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.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Aspentacular AZT Passage #34 San Francisco Peaks

 This piece of the AZT is something special. From FR418 to Shultz, its a blast. Ride the aspens from 418 or make a day of it and and start over by Shultz Creek for a goo old out n' back.  And the 9 hours we spent pedaling and pushing were well worth it. 

Freeskier conspired a free weekend at the end of August and the proposal was camping at Shultz Creek and subsequent double digit hours of riding dem darn mountain bikes for the weekend.  The largest prey would be a portion of the AZT, passage #34, which traverses the western slope of the San Francisco Peaks from Shultz Pass then makes a run for the north to FR417. We'd only be riding about half of the 35 mile passage, 16 miles, as an out n' back, but what a great portion to do. If one to ride the entire section, there is a chance for a 20 mile downhill, the likes of the AZT Jamboree, but in grade only. The downside is that about half of it is jeep road, but luckily for us, out to FR418, it is sweet, juicy, rolly, grin inducing, MTBgasm of riding and cavorting with aspeny piny nature bound singletrack. Wonderful and beautiful. Gravity fed and gravity restrictive, it was a sweet piece of trail. Even if part of is wasn't quite finished yet.
That is one flowy long downhill from 15 to 35 miles, if I do say so.

With a post or two on your favorite social media, we awoke to ride on Satruday with a group of about 10 to take on the joys and pains of mountain biking. We were eating up Dog Food by 9 am and on the AZT by 9:10. A glorious day of trail lay ahead of us, and none seemed to be disappointed. My grin has lingered for days. And now I yearn for the return.

Camp was right off of  Shultz Pass Rd, just a short distance form the AZT. Where we were, one could ride from camp for a week and hit different trails everyday. Great place to get your MTB on.

And off we went to the AZT. Pretty big group for just a couple of guys talking about a month ago.

We turn off of Dog Food, a mostly double-ish track, onto AZT and the trail sings its own praises. Easy roll to Snow Bowl Rd.

Surrounded by pines is fine with me. Temps were to reach a high of about 85. Great for a PHX dweller.

Whiskers the Jack Russell wonder dog joined us for the ride, running about 25 of the 32 miles she did that day.  When she starts to pace herself, she gets a nice seat in DY's camelback.

Lots of good trailwork up here. Well laid out trail as well. All the grades were rideable, similar to the BCT, but now with 100% more trees.

Riding through trees is a unique experience to me, even though I've been riding mountain bikes for over a decade.

After crossing Snow Bowl Rd and on our climb up to Aspen Corner, there was a great look out where we paused for some photo ops.

I had just finished about two weeks earlier this frame bag with the the help of the wondrous skills of my mom. I could put all my tools, tubes, a pump and my space food in there. It probably got two pounds off of my back, and I don't even notice it on the bike as I ride. The endgame is a full bike packing set. I must hone my skills just a bit more on the sewing machine and design aspects though.

Gotta protect those feet. Whiskers can get it done. I saw her go ~35 miles at the AZT Jamboree earlier in the year.

CT crossing a green prairie after Aspen Corner. Most of the work had been done by now. We would soon come upon a fabulous four mile aspen-filled 700ft downhill.

While the pines still carried hues of brown with them, there were areas of vivid green, which made me think of OH, the green land from which I sprung. The desert is so brown, green tickles the eyes a bit.

The singletrack carries you forth. More! More! MORE!

As we drop down from 9k ft towards FR 418, the Aspen groves spring up and you're taken on a magical gravity induced journey of rollin' wheels. It seems to go on forever, and when it ends, you immediately want to do it again. The map shows many switchbacks, but the grade is only 5ish %, but carries you easily towards the ride's terminus. Everytime you ride a section of trail like that, an angel gets a mountain bike. Wondrous.

When I die, this is the path I'll take to the Earth Coincidence Control Office.

More of this too, please.

The trail takes your wheel so quickly, you have to think to even look up.

This type of riding could probably cure all the world's ills.

Pretty unperturbed fella, I could get my camera right in his face. Must have been lookng for his 15 minutes on my new bag.

It's some sort of geodesic dead dandelion. Which is now the name of my new band.

