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

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.

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