.

I'm getting towards summer riding gear. Bandana off the neck, sun sleeves on the arms, 200oz of water in the Talon. Delerium held back, just at arms length. That's how I like it.

We almost got it all. Just a few connecter left on the west side of the mountain, which would have covered about every trail in the system.

3D for good measure.

It was a good 36.8 miles with a mere 4800ft of climbing. A good days work. I'll put in that 7 hours any day.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Half a Century at BCT

I've done a few big rides out at the BCT. Emery Henderson to Table Mesa and back, my first one, about 25 miles. Hit the Rock Springs Little Pan Loop which is about 24. Did the AES BCT route which is a strong 42. But since that ride, some new trail has been cut in above Hidden Treasure Mine, and we were determined to get a taste of it. We would ride Maggie Mine Road the 18 miles out to HTM as before, but then add another 3 miles of road to get 5 miles of new trail. But not any 5 miles, but sweet rolling, hootin' and hollerin', looking and awing BCT singletrack. Those extra 8 miles gave us 50 total, my first half century. Sure, 21 was on a dirt road, but 29 were some of the best singletrack you can ride near the Valley of the Sun.

We started early, at 7am, because we knew it was going to be a long day. Eight plus hours for sure. Probably more. Freeskier and I headed north on the 101 about 6:30am, catching the sun rising over Red Mountain. The sun was behind some clouds and it remained that way the whole day. Its getting to the season where the sun has some wicked bite, even in late March. We were lucky and the teeth never came out. This great ball of fire remained all day behind a merciful sheet of puffy white. Glorious.

Driving on the 17, it looked like the town was being invaded by hot air balloons. I've seen them lots up north, but so close to civilization they seemed out of place. The chase vehicles must have had to pick up some Starbucks or something. 

Probably not the fastest way to get to work. 
We eventually got to Rock Springs, got geared up, and proceeded to slay the road climb out of Black Canyon City. Maggie Mine goes to dirt in about 4 miles and up it goes. About 550ft in 1.5 miles. It was definitely easier with gears. Of course last time, on the SS, I was fighting about a 15 mph headwind as well.

Looking back at Black Canyon City
I'm working hard for my elevation. Just about to the top.

Rolling past Bumble Bee at about mile 12, we passed an AZ Spring Fling group that was going to shuttle up to the really new stuff off of Rt. 69. The ride back down would be 20 miles for them. Nice indeed. We picked up dgangi, who was on a time crunch as decided our route would be a bit shorter. We rode together and chatted, until he proceeded to drop both of us on his SS. Dropped us hard, too! I swear winged unicorns came down from the sky and flew him to the top. 

On tip of the ridge behind the sign is Sunset Point, the rest stop on the 17.

Here's almost the last part of the climb past Hidden Treasure Mine, up to wher the BCT crosses Crown King Road. Roughly 900ft in 2.5 miles. Gotta work for that downhill!

At this elevation, 4000ft, Saguaro don't grow. It was wild to think that we rode so far, we'd changed ecological zones. But that's Arizona. About as changing and diverse as it can get. Here I'm looking south at the turn around point. Singletrack ahead!

Such new singletrack. Its a treat to ride.

Here's where you can really see the effort and workmanship that went into trail construction. Its impossible to ride this and not smile. 
This trail taunts with its seductive curves.
Getting some of that new trail myself. I enjoyed it immensely.
We were lucky enough to run into foldsinhalf. I'm sure you can see where he gets his name. Freeskier had just ridden with him at K-trail a few days before, so we got to chatting a bit. Hit bike is the polar opposite of the 29er I was riding. His wheels: 20 inches. But look a that front chainring! Huge. He does lots of travelling, so this is the best way to always have the bike with him. Brilliant, and it seems to work just fine.

I bet you can do some sweet jumps with that bike. 

And to think they both do essentially the same thing. I have a feeling that he might have an advantage on the switchbacks though.

South of Hidden Treasure, the trail meanders and pleases. Down it goes with ease.

The rock work out there, I always praise. I'm curious to see how it holds up after some strong downpours. I could imagine a lot of run-off coming through some of these buttressed areas.

Even the panorama doesn't do it justice. You should get out there!

This is the look of a fella enjoying himself. 30 miles in, smiling. It has to be good!
From HTM to BB is a great section. Smooth, rolly, big views, and generally pointed down. 

I'm sure dyno-mite has been used to carve out some of these areas. Be sure to check out rock support under the trail.
This trail makes me look good. 

Its hard to not take pictures there. You can see we've dropped back into Saguaro country.

Oh yes, it does fold in half.  We ran into their group again as we took some grub in at Arrastre Creek.

Freeskier entering the old stagecoach section of the BCT. It is a hardly defined doubletrack that drops down between two impending hills. 

I wouldn't want to take a stagecoach down this. It is pretty fun on a bike, however. Its hard to believe what some people endured, living in the west.
Rocking out the Stagecoach myself.

The climb out of Rock Creek in Black Canyon. All graded to be rideable.
The run up to the switchback gives one a good feeling ot the rock work done there. Solid.

Its a tight turn, and he's got a good line on it.

Which he pulls out, after some hopping the bike around and a little elbow on the rock wall - but no feet on the ground. I'd count that!

Looking back back at the switchback.

This is how we found the sun all day. Behind the clouds. Perfect.

The last river crossing, this time its the Aqua Fria. It was low enough to ride through. After this, was the climb out, up the switchbacks and into the lot. 
I'm working hard on some of these climbs!
 The only real trouble we had was a sidewall tear I got on my rear tire, just a a bit after HTM. I sure don't remember any rocks, but I got it pretty good. I called to John, but he didn't hear and kept heading down. I walked the bike to the other side of ridge so he's see me if he came back, and not have to ride all the way back up. The tear was pretty big, the goo certainly wouldn't heal it. A tube had to go in, but not before I put a nice Gorilla Tape patch on the inside so that the tube wouldn't goose egg out the side. Still 20 miles to go, I was curious to see if the repair would make it. And it did! It sure made a mess though. My tire spit goo for quite a few miles.

What a mess.
It was a pretty decent tear too. A good inch or so. 

It was true. 50 miles. Yes. And a big 10 hours! Raybum and his crew did the whole 61 miles from Mayer to Emery Henderson in only 9 hours! I guess we take too many pictures. Then again, what's the hurry? When I rolled in, I was still ready for some more! 

This route had 6300ft of climbing within the 50 miles. What a great route, even with the big road climb. I figure its just singletrack that lets you take in the sights. So, does this mean that a century may be in the works?
Is it an out-n-back? A loop? Crazy lollipop? I'm not sure, but it was good.