Saturday, June 26, 2010

Paul's Secret Grotto.....

Entering the Superstitions

Today was the day I decided to return to the road up to the Reavis Ranch trailhead (Roger's. Trough Trailhead).  It was a mixture of experiences.  Kids kept me up late Friday night and so I woke up late and didn't get to my starting point until just before 6.

Cholla and Buttes

After parking the jeep and taking off I discovered I was able to move much faster than last year due to the suspension.  I also discovered that 2 water bottles and a hydro-pack make for a heavy load when you hit 10%+ grades.  It warmed up fairly quickly.  I only was passed by 1 car in 3 hours (a mercedes SUV).  I'd see it parked at the trailhead later and their entry in the registry said they were bound for Reavis Ranch.  More power to them,  I hope they made it up to  the pines before the heat got bad.

Canyon Side

I remember it being quite a hill when I drove it in my jeep years ago but on a bicycle it's a much different story and I confess I did some walking.  Only when it got over 10% mind you,  but there was quite a bit of that.  In fact,  there was a stretch of 25% percent near the top.  My feet slid on the dirt as I pushed my bike up it (I just don't have the quads to do that sitting down as standing is not an option on that kind of grade on dirt).

Interesting Cactus

I wanted to go over Montana Mountain and descend into Superior on the other side but the hot weather had drained a little more water than I had expected and the day was heating up so I decided to take the route I had ridden before back despite the nice man in the Jeep telling me the road stayed like this all the way to Superior.

Right around where I turned around I surprised some Mule Deer and sure enough up shot the tails to reveal the white butts of danger!  When they got to a safe distance the tails came down and all the deer felt safe again.  Kind of funny but I guess it helps to keep them all out of dangers way.  Glad I don't have a siren on my butt or a strobelight.

Yours truly.

Descending a 25% grade on dirt is best done slowly I have discovered.  Particularly when there is a switchback at the bottom of it with a drop on the other side of it.  I had a really good descent.  The suspension really helps with control heading down hills like this.  I went through the five miles that had taken me an hour to climb in under 15 minutes. 

Hey I think I can see my house way way down there in Mesa. (South Mountain just barely visible)

When the grade let up a little bit and I was crossing one of the nameless washes my "Paul Sense"  went off.  I noticed a dry stone waterfull off to my left and a narrowish canyon above it with cliff's on either side.  Usually Rock waterfalls have plunge pools around them and I thought about walking a little ways up and seeing if there was a plunge pool.

Jimson Weed, Niteshade Family...Poisonous

After hiding my bike up the wash a bit I carefullly ascended the wash keeping a wary eye out for rattlesnakes.  It was turning into a hot day and a cool shadow under a rock is just the thing for a snake on a day like today.  Fortunately I did not see any snakes but I did see plenty of deer tracks.  That's a really good sign.  I also noticed dried algae at the bottom and top of the rock waterfall I had seen.  I still had that canyon to check out and I had high hopes.

Edge of the wilderness.  No Bikes Allowed.

Arizona Trail sign

Really steep road.

Sure enough once I got up the next waterfall there was a pool of water fed by a trickle.  There was also the entrance to a very fine set of granite narrows.  I entered another world and scrambled my way up the granite slot from one pool to another until I got to a 20 foot waterfall.  I entertained the idea of turning around when I spied a crack to my right and a ledge up by the top of the waterfall with a Cactus growing out of it.  After a short consideration of how rock climbing would go with biking shoes I started the climb and discovered my Shimano mountain biking shoes actually gripped the rock pretty well.

Entrance to the Narrows of an unnamed canyon.

Having climbed the crack and stepped onto the ledge I made the mistake of looking down.  It's been about 15 years since I did any rock climbing and I confess it gave me a brief pause.  Fortunately it was a good ledge and was over it quickly.  I had high hopes of finding a pool to take a dip in to cool me down for the rest of the ride back in near 100 degree temps. 

Cactus on Ledge by Waterfall

My hopes were a little dashed when I ran into another waterfall but once again I spied a crack that I was able to chimney up and traverse over to the top.  It was not too far from the top of this waterfall that I did indeed find a small pool to take a dip and rinse all the sweat and salt off.  I also was able to wet my jersey down and my cap too.  I even got a bit chilly as the sun was thwarted in it's evil plan to bake me alive and scorche all the water out of this dry desert, by the narrow merciful canyon walls above me..

