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, May 2, 2011

Ripsey AZT

Arizona is a real special place for mountain biking. I'd have to say one of the best states in the union for it, at least enduro xc all day jaunts through the desert, high desert, or pines. And there is one trail in the state that literally has it all. It runs the full length of the state, north to south and is now almost fully completed. This is the Arizona Trail. At the time of this post, only a mere 17 miles remain of the full  800+ miles. While not all of it can be ridden on bikes, since some portions pass through designated Wilderness areas, the vast majority of it is open and the parts that you can't ride, have doable ride-arounds.

But Freeskier and myself on this day, we were planning on getting another 18 miles of the AZT in which would include the much laudes Ripsey Ridgeline. Voted by Chad as the best ridgeline in the state. I'd have to agree. Remote and a lot of work to get to, it is its own reward.

The route was put together from various gpx files I could pull form the web, mostly from Scott Morris and his work on the Gila River Scramble and the bike friendly AZT route. A big thanks goes out to him for scouting and making these maps available. All I did was load a few up and then imagine a route between all the segments. Chop up the segments, merge the ones I wanted, draw in a connector on the topo map where it showed a jeep road, check the satellite image then boom! We had a 34 mile route with about 6000ft of climbing. We were on our way.

The morning proved to be as interesting as it could get with fog from the Gila filling the valley.  It hung throughout the first miles of our ride and provided a beautiful backdrop to our introduction to Gila River AZT. The trail was new-ish, and the moist air kept the trail a little damp, which slightly grabbed at our tires, making the unexpected climb out of the Gila all that much more lung busting. It was a tough, unexpected start to a long day, to a long ride, but at least our blood was pumping, and our adrenaline going.  It was going to be a good day.

The start of the ride. Let's get it together. We've lots of pedaling to do! We started fairly early, at 8am. Looks like some others beat us there.

The fog hung low. A special treat for our motivation to put a route together, drive out, and give it a go.

The AZT starts right after the bridge that goes over the Gila that leads to the Florence-Kelvin Highway, which is right off the 177 from Superior.

These signs, I love them. Let your legs do the work. In a week after this ride, the AZT300 racers would be coming through here. Well, at least four of the 22 that started.

Still about 1.5 hours into the ride, we had what I'll call now, low lying clouds. We'd be on F-K Highway for about 10 miles, and those ten miles were up up up. We saw only but two cars for our few hours on the road. It was all ours.

The night was cool, and some snow hung on the higher elevations. It almost felt like Colorado. I liked it.
I owe Freeskier a big thanks for this shot. I really love it. Mountain grades indeed.

I had penciled in a 1 mile connector to Old Florence Road, which would save us about ten miles, and I was happy to see that the topo I drew over was pretty accurate, even if this jeep road hadn't seen much action in years. It eventually ran next to a wash, where we followed cattle trails that snaked in, around and through the wash, like a spider web.

While the gate was closed, they should have also hung a sign, "Don't shoot this sign".

We passed a few corrals on the way down to Ripsey Ranch Ruins where we'd pick up the AZT. While its man made, barbed wire make me feel like I'm "out there". Its just not a city thing. We save that for razor wire.

The "Great Tree", as I called it at Ripsey Ranch Ruins. Four hours in, 16 miles gone and about to hit 18 miles of new-to-us AZT. I was excited. This would put me over 100 miles of AZT traveled. Only about 700 more to go!

The desert framed by wood. I could have hung out there all day. It was a tranquil place, probably because it seemed so far from anything, yet hinted at civilization, but a simple civilization. Zen life. Peace. Then again, there was a generator attached to the windmill....

Water was below the windmill, only about 5 feet down. Luckily, the day was easy on us, and I only ended up going through about 100oz for the whole day, even though I carried 220oz.

Well, the AZT we caught here was doubletrack. Not the blazing start I was expecting, but the remoteness and the beauty of the scenery made me revel in the fact that anything was there to follow. We could get out there. We could get back. All on bike. I love that feeling.

