It’s my favorite time of year to be riding a bike. It’s not too hot, it’s not too cold, the wind is reasonably tame most days, and, best of all, the leaves are changing color.
A ride I do every year, is a ride up Waterline Road, to the Inner Basin of the San Francisco Peaks. It’s a ride that I think some people have come to expect me to do every year. It’s a long ride, with almost a vertical mile of total climbing, but I look forward to it, even after the Schultz Fire burned that side of the mountain. It’s been interesting to see the ongoing recovery. It’s also a ride that I typically do in it’s entirety only once a year. It’s just not the same without the yellows and reds and oranges.
We start off riding from the house to Schultz Pass, where the bottom of Waterline Road is. We then go up, under the Dragonspine, and wind along the ridges of the east side of the mountain, through the Schultz fire scar, and through pockets of green trees that didn’t burn. We wind up at the maintenance cabins for the city wells in the Inner Basin, where we have a few choices. Either up the steep trail to the Inner Basin, continue up Waterline to the north side of the Peaks, or down to Lockett Meadow.
I always head up to the Inner Basin first, as that is my main goal for the ride. I’ll come back down one of the lesser known maintenance roads to the cabins, then head up Upper Waterline. The grade starts off fairly light, but the last mile before the end of the road gets steeper. That combined with the thin air at 10,000 feet has me start thinking about the long downhill to come. Waterline Road dead ends at 10,200 feet, in Abineau Canyon, surrounded by avalanche scars, and in the shadow of the highest point in Arizona.
After butting on thicker gloves and a jacket, it’s fifteen miles of downhill back to Schultz Pass, then my choice of routes back home. Today I hooked up with the Arizona Trail, then retraced my steps back over Observatory Mesa and home.
I may or may not have been busy. Lots of trail days, the Taylor House Ride, and after spending a few days in the back country up on the North Rim with friends and taking well over a thousand pictures… the thought of going through them all to find the best ones to put up was a little daunting. Maybe I’ll do a North Rim photo dump, yeah?
Anyways… a few highlights up until a few weeks ago. More to follow when I pull it off the camera.
conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.
When normal people go camping off their bike, they take all their lightweight gear, compress it into an impossibly small space, strap it to a lightweight bike, and ride, all the while trying not to complain about how the weight changes the handling of the bike. It’s called “bikepacking.”
I go a different route. I throw all my camping stuff at a Big Dummy, and ride. It doesn’t change the handling, nothing’s super compressed, and it’s got plenty of room for extra stuff like trail building gear, extra water, marmots, and tree stumps. Sure, the bike is heavy to begin with, but you don’t really notice the extra weight. (at first…)
This past Saturday, the 19th, there was a trail day up on Sunset, up on Mt. Elden. I try to ride a bicycle to as many trail days as I can, but I also enjoy sleeping in on the weekends. So, as a compromise, I end up trying to camp out the night before nearby the work site. It’s a great arrangement. I get to sleep outside in the hammock, sleep in, take my time waking up and having breakfast, and then go build trail. Everyone wins!
So, I loaded up Stitch with all the fixings of a trail day campout: My usual complement of camping gear, an LPG stove because I can’t use my wood stove due to fire restrictions, boots, a hardhat, a soft hat, my trail day backpack with rock hammers and chisels and a saw, and extra water. We rode up the Arizona Trail to Schultz Pass, and from there we went up the backside of Sunset trail to Sunset Peak, where I found a great pair of trees well off the main trail. I hung the hammock, cooked dinner, and watched the stars come out in the hammock, as the coyotes and elk and wind made the music of the night.
Click to embiggen.
The highest point of my ride, around 8,800 feet.
Camp all set up, with Stitch in guard mode.
No good view of the sunset, but I can watch the light fade on the ridge opposite.
How is this safer than my alcohol stove?!
The Moon showing off a little Earthshine, with Venus low and to the right.
The next morning…
I woke up to the Sun in my eyes. This was as planned, as I purposefully hung my hammock so that the Sun would hit me in the face as it rose. It’s a big bright warm gentle alarm clock.
An hour later, I was packed up and bombing down Sunset. The meeting point was at the bottom of Red Onion, a tight, techy social trail with logjams, narrow gaps, and tight turns, and I was a little curious if Stitch would fit. He did, but only just. That silver bar on the left side of the bike? That’s my wide loader, and it’s bent now. Aside from that, we made it down Red Onion without incident.
People arrived, breezes were shot, and trail was worked. The section of Sunset trail we were working on was heavily eroded, due to poor layout. We couldn’t really re-align the trail here, so we put in some huge drains in the worst erosion spots, and improved drainage further up the hill. The Flagstaff Hotshots crew was there working, which helped immensely, many thanks to them.
After the trail work, and the consumption of much post-work pizza, (Mmmm Fratelli’s…) I had a choice to make. I could take the easy way and ride down Lookout Road to get home, or I could essentially retrace my steps and ride back up Red Onion, up Sunset over all our freshly done work, and down the steep other side, adding a few miles and a lot of steep climbing to my ride.
I can’t do anything easy, so up I went. My phone was on point with motivation, as it played My Silver Lining, by First Aid Kit, one of the lyrics being “I won’t take the easy road.” For how heavy Stitch is, between bike and cargo, he climbs pretty well. I did my part to pack in the fresh dirt. Then, because I’m a glutton for punishment, I made the climb up the side of Observatory Mesa to take the Loop Trail home, rather than ride through town.
I loved every minute of it.
Ultimately, this was another good shakedown ride for Stitch and I. I have a better idea of how the bike handles technical singletrack with a load, I should leave the wideloader at home, and I think I’ll trim the front fender some, as I popped some zip ties as it hung up on a drop. I know I wouldn’t have enjoyed the ride as much on a shorter, lighter, more normal bike with the same load.
The experiment continues.
I hear a voice calling
Calling out for me
These shackles I’ve made in an attempt to be free
Be it for reason, be it for love
I won’t take the easy road
Work has been rather slow of late, so I’ve been taking the opportunity to get off work early and do some riding. Yesterday, Henry and I tested out the newly embiggened 89A from the Airport to the top of the Switchbacks at Oak Creek Canyon, now with 100% more shoulder! That was fun, save for a few close calls with cars. (Why were you driving on the shoulder at speed?!?!) But, to be honest, if I had known that I was going to get off as early as I did yesterday, I would not have ridden Henry.
Between a severe lack of moisture, and the usual high spring winds, fire season is starting early this year. I’m expecting restrictions, forest closures, things that limit my access to those trails I love. And, I’ve not done as much mountain biking the past two years as I would have liked. So, I’m taking the chance to get out and hit the trails as often as I can, when I can, while I can. That, and it’s harder to get hit by a car on singletrack.
So today, I suited up the Pretty bike, and hit up Secret, which is a trail I (Shamefully) haven’t ridden for well over a year.
It was everything I love, I remember, and I’ve missed.
After the descent (Rush’s 2112 works flawlessly for the trail from tip top to bottom, and keeps meshing with the character of the trail if you turn left onto Pipeline and take Lower Moto.) I hooked up with the Arizona Trail up to Schultz Pass, and took Schultz Creek down to the Y. From there, it was a leisurely, low energy ride through town to home.
Don’t burn the forest down, everyone. Be careful out there.
Take it easy.
Cyclists see considerably more of this beautiful world than any other class of citizens. A good bicycle, well applied, will cure most ills this flesh is heir to ~ Dr K.K. Doty