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.

Friday, December 30, 2011

AZT Picket Post to Kelvin Space Shuttle

The word was out that that finishing touches were on the AZT through the Gila River valley, since they stuck the finishing stake into the ground, so John was wise enough to set up a little shuttle day for us to partake of this new section of trail. We had been out to what was previously trail's end at 15 miles out from Picket Post, but this time we were to take the trail for another 22 miles, all the way to Kelvin, where we stashed the vehicles. We would finally be able to take the plunge down to the river.

We met at Picket Post and it took an hour to set up the shuttle. By 9am we were on the trail. And by 9:20am we were already down a man as AzTa had some mech issues and had to bail back to the car. I felt bad with all the good trail ahead of us, but better here than 20 miles in.

Picket Post is a good sight early in the morning because it means I'm riding on some sweet trail.
While we waited on the fate of AzTa, I played with my new camera. Color accent, oh yes.

Harry rode strong all day. I had some gas early, but petered out a bit towards the end. The terrain out there is relentless. If you're not going up, you're going down and by the time you get to the Gila, they legs are feeling it.

Looking towards the White Canyon Wilderness. Luckily, the AZT does not travel through there anymore. The reroute was an excellent windfall for MTBers.
Photo by John.

The vastness of the desert begs your mind to let go of time and place.

One last bit climb before breaking through to Martinez Canyon, at about mile 12. There has already been almost 3k of climbing, but we were keeping a pretty steady pace, and the pack stayed together pretty well. For a larger group, we kept it going moving without issue - lots of strong riders. And this was a good thing, as it would turn into about a nine hour day.

Looking east to White Canyon Wilderness again. Expansive and beautiful. Its a great feeling being out there.
John riding on through this little train set.

Miles 12-15 are some of the most eye popping out there, the way the trail contours and finds its way through the canyon.
One of my favorite shots that John got. This is coming south through Martinez Canyon. It cuts! It carves! This trail flows! It makes me feel small and big at the same time. I love it.

Breaking through to the other side is like a revelation, like being born form vertical ascension into gravity fed perma-grins. Not many better places for lunch than right here.

Taking a look back, I almost want to ride back up to do it all again, but alas, new trail beckons. The Gila river needs some visitors.

We start the descent, some of us in miniature form to conserve energy. It will be needed.

Seven miles and 2600ft later we'd be at the Gila. Down, down we go.

Where does one find such small cholla for a diorama such as this?
We pause for a minute to look back up at what was the previous end of trail. Very happy to be moving on. And on, and on, and on. The descent was flowy, with plenty of chances for speed, which I didn't get too much of, since I couldn't stop eye-balling the scenery, thinking about how lucky I was to ride through there. I wanted to bomb it, but I held it a bit, like a tender cut of steak, just to savor it, to enjoy nature's gift to me, to relish in the exquisite nature of this mtb moment. This magic moment.
His bike probably loves the trail too. Harry was out front all day!

Weaver's Needle?

Journey to the center of the sun......
The river valley lays below us and this is how the trail rolls. Just hold on and let the gravitational constant take hold. Your only job: Breath. Smile.

Clearly the Predator has been here. But I thought they took the heads....must have been something else then.

We finally hit the Gila at mile 20 and got ready for 17 miles along the Gila until we get to Kelvin. Compared to the rest of the profile, this looked DC-esque, but that wasn't necessarily the case. It rolled smooth for a spell, but as we got closer and closer to the end, the climbs got bigger and bigger.
We took a few minutes in the wash to regroup, and we were all feeling it. It took significant effort to get out here, and we had a spell yet to go. "It sure would have been nice to stash some supplies at the Gila," one of us mused. Two of us at the same time reply, "Yeah, like a car!" But that's the stage of the ride we were at. Pain and numbness were both ahead. Then we'd be done.

A little ride through the saguaros.
BW rolling through some grass. There were a few nice groves along the Gila, along with some nice views. I'd like to ride from Kelvin out to The Climb one day. That wouldn't be a bad 34 miles.
It was late in the season, but the foliage in the valley still had some color to it. The tressel let us know that we were close.

Tired. Pooped. Need chocolate milk. Hungry. I was feeling all of these as we came within 3.5 miles of the finish and we were hit with a 400ft vert HAB section. Ugh. Nice trail, no doubt, but a kick in the cassette. I was pushing, dreaming of the top. Then I heard a train and took a minute to take a snap. Then I got some crap in my contact that wouldn't clean, so to the glasses it was. Sheesh, it took me a while to summit....

At the top, we found where they had the AZT Completion ceremony a few weeks before, along with the BLM brass cap commemorating the event. It took 25 years for Dale Shalewater's AZT to come to fruition, and I'm sure grateful for everyone that has put in time to make the trail a reality. I spent a lot of time on it this last year, and the miles have kept me begging for more.

Finally, trucks. Happy to see you! It was a great ride, we all survived without issue, other than the early lost of AzTa. One of my favorite rides of the year, and also one of my most taxing.
The stats may not relay it, but getting out there was a lot of work. The first 12 miles are fairly constant climbing and even along the river require more and more effort as we approached the end.  We ended up coming down ASARCO's road that they constructed for some mining activities, but it will shortly be turned into singletrack and the two mile section from the Kelvin bridge will be open for business. This is going to be one of the premier sections of AZT in the state. Between the views, remoteness and effort, it is something special. Not to mention that it connects directly to Ripsey and Antelope Peak, which has some sweet ST which bypasses the gasline. Oracle to Superior is going to be fun bikepack territory.

We go up, we go down. TF gives a total of 6700ft vert for the day, Garmin a little less. It felt like the bigger number. You want a big ride? Do an out and back to the river. 42 miles and just shy of 9k ft of climbing. Oh my. And there have been those that have done it SS! And others that have barely survived.....It's a great piece of trail.


  1. YES!!! Already looking forward to our return trip in March.

  2. I can't believe you guys didn't go to mile 20, turn around and march right back up that hill!

    1. heheheh....I can believe it! That's a big 2600ft climb!