Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday Morning Ride: Brown Canyon, Singlespeed

Just about done with the cold, but I took it easy on the initial climb. In the back of my mind, I harbored the hope that maybe my time would be a pleasant surprise, that in some counterintuitive less-is-more Zen fashion I'd get a faster climb with less effort. Nope: 9:40. Less is less, only more is more. Got it?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Recuperative Ramble in Brown Canyon

Friday morning rolled around and I still didn't have a workable plan. I had intended to head out to the Ramsey Well area west of the Whetstones and map out the old "pack trail" that leads to the abandoned homestead in Shellenberger Canyon. With a few cairns and other improvements, the trail could be an excellent route to Apache Peak.

Nothing wrong with that plan, except today's forecast for winds gusting to 40mph. With the head cold not quite gone, it'd be miserable. A walk would be nice, but I'd want some shelter from the wind...hell, why not just do the old-lady loop in the canyon?

Manzanita Blossoms

I slipped on my Vibram foot gloves and set off from the trailhead. Wind was already up, but as I got further down the trail the natural windbreaks attenuated it to just a fretful breeze. I set a quick pace to keep warm, and actually started to feel pretty good. About a mile in, a couple of mountain bikers passed me, causing a strong twinge of envy. Damn. I should have ridden today, I'm feeling pretty good. And I could do a helluva lot better than those guys. I jogged a few steps in the choppy, balls-of-the-feet stride necessitated by the Vibrams, and a thought occurred:

I'm almost as fast as they are.

Without pushing too hard, I found that a scout pace of alternating sprints and fast hiking sufficed to keep my prey in sight and even narrow the gap. When I reached the junction with the Pomona Mine Trail, the bikers were taking a trailside breather. I pushed on and made it to within a tenth of a mile of Ramsey Road before they caught up again.

Completed the 5-mile loop in a touch over an hour. I rarely run, so I had some tightness in my calves from the unaccustomed movement, but was energized by the impromptu game. So this is why dogs chase bikes...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Rosemont AZT Trailhead to I-10

Although I was busy inspecting the bike for damage and brushing the twigs and leaves of a demolished packrat midden off my clothes, I still had time to ask myself, "Well, how did I get here?" The immediate answer was by blowing a switchback turn at the bottom of a steep downhill. The deeper cause was the usual one: hubris.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Brown Canyon: "You Too"

Singlespeed Rat Ride of the familiar hometown trail. Today was the first warm day in a while, and traffic in the canyon was heavy. Mailboxes to gate was 8:23 (meh), which I pledge to improve as I practice my shiftless skills.

Most of the bikes I encountered were riding counter-clockwise, so I pulled off and let them by in order not to break their momentum riding uphill. One rider rewarded my courtesy with a smart-aleck remark about my helmetlessness, saying "Living dangerously..." I was nonplussed, but muttered "You too." If he heard, I wonder if he knows what I meant.

Amy suggested a response from the Terminator menu. Heh. Tempting. I'm betting that his car was the Subaru at the trailhead with the Earth First! stickers on it. That slogan, and Gas Sucks-Ride a Bike strike me as incongruous messages for bumper stickers.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Three Bridges South

The Arizona Trail south of Three Bridges is probably what most riders have in mind when they think of "cross-country mountain biking:" swoopy, flowing singletrack with few serious obstacles beyond some mild climbs, and an occasional rock or trailside cactus. I took the geared 29er, but would have been just as comfortable on the 26" singlespeed.

Easy doesn't necessarily mean boring. About two miles from the trailhead the route crosses I-10. Underneath I-10, via a concrete culvert-tunnel. At the midpoint of the culvert, there's a skylight of sorts; a drain grate that must open out somewhere in the desert median of the highway.

South of the interstate, the trail wanders vaguely south and west through corrugated desert terrain before crossing highway 83. West of 83 and north of Sahuarita Road it staggers from barrel cactus to stunted tree to prickly pear along a drunken cow path. Soon enough, it pops across the pavement and heads into the foothills of the northern Santa Ritas.

