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.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Getting on the Mogollon.

So I've been a fan of bikepacking for quite a few years now, without even getting out on a proper bikepack. Well, I did do one in September of 2010 on the AZT from Parker Canyon Lake to Patagonia, but that was so long ago now! So much talking the talk and commenting on rides. So much oodling over pictures. So much daydreaming......I have all the gear finally, since about a year and a half ago when I got a seat pack for December's Merchandise Explosion Time 2012, which then sat in my bikepack tub for eight months while I putzed with some knee issues which needed resolving under knife and saw. However, it was brought into commuter use in August of 2013, and now, finally in June of 2014, I get to put the whole setup together on my second bikepack since 2010 out in the wilds of the Mogollon Rim just north of Payson.

John put it together as one of his Bikepacking 101 routes, which is pretty awesome. For knowing some pretty experienced bikepackers, I'm a rookie. I've done lots of decent sized one day rides, so I figure it's about the same but I'll include some ground cover, a water filter, a sleeping bag and some extra food. The plan was to do two days. We'd have one day to Aspen Springs Cabin by way of Rim Road 300 to the AZT, then out the Fred Haught/Houston Bros. Trail. Day two would take us back to the AZT and north past Rt.87 and through Jack's Canyon to various jeep roads back to the start at the junction of 300 and Rt. 87. Various jeep roads drawn in with that little pencil function in Topofusion. Terrain unknown.

I also broke the one cardinal rule of bike maintenance - do nothing crazy before a big ride! Especially if you can't get a shakedown run in. Well, I had some work to do and there was no way to avoid it. I needed that granny gear if I was going to pedal around extra gear. I got a 22t from local endurance junkie One Gear Ray. I know the trails out there and they aren't level for long and the 1x9 was not going to cut it, so I put on a front derailleur. That led me to grease my bottom bracket since I was down there anyway. So why not take apart your drivetrain before a two day ride? My rear brake needed bled real bad too. It was to the bar on the Colorado descents, so I bled that as well. No time for a little PMP test ride. Back and forth on the street a few times and I called it good. Crossed my fingers and headed to the rim. Faith in the wrench!
Geared up and ready to go. We started the junction of Rim Road 300 and Rt. 87. From here, we took FR 218 back around to 300, then on to the AZT at General Springs.

218 starts out nice enough. Some people don't like forest road riding, but I don't mind it much. Sure, I'd rather have singletrack, but its a good way to get around! I was using the granny in to time. I felt bad for Lee, rocking his 1x10. Get that Granny! I have no idea how SSer's bikepack. That's silly.

Finally have all the gear together. Made the frame bag back in 2011, got the sling from John in 2012, as well as the seat pack. Sleeping bag in the sling, tools in the frame bag, and clothes, lights, and ground cover in the seat pack. Food and water in the backpack.

300 takes you right up to the rim in places.

This is my kind of forest road!

It's easy to daydream through vistas on this part.

We make it to General Springs and this plaque tells of the battle between the US Army and a group of Apaches that were stirring up trouble. The Apaches got cornered out at Blue Ridge and about twenty of them were killed. There's a monument out there on a ridge that I haven't seen yet.

Always a good day when you see one of these signs.

Chollaball getting some history lessons on this bikepack.

The first part of the ride follows what is known as the Cabin Loops. This is the first cabin, General Springs. We'd see two more by the end of the day.

The trees had some dark bark which comes out great in a B&W.

The trail doesn't start out too easy. There's some jumbles of rocks and sand. Here is a welcome descent. The Mogollon is full of rocks. None of that smooth CO singletrack here! It was also super dry. Everything was dust. The monsoons need to come to dampen this place up a bit!

Handling the loaded bike sure was a bit different. It sure turned a lot slower, but I was ever grateful for the new granny gear. This gave me a 22x36 for my low gear, and I used it. I used the granny a lot. If I was 1x9, I would have ended up hiking 100% more than I did. Granny!
The fern forests are always fun to ride through.

