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.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Short-Stack Quasi-Quadruple Bypass Jr

John had ideas about a challenging route through the McDowells, that would take us over three substantial passes of Bell, Windgate, and Tom's Thumbs and the not to be overlooked Gateway saddle - so with a stretch of the imagination, we put this in quadruple territory, barely. Bell and Windgate were known to me but East End and the North End were new to both Freeskier and I. We knew there would be hike-a-bike, but our intel source was quoted as 20-30 minutes. We'll see...

FS had a pretty nice route in mind. From the Golden Eagle we'd take Dixie Mine - Prospector - Bell - Gateway - Windgate - East End - Tom's Thumb - North End - what I've now learned is Avalanche Trail (thx Mtn-Rider) - Pemberton - Coachwhip - and back on Dixie Mine. Lots of climbing. Just what I needed after the flat road ride that was Happy Jack and thinking about and looking at topos of the Vapor Trail all week.

The Dixie Mine-Prospector climb is a good one, and one I can consistently make. There's a little section of Bell that was a push for me, then a short ride on to the top. FS finishing up the first pass here.

Looking happy, looking strong. Lots of work left for today.

Bell Pass gathering. We dropped left, they dropped right.

Going down Bell is a quick way to loose elevation slowly. Its so steep you don't get to open it up, but rather you putz along, slowly rolling switchbacks. A lot of work is undone in ten miutes.

We made our way over the Gateway saddle, our junior pass, then up to the top of Windgate, another strong climb to make. Lots of pedaling, some pushing. At the top, I found Mr. Worker trying to haul this prize up on the rock. He was planning to be the talk of the farm with that meal.
FS got me coming down Windgate heading towards East End. Doing my best, "I'm in control" impersonation, considering I just spilled the bike a few minutes earlier when he happened to be thinking about the rarity for me to take a good wipeout. Well, the thought spilled out, and I went down on a straight piece of trail. I blame it on my fork, which was probably 30 psi below spec, but his mind rays certainly didn't help either.

East End, lets do this.

We dropped east off Windgate and head up East End. 1.8 miles to Tom's Thumb. We pedaled about 0.8 miles before we resorted to pushing. The last mile was steep.

Its a fast way to the top, but the grade makes you pay. Totally exposed as well. Luckily our day was running a bit cool.

He always seems a little happy to be pushing his bike.

We'd come from Way Down There. It was a long 45 minutes or so of pushing up.

Once on top, it kind of opened up a bit and it was really rideable.

The bolderyness was out of touch with the rest of the preserve, which is more jaggedy. 

Two miles down the north face after playing a bit on top.

The rocks were really big, as you got up to them. Amazing how they stood, unmoving for so long.

Tom's Thumb, coming into view.

FS taking in the view of the city. We could see Glendale stadium from there.

Tom's Thumb is to the left.

Watching the clouds roll over the mountains and us all day lent a sense of grandeur to the scenery, as if it were showing off for us. Hey, Nature, I'm pretty impressed.

Some of the stuff on top. Definitely a different character than the rocky looseness about 1000ft below us.

Looking back at Glass Dome and TT.

The view to the north was clear and wide open. I'd like my mind to be like that most days.

The North End drops fast, with loose, tight switchbacks. It is paramount that one control their speed. It would be easy to launch off the side of the descent. Its the type of steep and high that makes your heart pitter-patter as you drop in.

It was nice to have some super smooth trail to roll along, up on top of the valley.

Coming around on the Avalanche Trail, we spotted some rock climbers on this rock face. Pretty impressive.

Thanks to FS for a nice route and the motivation. I needed some good old fashioned MTB climbing in my legs. (And thanks for the snaps!)

A nice healthy stroll through the mountains. When I think climbing in the valley, I think the McDowells.
If you look closely, it looks like a bird of prey, flying towards the bottom right corner.

It was a strong day with 4500ft of vert. Felt good to really pound the legs. Getting strong for the TOWM 60, which is quickly approaching.

Happy Jack

I ventured out Labor Day weekend to explore a bit of AZT Passage #29, Happy Jack, from the Rock Crossing campground. The campground is on top of Blue Ridge, which meant I had about 5 miles of Passage #28 to tear through, dropping off of Blue Ridge, before even getting to the new stuff on the other side of the 87. This was prefectly fine with me as I had ridden Blue Ridge before with some buds about a month earlier. This made me a Happy Jack since the ridge and the drop down were good times on two wheels. With the allure of about another 15 miles of new-to-me AZT, it was going to be a good solo day.

I haven't been out solo on a long, far out ride for a while, and the sense of dependence on yourself is magnified when there is no on-the-spot back-up for you. Well, I digress, there is at least Spot back-up, as long as I can get to the magic red button to summon help if I took a nasty header. This aloneness only adds to the ride, and for this one it was an added bonus since the trail, ahem.....double track, had minimal consequence to it. The ride had a little sense of urgency to it as I had planned to meet up with One Gear Ray at about the halfway point, on the south side of Bargaman Park around lunch time as he rode south from Munds Park. I saw it as the meeting of like-minded habitually big-ish-mile riders, passing each other with smiles while imbibing in our own torment of spent legs and scenery filled eyes.  Why not, as a duo, cover the dozens of miles between Munds and Blue Ridge?

