Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cougar Huntin'

Trail designers deep in thought....

I got to tag along with Tim and Mark today. We drove up to Crow Wash on Rail X, packed the bikes up with hiking gear and rode to Wild Burro in the Tortolitas. The plan for the day was to do a few hours of re-routing of a trail they had previously put in.

After the trail work, Max and I took the opportunity to head up Bass Ass trail (he, Tim, and Steve had done it the weekend before).

Recognize that peak in the far background below? (Hint: we are looking northwest)

The trail was great for the first 1.5 miles. After that, it got a little more difficult to navigate to the springs. After passing Bass Ass Springs, we headed east on Cochie Springs back to Edison/Rail X.

As we were riding, I noticed a slickrock paradise. Plenty of islands of singletrack to link together. Max took the camera and started clicking as I started to link them together.

Next 3 photos taken by Max

On the way back to Edison, we came across a horse trailer with some dogs. Earlier in the ride, we had found a dog that seemed to be lost. We chatted a little bit about the Tortolitas, he was pretty inquisitive. It turns Andy is working for the state trying to hunt/catch a cougar to put a GPS collar on it. Seems as though about 10,000 houses are going in on the Pima-Pinal County line. It reminded us of an article that was in the AZ Daily Star a few weeks ago about a wildlife passage. We chatted for about 20 minutes before continuing on past the marble mine to the car.

This area is beckoning for some more exploration on the east side of the Tortolitas. The next few Tuesday Night Techy Taco Rides will continue to be at CSP/50 Year. But soon we will switch over to the Tortolitas via Vistoso Blvd to explore!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Upper 50 + Snow

A few of my students and I got the chance to head out to 50 Year Trail after the snow fall last week. Max and Scott joined us for the Upper 50 loop. Some snow on the Catalinas really provided the perfect backdrop for some good pictures.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Top 10 Places to Visit in AZ

While doing the Antelope Peak Challenge this weekend, I was thinking about The Top Under-Estimated Rides in Arizona. I had most of them in my head from the 15+ hours on the trail, came home to write them down, and then added some pictures. Pretty effortless, but it gives you an idea of what you can ride here in Arizona (this post is partly motivated by Tom P also who was asking about the best singletrack in and around Tucson).

These are the places that (unfortunately or fortunately) are not people's radar. You would be hard pressed to find someone that has done 2-3 rides on this list. These are intermediate to advanced trails, rocky singletrack. Also, there will be some moments of hike-a-bike, but unless otherwise stated, these moments are very minimal.

Photo Credit: If I am in the picture, Scott or Ty took the picture, otherwise they are all my pictures.

1. Ripsey Segment on the AZT near Kelvin
A little on the remote side, but you can do it from the Florence-Kelvin Highway as a loop or simply park on Freeman Rd near Antelope Peak/Willow Springs Area. This is best ridgeline trail in all of Arizona.

2. Brown Mountain and Golden Gate, Tucson Mountain Park

One of my favorite rides in the Tucson area. Many people just do one or the other, when you can combine both Brown and Golden, you get a sweet, chunky ride. Linking up can be done in several ways, either via Prospertor or Gates Pass Trail.

3. Red Ridge Epic, Mt Lemmon

Red Ridge drops off the back side of Mt Lemmon, dropping some 6k feet in less then 4 miles. Epic indeed. Not for the faint at heart, but it is very rewarding. Make sure to get the current beta for this ride it has been known to be lined with downed trees and tons of scratchy bushes.

4. Yaeger (#28) or Trail 105, Mingus Mountain, Prescott

Few have ever ventured up 105. It is normally done as a shuttle ride down to Cottonwood. It is a great ride up (until the very end) and you'll have a lot more time to take some shots. Parking at Jerome and taking some double track to 105 is a quick way to see this trail. Trail #28 is fast, fun and short.

5. Bill Williams Mtn, Williams, AZ

Aspen singletrack on one side, tight fun switchbacks on the other side. Best done as a sem-epic loop from town.

6. Box Canyon Rd to Pistol Hill, AZT Jamboree Route, Sonoita

With almost 95% singletrack, this 38 mile shuttle ride is a blast. Done as a fundraiser ever year for the AZT, it will make you grin the entire way.

7. Picket Post on AZT, Superior

The "BCT (Black Canyon Trail) of Superior", the Picket Post trail is a little more technical but just well-built. As soon as people from Phoenix realize this is their backyard, I guarantee it will see a lot more traffic. If you finish early and want some grub, stop by Los Hermanos in Superior for the amazing green/red chile burritos. Best done as two out-n-backs from the Picket Post parking lot.

8. Riding out on East Mesa on the Kaibab, AZT

Speechless. After you see the view and the singeltrack. All too often, mountain bikers only do the Rainbow Rim Trail on the west side. Big mistake. The AZ Trail offers equally stunning views with better singletrack. For a real epic, start at Sublime Pt Rd in the National Park and go to Jacob Lake (shuttle required). Or consider doing the Kaibab Monstercross.

