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, August 23, 2011

Fire on the Rim

The towns of Pine and Strawberry, just north of Payson, had decided to put on an endurance mountian bike race to raise money for fire prevention and the creation of more multi-use singletrack in and around town. This is something I could get behind, since I'm a big fan of Mogollon riding and one could never have too much trail, so I put up the relatively modest 50 bones, compared to Epic's usual 75-100, and looked forward to my shirt and pint glass.

The course was a 15 mile loop with 15, 30, and 45 mile options. I was in for the 30. Could have done 45, but it would have been tough, and I didn't want to wipe myself out for the rest of the day. 30 was plenty. Two laps. Each one with 2500ft of climbing. 900 of that was right at the start, in the first 2.5 miles. Big climb, big effort, big success. Made it both times, but with much more self-soothing and motivating chatter on the second climb, which was easy as I was alone for most of my second lap. Finished in 3:46 for seventh place out of 12. I was pretty happy with that. First beat me by an hour. Sixth place was even in about 25 minutes before me. But I was still pleased. For 5000ft less oxygen than I'm use to, I didn't notice much. The lungs must have plans, chugging away at the lower elevations, because they were way ahead of me this day.

Myself in rare racing form. Certainly not a racer, but I see the allure, especially as I get stronger for longer, and can scoot past lots of noobs on DC, but what is that worth really? Meh, still fun! Thanks to the photog posting this one for free.
The route left town, and headed west....and up, clockwise. Coming in and out of the neighborhood was fun, as there were people on the side of the streets, cops and volunteers holding traffic, locals cheering from their porches. The community seemed to have lots of fun with it, which can really make this event a future success. The course, even being mostly fire road, was still fun, and had plenty of challenge in it. And if you took a header, there was plenty of support staff. An ambulance was even out at mile 6 or so. I heard that they volunteer to racer ratio was about 2. Good job.

The trail ran around Strawberry Mountain. There was a substantial second ascent halfway through the course, and the descent back into pine was a technical feast. None of that June Bug 24 HITOP smooth rolling. Rolling through there too tired could be hazardous to the integrity of your skin. Good fun.
Two laps of symmetry. That first step is a doozy!
Too bad I forgot my goody bag at the race, but Janet, an organizer was nice enough to send me some of the last shirts and cups that the Rimside Grill was selling. I paid for them sure, but she took care of the postage! Sweet! Gotta get that shwag! Great race. Super pro for their first year and I only see this growing. The community involvement was half the experience. I wonder if that is what its like in Fruita or something? A city celebrating the bike for part of a day (or whole weekend and some festivals can go). I want some more of that!

Blue Ridge HaBness, AZT Passage #28

The AZT has got my attention. I've ridden many lower sections, from Parker Canyon Lake to Patagonia through the Canelos, from Box Canyon north along a 20 mile downhill section to Three Bridges then Pistol Hill Road, and even some local sections, out towards Superior, where the AZT 300 race ends, at Picket Post. All these sections have been memorable, and all of them I would do again. But what has been eluding me, have been northern stretches, where there is shade, greenery, and maybe even running water. This weekend I was to get what I wanted as we traveled to the top of the Mogollon Rim to ride Passage #28, Blue Ridge.

This section from Blue Ridge Campground travels up quickly, hinting at much more work to come, to the top of Blue Ridge where is levels out for a bit before it plunges in and out of the Blue Ridge Reservoir drainage. After cresting the opposite side, its mostly a mellow uphill to the edge of the Rim at General Springs Cabin. We started with six, and I finished in a group of three. We had an avid climber/hiker with us that just got back from Nepal recently, and the HAB was killing his ankles, so he bailed. Another fella had bottom bracket issues and found the lost dog, so he returned early, and their ride jetted back after hitting the rim so they wouldn't have to wait too long. Nice fella, and strong rider. He beat our time by an hour on the return trip.

Getting ready seems to be half the fun for a big ride, thinking, planning, gearing up - until you're atually riding and you realize that riding is much better. But it does get one hyped about some unknown trail ahead and seeing the car loaded for bear, heavy with bikes gets the blood flowing just that much more.
Let's get this sucka loaded and get outta town!

The hall of wheels. Stare long enough and you'll see your future.

The top of the ridge was easy riding.

This prairie even had some nice wildflowers in it.
GilaMonster working the panorama for me. Thanks.

Rolling through this on a bike just makes you feel good.
Freeskier was nice enough to take this snap of me. I'm a big fan. That DSLR can take some real nice images.

