Apr 20, 2015

When it's hot in Arizona, you find water.

I feel pretty lucky to live where I do. Sure, I can list off plenty of things that might be a negative about Arizona or Phoenix, but if I think about last weekend it's easy to focus on the positives.

A. I haven't had the heat or AC on in my house since last October. I open the windows at night and let the cool air in. Then in the morning I shut everything and by the time I get home from work the house is in the 60's still. (That won't last through summer, but I'm happy to still get away with it in late April)

B. From my front door I can ride to the trailhead of a mountain preserve with well over 100 miles of mountain biking, hiking or if you have one, horseback riding. Sure, it gets old, but if that's my only complaint about my giant riding area a mile from home in the middle of the 5th largest city in the US, then I should just let it go.

C. In well under an hour I can be on a lake, river or creek enjoying the water. In just over an hour I can use 4x4, a mountain bike or a dirt bike to get to an area remote enough that I know I'll see no one.

So, this was a C. sort of a weekend. The spot we were headed to can get have a few other trucks on holiday weekends, but this early in the year it should be quiet.

On Saturday after doing some riveting chores we hopped on the motorcycle. The saddle bags were loaded with ice, water and food. When you aren't camping overnight it's easy to bring too much unnecessary stuff just for fun. The bike did great in the dirt despite being an utter pig!! 2up riding is always dicey on dirt, but after a bit even the sand washes were manageable with enough throttle.
When we got to the crossing it was FLOWING. A lot. I know the river bed is rocks so that's a plus, but when it's moving so fast and deep I knew there was no chance of crossing without dropping the bike. This isn't a, drop it in the river and not worry too much, sort of bike. So we just went down the old boat launch of ol horseshoe lake and put our feet in the water and enjoyed some sandwiches.

 photo Verde 001.jpg Afterwards we road over to the dam. It wasn't flowing over the top, but when it does you can imagine that the little walking path beneath the "lip" feels like you're getting barreled in a wave. On smaller dirt bikes, you can actually ride down the path in front of my bike and cross the damn that way. It's an alternative to the deep water crossing down stream.  photo Verde 006.jpg The small bit of Grey colored Concrete on the far side is the "ramp" you have to ride up on the other side. It's not difficult, but certainly not for the new rider either.  photo Verde 009.jpg So, after some more exploring and getting a bit stuck in some soft sand, did I mention this sucker is heavy, we headed back home. Horseshoe lake always looks about like this. It goes up and down pretty regularly.  photo Verde 004.jpg

We decided to head back the next day in "Goose." He is a little better in deep water than a bike. The water was pretty deep, but still within what I'd call doable. The issue at this crossing, the deepest of 4, was that the water was moving so fast that it made the truck slide a bit as we crossed. That's a big red flag. Thankfully, I had the prettier half on dry land with a phone and a SPOT GPS just in case it didn't work out. Also, good to have your winch or a tow strap ready to go. (And no seat belt on in case it flips or gets swamped.  photo Verde 055.jpg This other crossing is long, so the pucker factor of committing to it is high. Of course, the wider a crossing given the same river, the more shallow it has to be, so it's not too bad. In a still section like this you just worry about MUD. The river is slow here and therefore could deposit all of the silt it's carrying. Again, I knew this area so I knew it "shouldn't" be too bad.  photo Verde 082.jpg
Don't splash the photographer if they are holding your camera. If not, send a nice wave their way. It's a sign of "thanks" in many cultures. (Cultures I haven't found yet, but I'm sure they are out there)

 photo Verde 089.jpg Making some friends along the road.  photo Verde 011.jpg It was nice to see no tire tracks on this side of the river. When the water is lower a lot more people attempt the crossing. It's never "crowded" over here, but sometimes you see another truck or two. Notice the cactus version of: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯  photo Verde 012.jpg Some of the cactus were fat (Denoting they are full of water) some were looking sort of like they had too much skin! I'm not sure, but I wonder if they look like this after being fat with water and starting to dry out??? photo Verde 013.jpg

Parked under the Sheep Bridge. In some of the pics you can see the trestle of an old bridge. That was the actual wooden bridge built by the shepherds to move the heard from the high to lowlands. The current one was put in place by volunteers. "On the banks high above the river stands a replica of the Verde River Sheep Bridge. The Flagstaff Sheep Company and the Howard Sheep Company constructed the original bridge to minimize the loss of sheep when crossing the river. The bridge was started in 1943 and finished in 1944 at a cost of $7,277. The material used came from an Arizona mine and from a railroad line. On November 21, 1978, Sheep Bridge was entered into the National Register of Historic places. Sheep Bridge is the gateway to the west side of the Mazatzal Wilderness."  photo Verde 016.jpg  photo Verde 017.jpg Here are a couple of pics of the old bridge:
Seems safe!

