Arizona Trail - north of Oracle, AZ
In January of '07 I was staying at the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo race venue and looking for big rides to do as I trained to do the mid-February race as a solo. I found a big ride:
North on the Willow Springs Road (dirt) to the Freeman Road (dirt) then the AZT north to highway 77 (paved) then west to the Willow Springs Road and home. I had found the intersection of the AZT and the Freeman Road on an earlier ride. I did not have any information about what the AZT is like out there, but I'd heard a rumor that at least some of it was good singletrack. So off I went on a Saturday morning in late January.
It was a really nice day; low 60s and high clouds, not much wind. I rode an hour on Willow Springs to the intersection with Freeman, then half an hour down Freeman to the AZT. The first mile and a quarter of the AZT was doubletrack. Then I found my first bit of singletrack. It was faint, marked pretty well with cairns, but sometimes only a bit of packed down grass. The routing was pretty good, but a little inconsistent. And there was a fair amount of white thorn acacia (scratchy scrub) encroaching on the trail.
All told, I was happy about it. Good experience, good adventure. After a while I came to a gate crossing, and then the singletrack became really good.
Classic bench-cut trail through Sagauro forest with big views. It was fabulous trail!
After a few miles, the trail dropped into a large wash, then the route continued downstream (though this was only evident by examining the route markings for northbound travellers). Then the route went past a picturesque desert ranch site.
From here the route was quite well-marked for a while, down a series of doubletrack ranch roads, through a gate, across a wash and onto a doubletrack heading up the wash. I followed this road up the wash for half an hour or so, then it took a right-angle turn left onto a gas-line road that climbed very steeply out of the wash. This part of Arizona is criss-crossed with these gas lines. As bike routes, they are tough since they give little regard to topography. They tend to travel straight--up every hill and down into every wash. The race course has a section of gas road with seven hills known as "the seven bitches".
I wound up riding this gas line road for 10 miles. I called it the hundred bitches. Here's a picture showing the road that I had ridden from the far horizon:
After I finally finished these bitches, I became worried about how much daylight I had left, and how much farther I might have to go to get to Oracle. From there I expected to have at least an hour's ride left to my trailer. I wound up losing the AZT route, riding another gas line road east until I found a dirt road that seemed to be the old highway (it had pavement remnants) that I followed north until it met highway 77. About a mile from 77 I passed an AZT trailhead, so it was clear that I had missed a singletrack junction somewhere. Gotta go back sometime...
©Tom Purvis, 2007-2012