Sunday, January 28, 2007

Big Adventure Lap

On Friday I did a ride with some of my friends from the local area, seeing a bit of secret trail called "Painter Boy". Reminded me of home: hidden trail entry, a hard to follow trail with some really nice sections and some insane routing. Several fences to cross. It was fun, but with flaws. Then I ran to Catalina on the road bike, flogged myself pretty hard for a couple hours so I could go to the library (that's livin large baby).

Saturday I was a little worked, but there was a long ride I'd been pining to do in the tradition of my favorite rides from home: taking off right from the front door and riding many miles including whatever but at least some singletrack. My plan was to ride north the 10 or 12 miles on the Willow Springs Road to the Freeman Road (both dirt) then Freeman for about 5 miles east to the intersection with the Arizona Trail. Then take the AZ trail north all the way to Oracle, then west on hwy 77 to my intersection with Willow Springs Road and home to the POD. I figured it would be at least 45 miles, maybe 65.

Off I went at 10:15. Plenty of clothing, plenty of water, full bottle of HEED, flask full of hammergel, camera, the works. I spent 1 hour getting to the Freeman Road, then probably another half hour getting to the AZ Trail. Perfect.

The AZ Trail starts with a doubletrack bit. I followed carsonite signs for a little over a mile, then singletrack started. Wahoo! It was narrow and very untravelled. At first the routing was a little strange. It would start switchbacking off a ridge, down around a couple turns traversing nicely, then boom staight down the hill. But I was having fun. Seemed to be heading a little too east, when I'd been expecting to head straight south toward Oracle, but I went with it.

It was good. I was having fun. I ran into a few places where the trail was hard to follow, and I encountered some jumping cactus (not a myth):

But I was having fun. Then the trail got really cool and started winding through Saguaro Forest.

I whooped and hollered. Not a single track other than bovine, and great trail.

Finally this thing switchbacked it's way down into a big wash, and I followed carsonite signs carefully to go right past this classic old desert ranch site:

I climbed hard out of that little basin, got onto a doubletrack which I followed for quite some time. Then I got a bit more fun singletrack that took me into another wash. The way was carefully signed across the scrubby wash bottom to a sandy doubletrack that went up the wash. About the time I left the ranch house, I started seeing some foot tracks--boots or shoes that had circle patterns on both heel and ball. I followed those tracks all the way to the wash road, then followed them up the wash for perhaps 3 miles.

Eventually, the AZT carsonite signs directed me and circle-foot to take a left, south onto a gasline road.

There are straight-as-a-rod gasline roads out here all over the place. The 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo course has a gasline bit that is known as "the seven bitches" because it has seven hills. Since the gasline roads don't even attempt to countour, they just throw the rises and falls of the land right at you.

Well, the gasline road I got on as part of the AZT was my destiny for several hours. It was the hundred and fifty bitches. Check this, the road you see to the horizon is road I have been on, and will be on for another half an hour when this was taken:

I had been congratulating myself for being a pretty clever SOB following these obscure trail markings through miles and miles of desert that I'd never seen before. But now I started feeling like a tiny piece of dust in a windstorm. My HEED was almost gone. They day was stretching into the far part of the afternoon. And this thing seemed destined to go on for a long while. After a while I stopped even watching for AZT signs and started watching for signs of civilization. I wanted to get to Highway 77 so I could just pedal in a direction that I knew would take me back to the POD. I wanted dinner. And a comfortable place to sit, and some gatoraide. And a motrin.

Long story short, I found my way off the damn gasline roads onto a graded gravel road. That took me past a very guady trailhead for the AZT (so apparently I did miss a singletrack departure) but I got onto my desired hwy 77. I climbed for about 20 minutes, then road flat pavement with a mile headwind for another 20, then got onto the Willow Springs Road with a mile tailwind. Four miles from the POD I drank my last water. The sun was just touching the horizon when I rolled up to the lovely, lovely POD.

Dinner tasted GOOD.

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