Paul's secret Grotto

I had to be careful from here though as wet shoes would undoubtedly result in a fall on this granite polished smooth by eons of monsoon and spring floods.  I was able to keep my shoes dry but still found myself almost falling into a shallow pool or two.  Going down the waterfalls was a bit interesting but I made it without a scratch.  It did occur to me in here though that sliding on my butt in lycra was a bad idea as it would likely be easy to rip the backside out of it and that would leave me with an interesting situation for the trip back.

Paul's secret coldtub

Leaving the canyon was tough as it was so pleasant inside but I knew if I didn't get going I would likely fry before I got back to the car which I did a little of.  It was definitely cooking now when I got back to the bike.  fortunately most of it was downhill but there were still some uphills left that were just big enough to get me good and heated up before reaching the top of them.

Paul's secret Grotto...

Fortunately I had learned my lesson last week and carried enough water.  I began to chug it like no tomorrow as my body went into high gear trying to cool me down and avert that terrible condition called heat stroke.  I had the definite feeling there would be no more people up this road today.  I did see one jeep near the bottom but it still would have been bad to go full stop and burn.

Back into the burning stinging scratching world.

I was really cooking when I got to the car.  I had about half a pint of water left that I chugged and then I filled a bottle from my store in the jeep and promptly doused myself  so I could cool off on the way back with the wind (the Jeep doesn't have air conditioning at the moment).  I managed to chug down another litre of warm water on the way out.  It sure felt good to have the wind hit that wet jersey.  I passed some cows on the way out and pondered on how much I am glad I am not a black cow in the middle of summer in these parts.  29 miles and 3700 feet of climbing in 100+ heat.  Not too bad for a mornings work.  Today was the next to last day of the double shake deal at sonic I found out so I enjoyed my last two shake recovery once I had returned to civilisation.

Should have parked under a tree

It stinks to be me.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Of Fat Tires, Saguaros, Pines and Thirst.

Four Peaks at Dawn

It's been awhile since I did something adventurous on a bicycle. Paul needs adventure. They found me at the bottom of the big hill we lived on when I was 5 years old having ridden my push toy to the bottom, so it was something that started early for me. The last month since the 300k in May has been pretty devoid of anything adventurous. So this week, having been working on the Dirty Mogollon Mormon Madness 205k permanent I thought perhaps it should be mountain bike oriented. There is also the fact that I decided this was the week to move all my MTB components over to the larger frame a friend of mine gave me.  It fits me better and it would need testing of course. What should I do? Well, I first thought I might try the Reavis Ranch road again but then I had a wild idea, I had heard of pine trees up by four peaks and perhaps with fat tires the road would not seem sandy as it had earlier this year when I rode it in the rain. Hmmm.

Superstitions at Sunrise

A peek at the elevation profile was pretty illuminating. The climb starts at around 2000 feet and ends up around 6000 feet in elevation. A pretty good chunk of climbing to be sure. Looking at the elevation profile mapmyride coughed up looked like their was a bunch of 10% grades. I was pretty smug, with mountain bike gearing I can handle 10%. Yep, no problem with a few 10% grades. If only it was that easy.  The way I figured it,  this was the closest you could get to Mt. Lemmon this side of the Gila.  In hindsight I think that perhaps this is a little harder.   Unlike Lemmon you get a few rests when it has some intermediate gaps in the hills but also unlike Lemmon its.... well,  I guess that's the story so lets get to it.

Me and the Saguaros

The original plan was to hit the bottom of the hill at 5 but I ended up sleeping in a bit and got there at 5:30 ish.  I was pleased to note that although my front tire was a little squishier than it was last night, it had indeed held most of it's air so I was good enough to go with a quick pump up.  I was planning on a four hour ride and had a water bottle full of maltodextrin and a hydro pack of water.  I figure I had probably 80-90 oz of liquids all told.

Saguaros above the desert

The bottom of the hill was deceptively easy. The two inch tires and suspension made the climbing much easier than when I came up here on my commuter with 28c tires. I was pedalling in the shade of the desert peaks and the morning birds sang to celebrate the cool morning but would soon be silenced as the desert went into siesta as the heat of the day forced most creatures into their dens. I would continually scare rabbits away in front of me.   The rabbits were the continuity in this ride. I scared rabbits all the way to the top despite the changing vegetation and temperatures.
I could see the sun bring the landscape to life below me as I climbed ever further up the mountain. The beauty is a nice distraction as the grades get up into the 10% range and I think I am working hard, ha.