So I pushed, partially to do my part to get to the centerpoint, but mostly to get something out of the double track I found myself on. It was Barney Rubbley, but I could carry speed, and it was to be half of my ride. Meh. The Passage started out promising with a good 5 miles of decent singletrack, and dropping through Jack's Canyon hinted at some climbing, but when the day was over, 20 of my 40 miles was jeep road, and I covered the total in under six hours. Did I get to meet Ray? Nope, but it wasn't to be from the start since he got taken out by the Sinus Gods, and spent the day in Munds. No worries though, since I was hit by the Disappearing Singletrack Gods after about three hours.  Regardless, the day was good, the riding strong, the scenery soul-filling, and I even got my HAB on as I had to get back to the top of Blue Ridge at mile 35. Nothing like being alone and working hard to make you feel like the breaths you take matter, if only to witness creation.

As I crossed 87 in the morning, I had it all to myself.
This is the general nature of the singletrack for the first 5 miles of the Happy Jack segment, and the only 5 miles of singletrack I would see, minus a scant half mile I would see at mile 20. It had imbedded rocks like apples, but the Voodoo ate them up. Yes, it liked those apples.
This was some of the last singletrack for the route out, as faint as it is. This passage certainly isn't traveled much, but it is well signed with carsonite markers and lots of rock cairns. I just followed the line on the GPS though. A few beeps kept me right on track.

After dropping into Jack's Canyon (a meager 100ft maybe) there was another few miles of trail then I was greeted with this Chunder Avenue. mmmmmm......a mile or so of bouncing around on this mess. Bleh. I was happy when it was over.

Soon enough I was off the chunderfrack and rolling on passable jeep road. Trees. Flowers. Sounds of Nature. Clouds. Breeze. Simplicity. Pedal. This was my day. I kept a smile.

Some singular trees got my attention and lens.

Oh look. More jeep road with seemingly zero elevation or flow. hmph. I guess I'll keep pedaling on. Nonetheless, I was exploring, out in clean air, away from the furnace of the valley, getting my pedal on, and getting some nice snaps. Then again, I was treated just the week before to some supreme AZT at the San Fran Peaks, so my taste buds were a bit jaded.

"We tied her with fences and dragged....her....down......"

This was around my end of trail at miles ~20. Trail, which appeard for a half mile wasted away after a gate under its own rocky nature, and I bounced to and fro, contemplating my course of action. Three hours in, top of a 100 ft drop to the valley below, on a trail that left me as fast as my hard earned money.

The satellites say I'm towing the line, but nature has reclaimed what man tried to inscribe. I could have used my cosmic powers to continue on, but I did NOT feel like hiking back up this cantelope rock imbedded mess of  a hill, thus extending my day by probably another 1.5 hours, at least.

My terminus. The bike hugs a carsonite AZT sign, loving the trail maybe even more than I do. I imagine my bike craving trail like my Golden craves his tennis football. I see it bouncing around as I upload GPS files and test its tires. Maybe it wanted to go on?

So I have some lunch, take some snaps. Admire the heavens. Swig the breeze. Listen to the distant grumble of the sky.

Admire the plant life, big and small. 

Then I turn and head back the way I came. Back to the last mile of singletrack that took me to the edge. Rocky and bouncy, I'm almost looking forward to reaching the jeep road again.

And again I find speed. Find a rythym. Find some nice views. I'm wondering about the climb back up Blue Ridge. The temps start to cool a bit. A few drops land on my ever dirtier body. Grumbles from the sky roll through my ears.

After one of the four gates (eight openign and closings for the out n' back) my bike poses for another pic. My only companion this day, its frame pack full of MTB necessities.

Of all the ways this tree could have fallen, it found the trail.  I found this funny each time I passed by.

My snaps of Jack's Canyon were better coming back than going out. It was a short drop to get to the bottom - a mere two switchbacks, but other than Blue Ridge, was the only real challenge for the day.

Water drops are common along the AZT. Hiker? Rider? Lucky? Yes.

Some of my favorite signs in the state. There must be a few dozen of them, at least.

And the end, back at camp. A choco milk recovery and dirty legs tell the tell of a good day on the bike. More AZT miles under my belt, of which I'm up to about 140 total, and good altitude training for the Tour of the White Mountains 60 in a month. I even made it back within my time estimate.
The rest of the camping trip was excellent. Got to hike on another section of the AZT and catch some wildlife.

Watch the clouds roll on by.

Watch as the clouds gathered along the ridge.

After a little sprinkle, we were treated with a great rainbow. Saw this as we drove down toward the dam.

The reservoir was actually erected to create a water source for the Phelps Dodge company in the 60's for their mining operation nearby.

The center of the wishbone. I'd really like to take a kayak out there for the day.

We had some unique camp visitors too. This one doing its best "blend in" routine.
There was noting exceptional about the route, other than being able to keep a steep pace along the jeep roads.

Flat, mostly this ride. Blue Ridge is always good to get the blood pumping. It took only a bit over 20 minutes for me to get back to the top.
Blue Ridge is obvious. Total climbing was about 4400ft.

Big thanks to Mom and JL-E, my wonderful wife, for a good weekend and not miding me taking off for a six hour tour of the AZT.  Another great weekend!