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. |
|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. |
|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.