Looking down on the desert hills and mountains

The sun has not yet reached the flat spot where I turned around earlier. I think that it's pretty easy pedalling through here and there is even a short drop as I get into the sunlight. A turn of the corner brings a rude awakening. The hill has lurked behind a corner ready to pounce and thrust upon me the first blood. I breath heavy as I climb at 11% for a bit, and then the grade goes to 13%, 15%, and then I am sucking air as hard as I can as I pedal with all my might in my granny gear up a 17% grade, I want to stand to rest my back but the back wheel spins out. A lady in a Nissan Pathfinder passes me. She looks like she is working hard. Must be tough holding that foot on the gas pedal in the air conditioned chariot she commands. She is gone in a cloud of dust. I am discouraged to see puffs of dirt further up the hill at what seems like a direct line from where I am and no flat spots. There is no end to the pain.

Four Peaks Foothills
After a coronary or two I am approaching a flat spot. At least it looks flat compared to what I am on, in reality it is a 5% grade, still, a grade where I can spin a bit is almost as good as a flat spot. Then I find a flat spot but behind it is a lengthy downhill. Ah, a rest you say? Well, yes sort of, but whatever we go down we need to climb back up again. It is disheartening to lose 300 feet of hard fought elevation and enter a valley of consecutive hills and downhills. I am starting to get warm.

Under the Four Peaks
The valley would feature two small streams and also introduce a new life zone, it is the high desert in the valley. prickly pear cacti and scrub are taking hold and here and there I see a manzanita bush. Also in the distance I can just barely make out what look like pine trees in the canyons on the north side of the peaks. At one point I think I might be hallucinating from exertion as a Mountain Biker passes me up going quite a bit faster than me, I won't see him again. I don't want to make excuses but he did have a much lower body fat than me and his team kit smacked of a guy who was a serious racer. Still, on hills like this any extra weight is a major detriment and I have at least 5-10 lbs I don't need.
Two Jeeps and 2 pickups also pass me in this section along with a quad and a motorcycle. I thought perhaps the road would be getting busy now but the only other vehicles that passed after this were 4 people on quads. It is on one of the 15% grades in here I have to break down and walk a bit to get my heart rate down but I try to get on and ride if I hear someone coming just to keep up appearances.

Stream Crossing

The going is slow and the hill less forgiving.  I have given up on counting how many times the grade tops 15%.  I do make a mental note when my bike computer shows the grade at 18%.  Hmmm,  that's a little new.  When I reach the end of a particularly steep section I re pass the group of Quads that passed me below minus 1.  I find the missing around a few more corners staring at the valley.  My lungs and arteries feel like they will burst and I conveniently pull up to chat with the him.  He tells me he has no idea how I am doing it.  All I can do is gasp and ask how much farther the top is?  He says it's about a mile.  I've climbed almost 4000 feet in the last 14 miles with several sections that sucted all the glycogen from my muscles, and maybe even the marrow from my bones for good measure.  A mile seems like forever but I have 40 minutes before the time I have set aside to turn around at and I figure even if I walked it I'd make it.  I do walk a bit,  but I ride most of it. 

Looking way down on Red Mountain and the Valley

Then, just when it seems the road keeps turning corners into the very heights of the stratosphere, there is sky above the road ahead and a pine tree comes into view.  Pain is forgotten, the air suddenly seems cooler, the mood lightens noticeably.  A picture is in order.  Maybe even a few.

Hey!  That's a pine tree!

It's taken just under 3 hours to tame this beast and there's a little time left so I turn up to the trail head in search of a good stand of pine trees.  I worked for them and by golly, I'm gonna see em!

First I see Roosevelt lake,  the guy on the quad and I could spot Saguaro lake off in the distance when we talked. Here, only a mile away I was looking at Roosevelt lake down in the distance with the sun shining strongly on it.  It is only 80 degrees up here,  I am sure it is much hotter down there.

Suffering is forgotten (momentarily)

Soon I am amid the pine trees and snapping photos to feed my own ego later, or maybe to ease my back pain with self satisfaction or something silly like that.

Pine trees!

I am a bit annoyed to find I have descended a bit to come down to these pine trees and that my legs are not too thrilled with the prospect of my having them go up another hill.  After all, this has been much more of a workout than they had planned on.

The new frame.

Painfully I claw my way back up to the crossroads to ride all the way back to the car.  After all,  Mt. Lemmon teaches us that all epic climbs once they are tamed allow us to coast all the way back right?  One would like to hope so.   In all fairness I did get to descend for a while before there were a few frustrating hills to deal with.

