Saturday, December 31, 2011

Arizona Roadtrip!

2009 was my first visit to Phoenix, AZ with a bike.  My wifes family has a house that's, fortunately, only a 10 minute bike ride to South Mountain park.  It's like being at a ski in/ski out condo right on the mountain.  2 years ago I said, "I'll be back. Next time, though, I think I'll have to nab the car for a day to check out some other riding areas around Phoenix."

Needless to say when Christmas rolled around this year and there was talk of an AZ road trip, I said "Sign me up!"

 I managed to get in over 12 hours of riding over 4 days there.  Not too shabby. The house was the closest pedal to the Mormon Trailhead, which is one of the tougher trails on the north side of the mountain.  It's rocky, it's steep, and it has some big moves.  Loose rocks, too.  Last time I was out here, I  went up and down Mormon a few times.  On this trip, however, I only climbed it once and wasn't on it again.  No offense, Mormon Trail.  I will definitely see you again.

I did have to stop at the top for a glamour shot of my latest ride, the carbon fiber Carbine from Intense.  Such a sweet bike.  Dare I say, Intense took my favorite bike ever, made it lighter and snappier and stiffer?  Just might have a winner on our hands with this one!
 Mormon  Trail intersects the world famous South Mountain National Trail.  National is good stuff.  On the eastern side of the park, it's a series of ups and downs, washes and technical rock gardens.

I climbed National to a trail that I was introduced to by the downhill shuttlers on my last visit.  The Geronimo Trail.  I think Geronimo is a new favorite trail.  It's steep, it's fast, it's chunky and technical, and it's full of small drops and launches.  It's good stuff.

 The next day, I did basically the same ride but started in a different location.  From the house, I can take a canal path all the way to the eastern side of the mountain.  There was a plantation along the way.  Is that Palm trees?

From there, a sandy wash up the middle of the park.
 Then more climbing on National Trail.  I love that trail, too.  Good stuff.
 Then, of course, more Geronimo Trail!
 Rocky steep, goodnesss.

 I did not come out of this one unscathed.  This is where I missed a 2' slab step up on a climb.  It's just a flesh wound, really, primarily paint.  One of the goals of this trip was to put the Intense Carbine thru the ringer out of the gate.  That, I did.

As luck would have it, fellow Redstoner Lee H was visiting family in Scottsdale, which is surrounded by McDowell regional park.  He offered up a guided tour on some of the riding he hits regularly in AZ.  I could not say no.  I also could not say no to Polibertos Taco Shop for breakfast.  Mmmmm, good.

McDowell park was completely different than South Mountain.  The terrain was less technical and definitely more rolling with longer, gentler climbing.  The trails saw seemingly less use with better maintenance, too.  Groomers.  But still great terrain for riding.  Hardtail 29er was all I was thinking.

On the backside of the park, we caught a view of Fountain Hills.  Named so because of this retirement communitys landmark, the worlds largest water fountain.  Something like a 200' water fountain in the middle of the desert doesn't make a lot of sense to me.  Seems kinda wasteful and extravagant, doesn't it?

The backside of the park had a little tighter singletrack, too.  A lot of it was fall line-esque, but made for some fun riding.

The views were outstanding.  See the radio towers in the pic?  We went up and over Bell Pass, to the right of the towers, and back around to the main trailhead.  It was a great ride, about 3.5 hours in 70 degrees and sun.  Oh yes.

Our last day in AZ and back to S. Mt.  We drove up to the top to check the views.  It was cool to see a paraglider take off from right where we were standing!

I had always wanted to go down Telegraph Pass, which was reputed to be uber gnar.  I started the day with a quick but steep climb up Ranger.

At the top, Ranger connected with National, which was more of a ridgeline trail at this point.  Very cool views.
Sorry, no pics of Telegraph, but it was super gnar.  I left some skin and blood on that trail, even walked about 5 times on the descent.  If you go, bring a big bike, lotsa skills and balls, and maybe even a little body armor.  It was that good.  Petroglyphs at the bottom, too!
Originally, I had decided to wrap back around the mountain on the rolling hills of Desert Classic.

BUT...  I decided to make better use of time with a 45 minute hike a bike instead.  This way, I could get back to the top of the ridge and hit Geronimo one last time.
The hike up Corona de Lomas actually wasn't too bad.  There were a few rideable sections amidst the walking.  Outstanding scenery in every direction made the hike a memorable one.
And it was all worth it for one last run down Geronimo.
And another run at the canal bike path.
If you get to Phoenix and like the kind of riding that we like, definitely get yoself to South Mountain.  You will not be dissapointed.  Especially if it's winter in CO and 75 and sunny out there!


LosingGround said...

Next time you go to South Mtn please remember this - Holbert. Geronimo is fast and fun yes, but Holbert will really challenge you tech skills. And if you want the most uber gnar challenge do yourself a favor and ride Goat Camp. It's way out in the West Valley in the White Tanks, but it is a rewarding rite of passage.

Next time take me with, I know every trail in AZ. -Aaron from AZ.

redstone said...

Holbert is a great trail! I rode it last year with all of the dh shuttlers! They were surprised that it was all rideable on a 5" bike ;)

Geronimo was a good way to end up S. Mt. due to it's proximity to where we were staying. I'd love to ride Goat Camp, but S. Mt. is accessible via bike so it's extra attractive. Rode Old Man last year, I found that to be damn good.

redstone said...