A little bit of healthy fire had rolled through here. Charred bits were everywhere.

Here's a couple we met, that were hiking this tandem up to the top of Blue Ridge from Big Dry Wash. Lots of work there. Oh, and they lost thier dog, and proceeded to hike away form it. We'd find good ol' Turbulence about an hour later.  We couldn't figure out why they would hike away from their dog. Our best guess was that they didn't want it anymore. Well, too bad! They got him back anyway. Big man of D. to turn around and get that rascal back to his caring owners.

GilaMonster coming down the south side of Blue Ridge into Big Dry Wash, far above me. This section was super fun, but fast, chunky and over quickly. I really prefer my downs countoured a bit more for flow, but bouncing through the chunk with your bum on your rear tire is fun as well. Walking back up would not be as fun. There was no riding it.

Big Dry Wash at the bottom of Blue Ridge. Behind me is the Blue Ridge Reservoir. Hard to believe this full with water, which I'm sure it is sometimes.

And back up the other side. Minimal HAB on this side, it got rideable soon enough.

Nothing to do but look at your toes when pushing your bike.

Turbulence, you little punk. Good think he had the long lead because he was a bit skittish. Big hurrah for D. riding back, and pushing back up to the top of Blue Ridge with the dog. Probably not that fun. I'm sure the owners didn't wait any longer either. I picture them saying, "Oh, you found our dog." Ho-hum.

We pushed on and Ch. pushes through some slightly charred timber.

The trees start to close in on you, but somehow its still sunny! What the?!

Freeskier taking to the slight contour that is just slightly uphill. That how the second half of th trail felt. Just a bit uphill.
GilaMonster took this sharp picture. Just look at those mad skillz.

We'd finally break through where the AZT meet Fred Haugt and we headed towards General Springs cabin. Here, next to the creek, the land came alive with green.

Ferns lapped at your handlebars.

I'm almost ready to see a land speeder fly by and hear Ewoks hiding in the trees. Man, I've lived in the desert too long.

At 15 miles, we hit the halfway point, the Mogollon Rim. The AZT droppes straight down into Washington Park, and is a good hike, and probably a good downhill on the bike. Up would be a massive HABfest though.

I've seen a bunch of these signs now. Gotta catch them all!

Friggin' hillbillies. Did they really shoot at the transformer?

General Springs Cabin. He's got a real nice front yard.

Heading back to start. Trail was marked pretty well, but we always followed the magic line in the GPS. Saved us at least once, but for route-finding without one, this passage wouldn't be bad at all.

You like AZT?

This fella likes the AZT. Didn't move an insect tendon while I took numerous shots of him.

Freeskier is like a kid in a candy store.

Coming back to Big Dry Wash and the aforementioned HAB of dread. But really, I don't mind pushing my bike a little. It means I'm really trying to get out there. If I never pushed my bike, I don't know if I could consider myself a mountain biker at heart. Just riding all the time doesn't really seem like you're in the challenging the terrain much to me, which is the my adventure point.

HABorama panorama. I pushed up this 0.75 miles climb for a steady 30 minutes. Up and up and up and up. Keep pushing or you won't make it. You stop when the mountain does.

FS found carnage that day. Off backwards off a switchback got him the dirty power forearms.

Someone was nice enough to line the trail with these little white rocks. Sustainability issues? I'm not sure.

Bit of  a view from the top of the ridge, looking west-ish.

About to drop in!

Wait, where was my line?
We made it back after a total of 7.75 hours, 30 miles and 4500ft of vertical ascension (900 being on the one Hike-a-Bike dujour). Super great ride. Good peeps. A section I would certainly ride again. Coming back from the rim had more flow to it, as it was slightly downhill. We didn't notice much the steady grade we were heading south after Blue Ridge, but it was fairly substantial. Probably why we were all thinking about the ride back, and how spent we were at the rim. The same amount of effort going back would have taken a large toll on the reserves. Luckily, the elevation gave way easily, minus the habness,  and the ride back was most enjoyable.

One shot that really defined the ride for me was the ride through the fern forest. They were coming up past my handlebars, while butterflies flittered out and practically bounced off my chest. I felt like fantasy land, where gold sometimes lays in piles. But with natural innocence and grace comes a darker side, the treacherous that always seems to lurk around a tree or bush, the mischevious, trickster. I stumbled upon one about three miles from General Springs, a large, black creature, bounding through the ferns. I couldn't comprehend at first, then as I saw the fuzzy ears and muzzle break the fern ceiling as it plunged into the creekbed, away from me. It was a black bear I had startled as I clanged down the trail. Luckily, he thought I was the threat. We may have only been 25 yards from each other. The wonders never cease.