More Pine Trees! (Sorry,  I was just really glad to finally see those pine trees)

Typically the grades on the hills on the way back are less so, and there are lots of places to coast in between.  Even so my legs are not pleased with any climbing.  I find that suspension allows me to go faster as my wheels hug the ground much better.  Why didn't I go to front suspension sooner?

Roosevelt Lake

There is still the 300 ft. hill before the first set of really nasty grades to deal with.  The guy on the quad gives me a wave on his way by.   I continue to sweat and burn my way up the hill.  At the top two things happen,  I get to go down,  and I run out of water.  I had drained my energy bottle up the hill a ways and now I was out of water.  The extra gel in my seat bag doesn't do a lot of good without liquids to wash it down.  My biggest comfort was that it was mostly downhill from here, even if there were a few more smaller hills.

More Roosevelt Lake

Running out of water is no fun and I am wondering where my next drink will come from, seeing as I am a half hour from town and so, even when I get back to the jeep, that will not be the end of it.  I soon remember that I have left 6 gallons of water in the jeep from last weekend's campout with my sons.  It might be a little warm but at least it's wet!  Did I mention the temps were in the 90's now?  A big difference from the 80 degrees it was at the top.

Brown's peak (the northernmost of the four)

A mile or two from the jeep I am greeted by Humvee after Humvee after Humvee,  filled to the gills with tourists out for a ride up the mountain to see the best the desert has to offer.  At least they were out in the open and didn't get an air-conditioned ride to the top.  I am really, really thirsty now.  But around one more turn is the jeep.

Getting ready to drop.

Soon all the windows are open and I am wrestling the water jug over the seat and I am gulping warm water down as if it was the nectar of the gods. In the desert it is. A much better alternative to the dust of devils.

Stony Valley

The final damages would put us at 35 miles ridden with 5000 feet climbed.  Not quite a Lemmon, but not too shabby either.  It was far steeper than Lemmon in a lot of spots, and then there is the fact it is all on dirt too.  I think it's on par with Lemmon if not a bit harder due to the nature of the riding surface.

The top of the first of many nasty grades.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

What have I gotten myself into?

A section of the Dirty Mogollon Mormon Madness permanent

How do I get myself into these things?  What is it you ask?  Well, 2 years ago I recorded an account on here of my harrowing attempt at running this permanent (Dirty Mogollon Mormon Madness 200k) the first time and also my self rescue and retreat to the car with my tail wagging between my legs (thank goodness for iodine tablets).  Well, following that, the route was inactivated until I could get the time to fix it so it would be more "runnable".  It's been one of those things that has just kind of floated in my mental pool skimmer these past few years so to speak.  So, when Mike Sturgill emailed me this week asking me once again where I was at on this, it struck a chord.  My plans to run the Lonely Conquistador 300k this month were pretty much shot with my inability to train over the last month.  I was kind of sweltering in a funk and well, the email kind of gave me something to work for.  So with 2, 7 year olds in tow, an updated cue sheet, my trusty Jeep Cherokee and a map we set off to confirm the course was rideable yesterday.

My first fear is running this with Mike,  Mike is the brevet riding machine that very few folks can keep up with.  He will be coming back from a 1200k a few weeks before so maybe he will be tired.   Maybe he'll be in a smell the roses mood that day.  Maybe I'll get a mystical bionic infusion.  Perhaps the dirt will bring us onto the same level.  Who knows.  It should be interesting.

Although the course is a lot friendlier it still took me 8 hours to drive it in the car.  Of course the boys and I did ride a mile section of it that we couldn't take the car on to make sure it was rideable so that ate up an hour.  There was also the time making notes on the cue sheet.  Still,  I figure we did a good 5 -6  hours of driving.  It's going to be a long ride.

I am proud to say that although it is a lot easier,  there is still some technical riding on the route for the mountain bikers out there.  Not a lot mind you,  but there are still a few miles worth to spice up the endless dirt roads.  After we passed Stoneman lake I had to put it in 4 wheel drive a few times and I think I could have ridden my bike faster through some of the spots.  The cool thing about the course after stoneman lake though is we went more than an hour a few times without seeing anyone.  Some of the country back there is forest with wide open meadows, not a sould in sight, and a pond here and there to pretty things up. 