We make the turn off of the AZT and onto the Fred Haught trail.

The Fred Haught trail has some of this. Assume the position! The Mogollon always has some HAB.

This is the magic here. Some sections roll and you're pulled along by the wind and fantasy in your imagination. I've been watching lots of Game of Thrones, so this was medieval for me.

HH dropping down the final part of a fall-line, scree-filled descent. We'd take the road back up.

Making our way to the second cabin, Pinchot.

Chilling at the cabin, working on a regroup. It's about here we pick up Houston Brothers Trail.

Pinchot cabin. We didn't spend any time there.

From Pinchot, you keep climbing the drainage and the climbing is good.

We finally get to Aspen Springs, which has a nice wood/rock bride entrance.
There were a few loose rocks to keep you on your toes. Photo by John.

It was hot, I was a bit pooped, so I laid out my tarp and hit the ground to rest. This was my view. We'd take the trail another two miles out to another road, since it was easy rolling and a fun ride back to camp, but only after we fetched the beer.

Camp visitor.

That's about the extent of wildlife I saw. I think it was too dry and hot. Everybody was lying low.

Resupply found us and delivered the goods - a cooler of beer. Nice treat to have after 30 miles of riding.Thanks for toting the goods around! That was awesome!

Mountain biker camp.

I had no real tent, but the forecast was 0% chance of rain so I didn't much need one. I did need ground cover so I got a tarp from REI. I thought I'd play around and see if I could make something out of it and this is what I got. meh. I'll probably get  a tarptent that John has. Cheap and effective.

While there is a little cabin structure on site, this is where the Aspen Springs cabin was. All that is left is the fireplace. Seems like it would have been a pretty good sized cabin!

Dinner time. Got my little Esbit stove and Mountain House dinner. Pasta Primavera. I'd also finish off my Pizza, burrito and some PB&J.

Three other bikepackers showed up right at dusk to join us in camp.

No fires in the forest, but we did have a citranella candle that burned bright, thanks to the car drop that lit up our common area.

We had a few beverages the retired about 10 pm. I stared at the stars for about 15 minutes then I was out. Here is a piece of Houston Brothers in the morning light. I won't say early, because I slept until about 7:30! I guess I was tired.

Once to get back on the AZT you precede to HAB. Push push push. This goes on for about 15-20 minutes. There's good riding after you get to the top though.

Soon enough we come to the big work for the day, Blue Ridge. After a little drop to the bottom, which is DH-HAB, you get to climb the opposing side, all 700ft of it. It's 90% hiking and takes me about 30 minutes. It's quite a bit of work. I'll be happy to be done with it!

Dropping down down down.

Coming up the other side. HH looks to happy to be pushing her bike!

John was all about the KOM for the HAB section. He'd have to break twenty minutes! I started out ahead of him and he caught me in about ten minutes. He was zooming. Strava!

We'd climb the ridge, then drop back off of it down to Blue Ridge Campground for a water supply, which would have to hold us until Clints Well off of the 87. We were about sixteen miles in for the day and the cool water was great. Put some on my head and sun sleeves. I was cool for about twenty minutes. But it was hot out. Lots of sun and no clouds. I was really pleased with my new "solar skull cap with tail". So nice to have the sun of my ears and neck. Here we're making out way through Jacks's Canyon after crossing Rt. 87.
Jack's Canyon is kinda like a mini Houston Brothers. Not as fast or forested, but following a shallow drainage. Photo by John.

Well, the pencil in Topofusion didn't say this was private property. Detour! The heat was kicking pretty good here, and we just wanted to keep moving, as we had about another 25 miles to go. Not the time to be route-finding! But John got us straightened out in not time as this area was ripe with forest road. After a little GPS magic, we were on our way, UP the detour. All our detours seemed to go up! It was lost on me that Jack's Canyon was the low point of the ride. The car was still 1,000ft higher. Not a lot, but there is lots of up and down in between.