This one defines the latter part of the ride for me. Big thanks to Freeskier for this shot.

Smiles and deep in the fern. Nice surprise, especially after being in the desert and city for so long.

Just about 32 miles and 4500ft of ascencion. Can you guess where Blue Ridge is?

Our path lay before us. The northern canyon is the southern edge of Blue Ridge, where on July 17,1882 the United States Calvary chased about 60 White Mountian Apache warriors after they had killed some police in San Carlos, and ambushed them along that very ridge. The Apache were lead by Na-tio-tish, who negleted to place lookouts on his flanks. The calvary surrounded him from the east and west. Only two calvarymen were lost while the Apaches suffered at least 20 casualties. We rode by one week after the 129th anniversary of the Battle of Big Dry Wash.
Thanks to those that came along. Always a pleasure. And to GM and FS for taking the snaps of me. Always appreciated. Ride on.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Piney Hills of Elden

Flagstaff was our destination this day, specifically Elden. Freeskier had never been there but I've been there to know enough of the layout to be familiar with our route. We got some beta from Maad and went to it. An early morning got us to flag by about 9:30 and ready to roll at 10:00. It was pretty tame fare, as far as an exploratory route, but for those with virgin Flag tire, it is super good. The route was up Shultz then L. Gnarly, around Jedi, back up to Upper Brookbank then zoom down Sunset and Shultz back to go.

We were to meet a friend up there, G. We were bringin his Proflex up for him as he was on vacation with the fam. Three bikes on the car was pretty impressive, if not silly. It did well, and all bikes survived. The MPG sure took a hit though. Lots of work to climb up the 6,000ft to Flag.
The car was going to work today climing the 6,000 or so feet up to Flagstaff.

Great international truck taking his message across the great southwest. The dicho on the ridght side is, "This is the pure life, but of a f*(&^ng dog." Hilarious.

We were soon rewarded for our driving patience with Shultz. Great trail, heavily traveled, but alway super fun. Steady climb and super flowy down. Some of my favorite 4 miles to ride.

G made it happen all day, making that Proflex look young a gain. Proof that its not the bike, but the rider. Any bike wil do. You don't need fancy parts at all. Just motivation.

After Little Gnarly we were at Dry Lake Hills. Great time for photo ops.

G coming back down an imaginary run on Jedi. Freeskier and I continued on as he took a breather.

Jedi would take us back down around to L. Gnarly where we would climb right back up. Just a few mile roundabout. It starts out swimmingly.

Then come the waves to play on. Lots of log drops, jumps. Some nice tech moves.

This one of note had me walking. Not feeling the uber exposure on this one. I think I had the same look on my face as well.

The G ride.

Rolling back up the top of L. Gnarly. The trees, such a difference from the desert I frequent, add another dimension to the ride. Most stuff in the desert gives way, even if you do end up being stuck all over. But the forest, the trees don't give, they're steadfast, unmoving, large. It feels like riding through another creature. The dirt is different. And shade. Not used to that either.
 We finally found Upper Brookbank and proceeded to make the climb up to Sunset. I've been down this trail but never up and it did not dissapoint. The grade steep, but no to steep to ride, and the switchbacks all makeable. I pushed it hard and steady an the 1x9 kept carrying me all the way to the top. Legs are getting stronger, I think. Strong climb, with more to spare. I love climbing legs. When they kick into gear and spin without pain, with strength and with resolve. Its like the world inverted and now I'm pedaling downhill. Little strings pull me to the top. Success is near. This was Brookbank this day. I look forward to taking it on again.

Git it up! For all the years I've been riding, rolling over roots has some novelty to it.
The final blast down Sunset. Which links into Shultz for a radical 7 mile downhill. I love that line. Great rewared after the work that was going up Upper Brookbank.

We finished the ride by cruising all the way back into town and meeting up with the wife and familiy, had a good dinner here before taking on the drive back into the valley. Which had two accidents which made us get home about 1.5 hours late. Ugh. Long day, but ultimately still smiling. It feels good to have a good day on the bike, spend some time with friends and the wife in the north, and make it home safe and sound. Life can be good.
21.5 miles and 3000ft of vert.
Up and around the mountain. The Sunset descent starts far left at the top of the mountain. Jedi is he loop on the right side of the mountain. Shultz runs along the bottom. Upper Brookbank wraps around the mound in the middle. Lots more trails up there too. This was but an appetizer.