Saturday, November 5, 2011

A week late, but whatever. Fall colors!

I bet you thought I forgot about that annual fall colors ride I seem to do every year?

Well, I didn't forget about the ride, I just forgot about the blog. Too much work to be done, and hanging out with my sister, who was up here for the week.

I know, shame on me.

As with last year, I thought I had largely missed the color changing. This year, between an early cold snap that zapped a lot of trees, and not having a chance to really ride in the woods in the fall until last weekend, I cut it pretty close. I still managed to find some color, even if it was a bit sparse. That's the great thing about nature... no year will be like the next.

Like last year, I headed out south on the Arizona trail, hoping to at least make it to Marshall Lake.
Aspens on the rim of Sandy's Canyon.

Taking a break and looking back towards town from a cliff at Sandy's Canyon, across from Canyon Vista Campground.

I heard these big guys take off from the airport, about 6 miles away.

Marshal Lake!

I was feeling pretty good at this point, so I decided to press on over Andersen Mesa. the same as last year. However... one thing I didn't write about last year was how horrible the trail is across Andersen Mesa. It starts out nicely, as you climb from Marshal Lake up to NPOI (One of the few operating optical interferometers in the world. Check it out!) on a trail that is technical and fun.
It mellows out as you ride along the perimeter fence of the observatory, and past Prime Lake, a small sinkhole lake. The trail stays smooth and level as you swing right up to the edge of the mesa, overlooking Lower (dry) and Upper Lake Mary, a great spot to take a break and snack.

From there on, though, it becomes a frustrating, post-holed, rock-studded cowpath at worst, and ties in to forest service roads that aren't much better at best. I rode it last year, and while it was pretty in places, it was nine miles of sort of boring not-fun. This year, I tried it again to see if it had been improved at all. Unfortunately, it had not. The only saving grace of this segment is a rocking descent off the mesa on the other end down to Lake Mary Road. A mile of sweet flowy packed gravel singletrack.

At the bottom, I was faced with the choice of ride home along the road, or follow the Arizona Trail a bit further. I was feeling pretty good, and after having forced myself across the mess of a trail on Andersen Mesa, I was hoping for some fun trail riding before the 20 miles of pavement to get home.

So I crossed the road like a good chicken, and set wheel on some new-to-me Arizona Trail, which did not disappoint. I wished I brought lights so I could keep riding. As it was, I got about 20 minutes down the trail, nearly ran into a deer (Who I yelled at for stopping in the middle of the trail) and explored part of an old railroad grade.
The Peaks from my turnaround point.

I backtracked to the road, put Tri in the tall gear, and cruised on home. All said, I put in about 45 miles or so last Saturday. I want to ride more of the AZT south, because from the taste I got, it seems sweet. I may have to do some bike packing to do it right.

That will have to wait until next year, though, because if you fast-forward a week to today...
It snowed... and we got a puppy. Named Su.

Also, because I'm a dink and forgot to post about this earlier (Like... when I actually did it) check out my first excursion into the Inner Basin since the Schultz Fire.
Inner Basin colors 2011

Mileage: ~4 or so.

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