This is the way we were heading. Real singletrack lay ahead, as well as the Ripsey Ridge, our real prey for the day. Excitement grew as it would eventually come into view.

I certainly hope we wouldn't run out of water, but it turned out we could have hung out for two days and be fine. When the AZT300 racers would come through here the week later, temps would be in the mid 90's, which is brutal, with no shade to be found.

The only shade was from clouds, unless you could make yourself the width of a saguaro. How many people have seen this AZT sign? Probably not many. The trail was faint through this section, but there were many cairns, even though I was following the magic line on my GPS.

Freeskier heading down to Ripsey wash. It was a welcome downhill before the second big climb of the day to the top of Ripsey.

And our goal comes into view. The switchbacks beg to be ridden. Or pushed through, as was the case with us.
I also made my way up to Ripsey. Anticipation of the ridge pulled my legs. 26 miles were forgotton and only the remaining eight remained in my head. The earth has a pull sometimes, similar to gravity, the attraction between two masses, but a pull that comes from the inside, spirits passing in the day, getting to know one another, nothing is dead out there. The language, if you listen, is deafening.

Whenever you find yourself in a wash, you can be certain you'll soon be climbing.

That's a lot to climb at mile 26, but my legs begged to go up to the top, just so my eyes could see.

Freeskier taking a breather just before we hit the switchbacks. We were many miles behind him there, a few hours earlier. Travel by bike has to be the best way to travel. You can see a lot, but are also intimate with your surroundings. You seem to really get to know a place, as if it were a person. You feel its personality.

I've said it before, without HAB, its not quite an adventure. Luckily, we found HAB.

The ride between switchbacks wasn't bad at all.

Views like this, attained with sweat, blood and hours of work are great food for the spirit. This is my church. Here I feel I really know something about the world and myself. The great mystery we live in opens up, at least for a moment.

Typical switchback.  A little loose, but surely rideable. Seven, I believe into total to attain the ridge. Worth every foot of elevation. Worth every pedal stroke.

While from far away, the switchbacks seem almost vertical, from the backside, you can see that they almost leisurely climb to the saddle.

And the top. A short grub stop. Some photo ops. From here we could see the whole 34 mile route. F-K highway. Powerline. I only wish I could have such perspective on my own life. At least this might be what it would feel like.
Bar ends are a go. It took a lot of torqueing to get up to the top.
It was well worth it.
We played photo-op time as we played on the ridge a little. With all that effort, it was only appropriate.
Can't help but be all smiles when a ride like this comes together and with great company.

From the ridge in the above photo, we'd cross to this one and eventually drop down the north side, back to the F-K highway, and the AZT that we started on.

The backside. Many switchbacks, many which I made. You can barely see the F-K highway where we started about 8 hours earlier. Snow has melted. Fog has burned off. Getting tired. The sun reaches for the horizon. Another day moves on and I have another great ride almost under my belt. It feels like graduating all over again. Special.
Up and over a ridge is like mega decisions in life. Lots of hard deliberation, but the course needs to be taken. Anticipation, work, loose edges, unsure vetical to go, and then release. You make it over. Time to rejoice, time to relish, time to give thanks for making it one more time.

A healthy 34 miles, about 6400ft of climbing. This is almost a Quad Bypass, in the McDowells. but now quite. It was a memorable 9 hours. The big climb up was the F-K highway. The dip at mile 25 is Ripsey Wash. The ridgeline and descent are obvious. And lots of fun.

Our route. Its great to ride something unproven to yourself, of your creation, even if its built upon the sweat of others. Success can be inebriating. Do it again? Absolutely!
Topo 3D of the ride. Check the Ripsey climb. Good times! And quite a bit of work. I'm surprised every time my body keeps going and going and going. It seems as if I'm just along for the ride.

A big thanks goes out to Freeskier for not only providing the company and extra motivation to get out there, but for his great pics of me riding as well. It really brings the blog together for me. Thanks! And I urge you to get a bike if you don't have one, and get out there!

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