 photo Verde 039.jpg Old next to the new:  photo Verde 030.jpg You don't have to jump off the rope swing, but it's always something I have to do.  photo Verde 024.jpg  photo Verde 025.jpg Splat...  photo Verde 026.jpg Several hundred Swallow's nests were under the bridge. They spent most of the day fending off larger birds that got to close to their homes.  photo Verde 028.jpg  photo Verde 038.jpg  photo Verde 032.jpg Time to head back. This was a mini trip. Hour and 20 out, stay for an hour and then head back to get stuff done at home. On the way back I had to stop at get a shot of this Crested Saguaro. Very rare and very pretty. "The rare crested saguaro is an anomaly in the cactus world. These are mature cactuses that begin to grow in a broad fan shape instead of continuing to develop a characteristic long trunk and curving limbs. Botanists don’t know what causes a saguaro to develop a crest. About one in 150,000 saguaros develop this unusual growth."  photo Verde 041.jpg  photo Verde 042.jpg Either I'm getting taller.... or the world is... sinking....  photo Verde 066.jpg This one seemed even a bit deeper. Of course it looks deeper in pics because the upstream side will always have more water hitting the truck do to the flow. That moment you no longer feel any sideways slippage and you know the worst is over.  photo Verde 068.jpg Sure, you don't want to outpace your bow wave, but when it's flowing this hard the wave constantly gets washed away so it's not flowing in front of you quite like you'd hope. It's best to just stay at a speed that keeps the initial wave out front and not swamping you engines fan. (Yes, you can remove the fan belt for a water crossing so it's not spinning and therefore doesn't break or cause damage)  photo Verde 069.jpg Next up was the shallow, but slightly muddy one. In water this deep, that's still, at least you know you can always get out and work to get unstuck at "some" leisure since the truck wont be barrel rolling down stream!  photo Verde 075.jpg The Horseshoe Dam from the other side today.  photo Verde 046.jpg  photo Verde 045.jpg A little view of the walkway below.  photo Verde 047.jpg After that we headed on home. Sunburnt and happy. Doing laundry and housework to get ready for a week in the office just doesn't compute after a day like this. ....and once again, you've wasted yet another completely good part of your day reading this. Will you ever learn.  photo Verde 063.jpg

Apr 13, 2015

Black Canyon Trail, AZ Bikepacking

We decided to get out and do some bikepacking. I've ridden multiple day rides, but always with a truck in support. I had been spoiled. It was time to see what living off the bike was like and sort out my setup.
We decided to take our time doing a trail that, if in a hurry, could be done in 1 day. We parked the truck in Mayer after dropping my car near Rock Springs in Black Canyon City.