Past Mormon Lake lodge and soon it was back into the boonies.  The time from when we left the road by Kinnikinick lake to Pine Spring was utterly devoid of people.  Most telling was a giant tree that had fallen on the intersection between two roads and just lay there while a few tire tracks showed people having done their best to get around it.  In all fairness though one of the roads behind Stoneman lake had two downed trees on it a half mile apart just lying there for months, maybe even years, unhindered by road maintenance crews.

I enjoyed the many dells behind Hutch mountain with their fur and oak trees hugging the roadsides and filling the scenery with greenery.  This section really is one of the better kept secrets of this section of the forest I think.  I am pretty sure I'll be exhausted by this point so maybe that will be a good thing.  At long last we get to the lifesaving Pine Spring and mark the end of the course that I needed to verify.

As of 20 minutes ago I have requested the route be reactivated and am ready to gear up and give this thing a go in a month.

Sneaky son got a hold of my cell phone and figured out the camera somewhere past pine spring.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Catching up.

Red Mountain in the Morning

Ok,  it has been way to long and I apologize.  I lost my mini SD card adapter that lets me upload my cell phone pictures and the last few weeks of school are murder around our house and I haven't done a whole lot of riding lately.  I will share some thoughts about the recent riding I have done though.

On Memorial day I still had not got the Coy Mistress back from the shop but the rumor was that SRAM had finally shipped the shifter.  Anyway, no road bike points to a good day to Mountain bike.  I decided my route of choice would be a loop around the Hawes system up to Usery Pass and some combination of trails up there and then back.

Old Paint

It was chilly just after dawn but I thoroughly enjoyed the great trails going from the canal bridge back up to the Saguaro trail and then down to the Bush Highway.   I was feeling OK,  not unstoppable but pretty good.  Since I was going long I decided to forego the big climb up to Twisted Sister and get to the Wild Horse trail via a short climb on pavement. 

I actually had a roadie behind me much of the last bit of the hill which amused me greatly since my bike probably weight twice what his did and my tires were huge and knobby.  I made it to the top ahead of him and ducked behind the guard rail onto the wild horse trail.

I was having a good time going up the trail when a guy came up from behind like I was standing still and passed me saying there was another guy way back.  I didn't think I was going that slow but I guess I was.  I managed to almost make it to the top before the other guy caught me.  I passed them at the top and headed on.  I managed to find a wash without sand that was too loose I rode up so as to avoid pavement as long as possible but eventually I was forced onto the road.

View just before the place I biffed it..

The shortcut up to the pass mountain trail was every bit as sandy as folks had said it was and I ended up walking a half mile or so before it started to climb out of the wash.  It was a lung cruncher climbing up to the trail and I was going to just ride straight down into the park but decided I would just take a peek around the mountain on the pass mountain trail which was not very technical in this section.  Of course by the time I was around and had the beautiful valley underneath me I decided to do the whole enchilada.  I had to walk several times but not nearly as many as I did last time without suspension.

After I reached the saddle I walked much of the really technical section behind it that could kill a poor fellow like myself without any armor on (yeah,  serious mountain bikers wear armor,  which is not as weird as you might think as I found out).  Even so I managed to slam down hard enough to break my seat loose.  I also managed to go down and stick my hand in a cholla and lay down in a bunch of sticker/goatheads.  I got a flat in here too but I would do the pump and ride with it until I got to the picnic ramada's in Usery Park.

The kicker in this section was of course the ever flattening tire, and also the lack of water.  I was getting hot and thirsty but I knew I was close.  Eventually I arrived at the horse staging area and gulped water down to my hearts content and filled my bottles.  At a ramada just down the trail I fixed my tire.  I was pretty much shot at this point and elected to shoot down the moon rock trail in the hopes that a side trail might take me into the houseing project at the end of McDowell road so I wouldn't have to take the long way around back.  My suspicions were not unfounded and I was quickly back on pavement speeding back to my car,  thoroughly wasted.  It was around 25 miles.  3 hours and 50 minutes.  Lots of work,  little distance, tons of scenery.

Yours truly on the downhill side.

Well, there is not much else to say really, I have included a few pictures from my recent commutes plus one of my summer setup on my commuter rig. 2 bottles for drinking 1 bottle for pouring over my head. I rode the 18 miles back to the car yesterday in 107 degree heat and it seemed to work pretty good. I am sure when the humidity goes up it won't be as effective but for now it is quite passable.

Water is life in the desert heat

Canal path

Interesting storage facility off 16th street.