There was a pop to our lollipop ride, and it took the three of us, Mtn-Rdr, FS and myself, two hours to travel the 8 miles back to FR 418. It would take us just over three to ride the 16 back to camp. The trail held promise, with flowers trailside, an inviting ribbon of dirt, and pleasant grades.

Humphrey's in the background. This stuff is good. But it won't last.

Looks like a fire had swept though and taken out most of the trees in White Horse Hills.

The trail soon got super loose, tight and rubbly. Soon I had suspicions that is was a moto trail. Those moto tires grind up nice sinlgetrack into a powder, as far as MTB goes, that is not as great for spinning legs as it is for twisting wrists. When the trail turned up, we were off the bikes. And it turned up plenty enough.

The vista quality, however, was just about worth the extra effort.

When in the middle of a HAB sesh, it is permitted to stop and enjoy the local wildlife.

Mtn-Rdr riding the rideable 20ft of trail in the last 1/2 mile. Making it look easy. It wasn't.

Here it looks grand, perfect, inviting. Oh, no, wolf in sheeps clothing. The trail is still loose, the ruts deep and this seqence short. I would bounce from side to side of the trail if I was but a margin off the line, making me look like it was my first ride, thanks to the big hoops I roll with. I'd chase the handlebars for a sec while I day dreamed of the AZT, which was so near.

As we finished the White Horse Hills loop, thankfully, I met a friend from school who happened to be finishing up her own AZT adventure, and had beer to share. Thanks mucho S.! Great way to get some calories for the climb back up through the apsens. Took the edge off the HAB effort that was still ringing in my legs.

Mtn-Rdr and FS catching me sniffing flowers. The ride up from 418 seemed to give me energy, it flowed up so good. About 700 ft in 4 miles. Some of the easiest climbing I've done.

Heading back to Aspen Corner. Back up to 9k ft, then it would be almost completely downhill back to camp.

And I've ridden the section way down there, 610 miles away. What a great, huge, magnificent trail to have in the state of AZ. Great work.

FS gettign ready to swing back into the next Aspen grove.

No lie. I chased flags for a while to traverse the last ~100yds they need to cut in to finish the segment. With all the rock the flags went through, it looks like several honest days work. The trek from unfinished end to the next was only about 10 minutes. There was even a litte sidetrail that slightly showed its presence that one could follow.  I'm guessing as a consequence of that little section not being done. People can't wait any longer! Its just too good.

Flagging for the unfinished section. Seeing this, and the cut in section we took to get up this far, I can really appreciate the effort it takes to get a trail like this built.

A bit more flagging. I never could follow them from finished end to finished end. The flags just seemed to stop.

Nine hours after starting, and 41 miles more in the log book, we were done. But not without getting rained on for the last 4 miles. We heard the grumbling sky all day and it never came out but it bit us at the very end. Good I guess. Better than at mile 10!

Great day, and many of us have been feverishly planning our next ride up there as soon as possible. That section can sing a siren song that is hard to ignore. Ended up with 41 miles, and 8500ft of climbing, but should probably be closer to 7k for the day. My elevation profiles on the GPS unit are rather shady. Still a good day.
Here's our journey for the day around the western flank of the San Francisco Peaks.

Lots of climbing this day, and on the AZT is it BCT style climbing. All attainable, but at elevation, for me, a good challenge.

Full overview of the route. White Horse Hills is the northern "pop" on this long-sticked lollipop. Just as much AZT heads north from there to finish Passage #34. Even though from there its mostly jeep road, I'd still like to check it out. That out n' back would be about 70 miles, if one left form Shultz Pass proper. We took in at Dog Food, which was a stone's throw from camp. 

Thanks to all that came out to enjoy the day with us. All the company was great and appreciated. I always like to share some adventure and especially on a trail like this. This ride had me smiling all week, similar to the BCT and the Cienega Passage of the AZT down south. The trails that are around this state are amazing. AZ has to be one of the top 5 states for MTB. With all the varied terrain and year round riding, its hard to beat. I consider myself very lucky to have the ability, friends, health and means to partake in the MTB experience. I can only hope to have decades more to continue to explore the joy that is riding a bike in the dirt.

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