We started a minor stampede, but they found safety soon enough. Our detour didn't cost us much time, but I did "lose" my camera at this point. While riding, taking snaps, I dropped it into some moon dust that shut it down for the rest of the day. It seems to be working now, but it sure wasn't happy then.

We had hoped that the forest road back to the 87 and the car would be that nice 218/300 type road but that was the furthest from the case. It was sandy, steep, loose, rocky and full of HAB sessions. It was a bit of work, especially with the sun pouring down on us all day. Sure it's a forest, but those damn needles hardly produce any shade! We followed more jeep road towards the 87 and noticed we missed a turn. We head back to investigate - no road. There's nothing there? We didn't dither. Checking the GPS again (thank you base maps!) we saw that our current trajectory would take us to the 87 and eventually to Clints well for another resupply.

We had a nice peleton heading to Clints Well. I got a soda, some chips and a Gatorade. We also decided to head back on the 87 all the way to the car. We had more jeep road lined up, but the beatdown that it already gave us would keep us out for another three+ hours probably as there were two good climbs left, and if they were like the ones we already saw, we'd be pushing again, so we opted for the 12 miles of road with cars zooming by at 70mph. We weren't getting out of climbing though. We still had to go up to the car. Well, better to be pedaling it that pushing it!

The entirety of our ride over two days. We started in the southwest corner and went around CCW, camping on the arm to the east.

Blue Ridge doesn't look big here!
Lots of ups and downs. Quite a bit of HAB and granny gear. Lots of fun. 75 miles over two days with 6k of climbing. Not too shabby, especially for being loaded. With gear, that is.
A superb re-entry to bikepacking. Everything worked out for me, and no mechanical issues! The new derailleur behaved without a squeak and my brakes kept their power throughout both days. Whew! I knew I put it all together right, but sometimes you never know what issue you can have after some wrenching. I felt good after that. I've always like turning the bolts.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Canyon of the Ancients

One last treat that JJB let us in on was Canyon of the Ancients, just to the west of Cortez. It wasn't on our radar, but he brought it up and we trusted his advice in that it was a cool place to ride. Neither of us had heard about it or knew anything about and it was kinda thrown into the schedule the day before, but that's how I like to roll. Take your opportunities when they come, and rolling with a local is a great way to see the trails. A little faith, some knowledgeable friends, and some pedal power should easily make for a good day on the bike. Or for this day, a good second ride on a good bike day.

After getting some lunch in town at Sol Pizzeria, we headed out County Rd. G westward to CotA. Once there, we geared up for our last Colorado ride until we had to head back to the Valley. My legs were a bit tired, as I was, but I had the motivation to carry on, just to see some more new trail. Once I was back home, it was going to be miles and miles of stuff I've known for a few years now. New dirt, new turns, new climbs is the stuff that keeps me on my bike. That discovery, that fresh adventure, that experience that lets you know that you're alive and living, kicking that meatbag you call a body around Earth and taking in as much as you can before Time lassos your feet and drags you down. On the bike, I go up. Keep those feet moving!

The trail starts on a slickrock slab. Lots of ruins to see here that are snug up to the cliffs. Some remains date back to 1,500BC. The Anasazi people used it more recently.  You can ride right up to some of the structures. The BLM manages this land rather than the Forest Service, so it seems a bit more lax. Just stay on the trail!
We'd hang a right and follow Sand Canyon trail out for about four miles before turning around and taking on the East Rock Creek Trail. The further out on Sand Canyon you go, the more primitive it gets. I hear it ends in a steep hike-a-bike to get to the top. Not much fun so we'd pass today. We still had to drive home!

Our fearless and gracious guide led us out.

This guy doesn't mind riding all day. This ride would prove to be super cool just for the setting. The riding wasn't bad at all either!

Lots of nice naturally weathered rock formations to be found along the canyon.