9. Cherry Tank and Upper 50, 50 Year Trail, Tucson

Climb, climb, climb. Few people venture up to Cherry Tank at the 50 Year Trail. If you add trails like Around the Mountain, Buddha, Deer Camp, or Baby Jesus, you'll want to never leave. Plenty of b-line options for those with bigger bikes. This is the big bike mecca of Tucson.

10. Upper Javelina and Wild Mustang, Tortolitas near Tucson

Less than a handfull of people have ridden this trail since it was constructed a year ago. If you love tight switchbacks, steep techy climbs, this is a must do ride. You can do it as an out-n-back in about 3 hours, or make it into an epic loop (a GPX file would be required for any loops) into the heart of the Tortolitas.

Antelope Peak Challenges

With the forecast predicting snow and heavy rain for last Saturday, we had no choice but to post-pone the Antelope Peak Challenges one day. Instead of racing, we opted for a mellow ride on Saturday at 50 Year Trail followed by the (now) scenic drive out to Willow Springs.

Snow, water and moisture was everywhere.

This summarizes the 115-mile perspective.

Would the few hours of sleep yield a better, more rideable course? The 3am start time came early.

The thought of bailing to the 65-mile option was always in the back of my mind. After a quick stop at the warm, inviting Circle K, we continued on toward Tiger Mine Road and the singletrack that awaited us.

A wise, local endurance racer once told me that "These three things will cause me to quit a race: rain, darkness, and cold." Too bad it wasn't raining or that "wise" endurancer racer and I would have stayed in Circle K.

Photo by Scott Morris

Frozen washes (that were once impossible, sandy traps) led to fast singletrack that led us to twist around in the night. Coldness quietly left my body as I begin to wander up switchbacks. Winter gloves and layers were the trick.

Not turning on my GPS was another trick. Surprisingly, when I asked Scott the time, he said it was 6:30am and we were nearing the gasline. We flew down, often glancing at a LED light that seemed to be coming from near Bloodsucker wash. It had to be David. He started at midnight, as it turns out, he had flatted on the gasline and thereby delaying his progress.

In Bloodsucker, I fell behind for a few seconds. The wash had seen some moto action the day before and was in horrible condition. Time for a new line. I choose the side of the moto line and realized it was frozen compact. I buzzed by Scott and Max thinking they would follow. No such luck. I zoomed in and out of side washes on the frozen top soil. As I glanced up to the Galiuros, a sliver of the sun started to appear. As I continued to go faster, I would lose a little bit of that sliver of the sun that had just peeked up over the mountain. I was glad to be on a bike.

As I climbed the singletrack out of Bloodsucker, nobody was coming for a few hundred yards. I rode for a few miles as the sun was rising in the sea of saguaros. Pretty surreal. There is something about pedaling 4 hours in complete darkness only to watch the sun bathe you and the landscape around.

I was energized and ready to ride. But, I was also getting a little hot. I stripped some layers, changed my glasses, and grabbed my camera. About that time, Scott pulled up. We had a quick break to see if Max would appear. No such luck.

Photo by Scott Morris

We continued, at times through Cholla Mine Fields like this one above. Ride over one and your tire may just explode. Kaaaaabooooommmmmmmmmmmmmmm!

Before Antelope Peak proper, Scott throttled it toward the water cache. As I neared the exit of the singletrack, I heard what sounded like my name. I checked around for a bit, nothing. Must have been a cow.

Turns out it was David. He had climbed Antelope Peak and watched Scott and I ride the last bit of trail before Freeman Rd.

After refueling, we continued on to one of the best sections of the day, The Boulders.

"Carve, baby carve that singletrack," Scott yelled from behind me.

The Big Hill...aka Ripsey the highlight of the ride. Steep but surprisingly rideable during most of the uphill battle.

Followed by the best ridgeline in Arizona. Ahhhhhhhhh, Ripsey Hill.

After you top out, you bolt down a fast, switchback infested route like this

and this

I think we counted about 16 switchbacks in the last, steep descent to the road. You will have to ask us (Scott or I) in person who cleaned the most switchbacks.

Last time I was on this road, the words "Ah man, finally a dirt road. I don't have to mentally think about where to place my wheel" was uttered by my fellow rider. It summed up how I felt to see that road.

We climbed back up the Florence-Kelvin Highway to the Ripsey Singltrack, completing the candy part of the lollipop.

A lot of ground still separated us between our cars. Scott led most of the time, as my legs begin to hurt a little bit.

Photo by Scott Morris

The sunset while we were on Willow Springs Rd. Some singlespeed skills came in handy here. Stand up, put your head down and crank. Pain in the legs ensued. After many hills, the 24 HOP course powerline was in sight. We took Junebug trail until the car was finally in sight. Great ride, Scott.

This is the best singletrack century in the state of Arizona. Best part is, it is only going to get more and more singletrack....

Stats: 114 miles, 14,500′ gain, 15:47 total time. (from Scott's GPS)


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