Monday, September 13, 2010

Chasing that epic ride.

I rolled out this morning at 10:30. So much for leaving early. I started off on my usual Arizona Trail E loop, first taking the Loop trail to Skunk Canyon. What better way to start off a day of riding with a nearly all downhill cruise through an open canyon, that suddenly closes in on you as you round a corner? Now, down to and up Fisher Point. It's a long 1.2 mile technical climb, with something like 600 feet of elevation gain. Nothing terribly interesting, aside from grinding up the hill and looking back to a smoke plume:
Turns out it was a prescribed burn.

I was down there!

From Fisher Point, it was a nice cruise along the rim of Walnut Canyon, though it seemed much easier. I hadn't ridden this loop yet this year, which was odd, since it's one of my favorite trails. I ended up running into a trail crew doing some work on two major re-routes of the trail, bypassing a couple of really tough/scary parts. My feelgood moment of the day came from the lead guy, when he turned to everyone else and said "You wanna see hardcore? He's got no suspension, and only one gear!"

That may make me hardcore, but it doesn't mean I'm any good.

They offered to let me ride on the new section of the trail, which I turned down. It would have been cool to lay the first tire marks on fresh trail, but I didn't want to mess up their hard work by locking up my rear brake, what with the tread on my rear tire worn down. I also wanted to have a goodbye roll on that scary section. I ended up clearing it nearly perfectly, one of the few times.

It's nice to part trails with a good note.

Of course, I can't go on a ride without breaking something, it seems...
*plink!* It still held the bottle, though.

On past the Old Walnut Canyon Highway, to the Monument road, and out to Cosnino. I love these segments. It transitions from big pines, oak, and cedar, to pinyon and juniper, with open grasslands. The trail has good flow, with little climbing, and just enough rocks and loose sand to keep things interesting.

Under an old alignment of Route 66, I-40, and the railroad tracks. I always ring the bell through the tunnels, something TC and I started a while ago. It's all about the echos.

The trail on the other side loses some of its flow. It winds between trees, which become more and more densely packed. Looking through the trees, I see a corpse of a car, and decide to have a little fun:
I'm still not sure what I was trying to do.

Not long after the car, the trail takes me through a big field. Usually it's filled with sunflowers. The trail cuts through the middle of it, which always makes for some fun with my allergies. But it's late in the year, and most of the flowers have shed their petals and lost their pollen. My allergies rejoice, but not me, because this field is the end of the easy riding.

The trail takes me behind the cinder pits, through hillsides overgrown with nettles, thistles, and goathead thorns. This year is worse than last year. Nettles cling to my socks and make their way into my shoes. Thorns toss themselves across the trail, going for my tires. I ride with my fingers crossed, which makes it harder to grab the brakes, as I roll downhill into the Rio de Flag valley.

Now begins the slog uphill, as I call it. I could easily do without this section of the trail. It's mostly soft cinders, and it's mostly uphill, as you may have guessed. I ride as much as I can, which seemed to be more than I managed last year. Before too long, I wind up at the tunnel at 89:
The cinders are behind me now, the trails are made of dirt and rock now. But now, I'm faced with a question.

Where to from here?

I usually follow the loop trail to the Christmas Tree trailhead. and ride home through town, as I'm usually tired, or don't have much daylight left. But I've made it to the Winona/89 intersection faster than usual, and I still feel good. So I head up.

Up the Heart Trail, up the side of Mt. Elden, on a steep washed out trail made of loose rock shards and switchbacks. I'm not doing that again anytime soon. It was not a ride, since I pushed the bike probably three-quarters of the way. It was worth it for the views, though, and it did sap my energy, and tire me out. Now I wanted to get home, since the sun was getting low in the sky, and I had no lights. And I was out of water. On top of a mountain.

Down Sunset Trail, through the Hobbit Forest. Contemplate riding down Little Bear, just to the fire burn line, just to see, but decide against it. I'll miss that trail. Ride down Onion to the lookout road. I try one of the logjams on Onion for fun. I clear it. I try the next one. Tri may never forgive me for that, and I walk the rest of the jams. Blast down the Lookout road to the gas station on 180, and get a Sobe to get me home, and some soda for when I get home. It's all about priorities.

I couldn't see Fisher Point from the saddle on Elden, but I could see Walnut Canyon, and some of the route I took from there to get to Mt. Elden. Close enough.
It's interesting to realize I just pedaled (and hiked) from the hole in the ground over there to the mountain over here. Interesting and cool. It gives me a moment of "There's nothing I can't do!" But then I read about Noodle and her TransAmerica tour, and I come back down to Earth pretty quick. I wish I had just a bit of her stamina. And willpower.

Maybe someday.
First colors of Fall.

Mileage: 41.5, plus about 2 miles hiked.

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