A little granary for storing your grains.

Looks like a gigantic oven! Probably another granary, I'm guessing. Not much of a home there, really, considering some of the other structures.
You could ride pretty close up to the history. Every turn seemed to have something that was built hundreds, if not thousands of years ago. Photo by John's camera, JJB on the button.

We come to a ledge, Shilling ponders the depths of our journey.

Again, the Voodoos play nice together. No mech issues all weekend. Hell, only one flat! I've made enough derailler sacrifices over the years, I'm due!

A window! I'm guessing someone lived there at one point.

This one has a loft. I be rent was a bitch for that amenity.
There's a little hole over there.....

Why not build a home in there! You can barely see it, but there's a structure in there. The cool thing is that water runs over the top of the mesa and you can collect it as it drips down on the inside. Not a bad deal.

Any cove seems to get some attention.

This will be nice, with some evening shade.
I must be flying in this pic. My bandana is tussled! Photo by John.

Heading back to the East Rock Creek Trail.
The East Rock loop wastes no time in getting interesting.

JJB making his was across the shelf.

The whole loop was great. This is heading back to the south, towards the slickrock ending. The contrasting colors tickled my eyeballs.

The slickrock at the end was a fun way to wind down a sweet day of riding. 32 miles of new trail is and A+ day on the bike. Photo by John.
We all had some fun kicking around out there. We only needed about another 4 miles to get 100 miles for the weekend, and we briefly wondered if we could ride in enough circles to get us there. Nah, lets head home. It was already 5pm and we were looking at seven hours in the car!

Sweet traction for the SSer's.

Local boy does good, wins beer! Porter from Carver Brewing in Durango. Thanks for the tours JJB! I'll have to do you better than ol' PMP next time your're in town. You've raised the bar!

We had celebratory beverages, then we started our way home. We were already a good ways west on County Rd. G, so we kept heading that way into Utah, which gave us the fortunate opportunity to go through Monument Valley on the way home. And to see this horse.

John was doing the driving, so I got to play taking photos. While this one is from my camera, I got to play with the big boy camera, since John let me take some shots with his DSLR.
Heading down into Mexican Hat, Utah, driving the DSLR. It was niiiiiiiiiiice.

I caught the hat through the driver's side window. "Lean back, man, lean back!" That camera was a blast to play with. Not bad for a shot at 75 mph! There's Mexican Hat namesake.

We had just crossed the San Juan River. That wheel might only produce a little drag..

Monuments come into view!
And the shot everyone has seen somewhere.


2D shot of the route.

There wasn't a lot of climbing or much flow, but it was worth is for scenery and ambiance. The riding was a bit techy too, here and there. Not a place to fly through, but rather see the sights and enjoy some history. We weren't the first ones here.

This ride was almost 12 miles, with 1,200ft of climbing. Add that to Phil's World and we have another 30+ mile day. Our weekend total was 96 miles with about 12k of vertical attained. The knee behaved and took it all smiling. Had some small soreness, but nothing to worry about. I do need a granny though, just to keep it functioning for a longer period of time before it implodes again. Bye-bye 1x9, oh how I have loved you, but I grow old.
The whole trip was stellar. Our routes worked really well, we didn't rush anywhere, didn't get lost, kept ourselves well fed, rode some great new singletrack and had the weather play in our favor all weekend. The JJB tour special was a great cherry on top, seeing some stuff that not to many people ride out and see. The Telegraph ride was great for it's local vibe and accessibility. The CT rocked for it's long climb and descent. Phil's World had the flow and banked turns that I rarely see anywhere and CotA was an archaeological surprise with great views, some ancient culture and good singletrack. I'd do it all again, but we still have Hermosa Creek, The Jones/Dutch Loop, Animas Mt, Twin Buttes, Star Wars, Molas Pass, Silverton to Durango bikepack.......ah, I love lists. Thanks for riding with me for the weekend Mr. Shillingsworth! Great idea!