I kept waiting for my luck to run out, for the trail to become rocky and difficult like some of the stuff further south. But smooth hardpack prevailed.

At a large cattle pond I stopped to watch some swifts dive and skim the surface of the water. Tried for a picture, but they aren't called "swift" for nothing. Ocotillos are more cooperative subjects, so I took a shot of one of those instead.

I covered 15 miles in 2-1/2 hours, reaching a gully crossing WNW of Blacktail Tank where it appeared that the trail was going to finally get down to business. Since it was lunchtime, I decided to make that my turn-back point. Sat on a large, flat rock and ate a banana, some cookies and a cheese stick.

The return trip was faster, owing to the generally downhill trend of the trail: My lunch rock was at 4400 feet elevation, while Three Bridges parking is a thousand feet lower. Stats for the day: 29.6 miles and about 2600 climbing-feet roundtrip.

Driving toward home on Marsh Station Road I passed through a low, well-watered bosque-y area where spring was starting to take hold. Emerald-green fuzz carpeted the mud in the shade of skeptical, bare mesquite trees. I stopped and took a picture for no reason other than to record that amazing green. When I got home, I found this playful shadow in one of the pics--looks to me like stick-man Tai-Chi.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Three Bridges - Pistol Hill Shopping Shuttle

OK, so I didn't have much luck hunting down roadies on Old Spanish Trail, but other than that today's singlespeed outing was perfect. On the trail, I never wished for anything other than my unalterable 33:16 gearing. Going uphill, I stood. Going downhill, I tucked. Clearing rockgardens, I dabbed. Those moves, plus a few dismount-and-tippytoe episodes crossing fast-flowing washes, took me from Three Bridges to La Sevilla campground in an hour-ten.

I was ahead of our rendezvous schedule, which called for meeting Amy at Pistol Hill and Old Spanish Trail in two hours, so I continued north on OST. I coasted the downhill sections and spun up and over the mild rises. Waved at grim-faced roadies heading south and got a few waves in return. Passed the Rincon Valley Farmer's Market and a ghost-bike memorial. Oof. Watched the traffic a little more closely thereafter.

Roughly even with the entrance to Saguaro National Monument, I saw Amy's Cherokee flash its lights at me and I made a quick U-turn to catch her by the side of the road.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Carr Creek

Last Friday's hike to Manzanita Falls whetted my appetite for water photography, so I decided to make a short recon of Carr Creek below the falls. When it's running, Carr Falls is visible from town and audible from the Indian-named streets of the foothills. Water leaps out into empty air and free falls almost three hundred feet before crashing to the rocks below. By some counts, 19 hapless souls have followed the same trajectory with similar results. As a consequence, there are unsightly warning signs and fencing at the top of the falls.

I didn't cross the fence or see the dire signs today; I parked at the bottom lot and walked up to the one-lane bridge that crosses Carr Creek, then followed a trample-trail alongside the creek. I let the sound of the water guide me to likely photo ops. A certain volume and pitch of churning indicates that the water has encountered what could be an interesting obstacle. When I heard that telltale sound, I made my way to the creek and set up my camera and tripod.

The pictures I got today are slightly more to my liking than the Manzanita bunch, primarily because of Carr Creek's northern exposure. In the gloom of the shadow cast by the Huachuca Mountains I could stop the camera all the way down and get a shutter speed of one-quarter to one-half second. This relatively long exposure caught the flowing, foaming water as patterns of motion, rather than simply recording its momentary appearance. This is a standard trick of water photography, but it's hard to accomplish in broad daylight. Hence the rather mundane look of the pics shot at Manzanita Falls, and the somewhat artsier appearance of these.

So where's the fabulous shot of Carr Falls itself? It was barely running today, just a garden-hose trickle against the background of a darkly stained cliff. Today was a rehearsal for the day(s), soon to come, when the snow up there starts melting in earnest (or a warm rainstorm comes through and washes it downhill). When that happens, I'll be ready.