 photo Black Canyon Trail 002.jpg We decided that getting away from the highway and finding a nice camp spot was the only order of business for the time left until dark.  photo Black Canyon Trail 004.jpg This first section of the BCT is fantastic. Flowing, smooth and basically empty! I assumed that this section would be less used and maybe less improved. I was wrong. Every turn was made with a mountain bike in mind. Even with all of the gear on our bikes. They rode great. I think we were both impressed at how little the extra gear and weight impacted the riding.  photo Black Canyon Trail 005.jpg Not a bad little camp on the BCT. It was a cold night, but not so cold as to be miserable. Just cold enough to really want a nice little fire!  photo Black Canyon Trail 006.jpg The next day we got up at an extremely lazy hour. After coffee and breakfast it was time to start cruising. Here is the first water stop along the way.  photo Black Canyon Trail 011.jpg The water was sufficiently clean for "pumping" if you have a filter. This was so early in the days ride that we just kept on cruising.  photo Black Canyon Trail 013.jpg We were yelling back and forth as we rode about how awesome this section was. Something about morning air, winding flowing trail and flowers everywhere. It did not suck.  photo Black Canyon Trail 015.jpg  photo Black Canyon Trail 017.jpg Lots of little shelf sections and occasional tight turns. As soon as you build a lot of speed, be careful, there are some turns that it would hurt to blow!  photo Black Canyon Trail 019.jpg So many flowing turns.  photo Black Canyon Trail 023.jpg This little guy was hanging out one moment and completely disappeared the next. Quite fast! What is it? http://www.reptilesofaz.org/Snakes-Subpages/h-s-grahamiae.html  photo Black Canyon Trail 024.jpg Everything was in various states of bloom.  photo Black Canyon Trail 026.jpg  photo Black Canyon Trail 028.jpg  photo Black Canyon Trail 029.jpg We stopped at Bumble Bee/Crown King road. Another stock tank for both cattle and wild game.  photo Black Canyon Trail 031.jpg So many different blooms.  photo Black Canyon Trail 033.jpg  photo Black Canyon Trail 035.jpg  photo Black Canyon Trail 036.jpg  photo Black Canyon Trail 037.jpg The terrain changes quite a bit as you descend. The temperatures ascend with every mile too!  photo Black Canyon Trail 038.jpg Cactus can grow in the strangest of places.  photo Black Canyon Trail 039.jpg Good ol Frank Burns "Bland Mine." No, I have no idea who he is.  photo Black Canyon Trail 040.jpg We decided to turn around.  photo Black Canyon Trail 041.jpg Water, shade? Time for a quick side trip for a break.  photo Black Canyon Trail 043.jpg  photo Black Canyon Trail 044.jpg Sure, it's too early for lunch, but that didn't stop me from eating my first lunch...  photo Black Canyon Trail 047.jpg  photo Black Canyon Trail 048.jpg Time to hit the trail again.  photo Black Canyon Trail 052.jpg  photo Black Canyon Trail 054.jpg  photo Black Canyon Trail 053.jpg So many switchbacks. The great news is that since this trail was built by mountain bikers they are all ridable. I didn't say easily, but any that I put a foot down on, I knew it was because I failed. Not the trail. haha.  photo Black Canyon Trail 055.jpg We stopped at Black Canyon and pumped water. It was in the 80's at this elevation so I was running low on water. It's nice to be able to refill no matter where you are. You can see the trail switching it's way back up the side of the canyon.  photo Black Canyon Trail 057.jpg So many great views. It's nice to take this ride easy. A head down "training" ride at full speed along here would mean I'd miss most of the views.  photo Black Canyon Trail 058.jpg Lots of these along the route. Much nicer than opening and closing gates. A couple have a slat or two missing so be careful. Rusted steel can do a lot more than just cut you and there are no access roads nearby to have help show up.  photo Black Canyon Trail 061.jpg We were in Saguaro territory.  photo Black Canyon Trail 063.jpg Turn left at the boots if you're riding north. Right if you're heading south. ;-)  photo Black Canyon Trail 064.jpg The Agua Fria river. This will do nicely for a second nights camp spot.  photo Black Canyon Trail 067.jpg There were little "cotton" puffs blowing around and covering the water's surface. Thankfully allergies were no worse than normal for this time of year.  photo Black Canyon Trail 074.jpg We filled up our water supply again. Jumped in. Then promptly switched to Whiskey. :-)  photo Black Canyon Trail 075.jpg There were 4 or 5 of these doing some pretty good fishing next to camp. I've heard the name of them before, but I couldn't remember it.  photo Black Canyon Trail 081.jpg After finding a big scorpion under a rock in one spot, we decided to move a few feet away to build a fire. (To another spot where there were surely more of them anyway) Not a bad day on the bike!  photo Black Canyon Trail 083.jpg When you hear something right next to you making a lot of noise at night, it's always nice to see it's just a frog.  photo Black Canyon Trail 091.jpg We listened to them croak the entire night. I tried to pretend it was a white noise machine. A very annoying white noise machine. Back on the trail. We had just a few miles of climbing to get back to the car.  photo Black Canyon Trail 092.jpg In just a couple minutes you go from at the rivers edge to looking down on it pretty far. Still, when you are 1 mile into your ride, the climb is easy. In summer, after 20 miles of riding it's not quite as easy...  photo Black Canyon Trail 093.jpg The last gate ramp... It was another great trip. Nice to have my bikepacking setup more dialed in. I'm ready for a longer trip!  photo Black Canyon Trail 096.jpg

Oh, did I forget to mention that when I posted that we'd been dealing with flats all throughout the ride a buddy saw it, texted me to see where my car was and left a 6 pack of some nice Oscar Blues Pinner under the car. I had two different people comment as we road that morning that there was "A car with some sodas or beer under it."
Yes, as silly as a breakfast cylinder was to have after that ride, it was awesomely good and cold from the night air. Thanks buddy!