Friday, May 28, 2010

AZ Trail: Canelo Hills Hike

The Canelo Hills passage of the Arizona Trail has a reputation among mountain bikers as being a hike on which you might like to carry along a bicycle. You know, just in case. I took the hike and left the bike at home.

Set out from the trailhead just south of Patagonia and letting the arrival of lunchtime determine my turnaround point. Right away, I could see how the passage got its hike-a-bike rep; the first couple of miles consisted of loose, sand-gravel trail surface mounting a succession of small hills at a 10-20% gradient. Maybe rideable for a patient, skilled granny-gear climber, but not for me.

About a mile from the trailhead, I caught up to another hiker, "Autumn," an authentic Oregon hippy chick visiting Patagonia. She'd heard Bad Things about illegal immigration and smuggling and wondered about safety on the trails. Most of the horror stories were from folks who own homes and ranches near the border and in the Parker Canyon area. I gave her the sitrep and told her to enjoy Patagonia, though she might like Bisbee better.

Autumn on the trail.

After awhile, the hills gave way to flatter and occasionally shady, bosqey countryside, vastly more bike-friendly. Bike-friendly, but tire-hostile, with plenty of mesquite thorns and catclaw. I wore my Vibram foot-gloves through this section, but picked my footfalls with care.
Large, lush trees shaded parts of the trail.
Saw quite a few bike tracks enroute, some made while the ground was muddy and preserved, others more ephemeral impressions in sand. Wonder if any of these were remnants of the AZT300?

Lunch time arrived just as the GPS odometer turned over eight miles. Not fast or far, but acceptable for a hot, lazy day. I picked a shady spot under a tree to snack.

On the way back, I spotted a cow skull hung in a tree above a fire ring--a nice prop for telling stories around the campfire.

By the time I reached the steep switchbacks above the Harshaw Road it had gotten properly hot. I drew the last mouthful of water from my Camelbak about a mile from the Jeep. Stats for the day: 16 miles with 2700 or 3300 total feet of climbing. (A rare case in which Topo Fusion counts more climbing-feet than Topo USA.)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Cooper Brown Mini-Epic

With the wind bending treetops and grassblades alike, it seemed like a good idea to stay close to home. I slapped the new Exiwolfs (-wolves)on the D460 and rode from home down to the Huachucas. Got in 35.7 miles and 3849' of climbing by piecing together routes along Garden Wash, Ramsey Road, Cooper/Perimeter trails and Brown Canyon--a mostly singletrack Tour de Sierra Vista.

A bad omen at the outset of Perimeter--a slow-leak flat. I replaced the tube and pushed on, but didn't put in my best performance on the trail's rockier passages. Don't know whether it was the loss of mental-momentum or the poor traction of the rear tire. (I dutifully followed the sidewall arrow, despite a strong intuition that it'd grip better reversed.)

Lunched in the shade at the Carr Canyon trailhead, then headed off to battle the wind on pavement. Heading west up Ramsey Road was a trial; it was a relief to turn into Brown Canyon and start climbing in earnest.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wheelset Musings

Lately I've been considering a new wheelset for the Redline D460. On a par with Breakfast is the most important meal of the day is the bike wisdom that New wheels are the first upgrade you should make.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Rincon Peak

The objective, seen from a creek crossing on Mescal Road. Snowmelt is over, and the streams have slowed to a trickle.

Wild grapes near the trailhead. I examined some of last year's raisins and it appears that the vines produce pea-sized fruit. Probably sour as all get out, but it'd be fun to pick and eat a few in season.

Miller Creek Trail. Pleasant, sandy passage with more shade than you'd expect. It crosses the (now mostly dry) creek a few times before climbing up toward the ridge.

"Wheaties." I saw several different species of these cereal-headed grasses nodding in the breeze. It'd be wonderful to have this stuff growing in the yard, but I suspect that it requires Happy Valley levels of water to thrive.

Heh. Even with a good trail, I make sure to do a little bushwhacking. In this case, boulder-whacking. After a creek crossing, I followed a branch of the creek instead of the trail and had to adjust my course. Wasted about a half-hour in this fashion, but got to clamber around on some big rocks.

Back on track and steaming up the flank of the ridge on this solid trail. After my initial mistake, I followed cairns through rocks and faded boot prints over sand.

Heartbreak Ridge Trail. Got some elevation now, cool breezes and shade. Delightful, except for the persistent and plentiful swarming black flies.

First good look at Rincon from the ridge. Come to think of it, maybe the last view, too, since the trail is primarily a tunnel through piney woods the rest of the way to the peak.

Wore sandals for the whole trip, though I brought along some foot gloves (VFF KSOs) as a backup.

On final to the peak, looking back to see whether the trail looks as steep as it feels. Nope.

Obligatory Kilroy shot with the Giant Heap of Stones.

Hike stats (map-based; GPS track is too messy to use): 16.2 miles roundtrip with 4500 feet of elevation gain covered in about 7:30 (with a half-hour each of stopped and off-trail time).

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Ripped Sidewall to Boot

Just 2.5 miles north of Three Bridges I was climbing out of a wash crossing when I heard the hiss. I tried to tell myself that it was just a puncture, but the tire was completely flat before I could dismount. One of those scabby rocks embedded in the trail had reached out and slit the sidewall of my back tire, a lightweight Vulpine.

I had a replacement tube, but no spare tire, so I'd have to install a reinforcement (a boot) to prevent the new tube from protruding through the  rip and either blowing out or getting damaged by some other trail debris. Since I wrap all of my bike tools in short sections of innertube, I decided to use one of those pieces--the one I keep the tire levers wrapped in--to back up the slit.

I provided trailside entertainment for other trail users. A couple of runners that I'd passed near the trailhead pulled up; they had reached the turnaround point in their five-miler. Not typical runner physiques. He was shirtless with a broad, muscled back and a slight gut. She was more curvaceous than girl runners tend to be. But both had made excellent time on the trail and seemed fresh enough to run quite a bit further. He was sporting Vibram KSOs and while he'd done some distance on pavement in 'em, this was his first trail run. His feet were not particularly happy with the hard, rocky trail surface, but he figured they'd get used to it.

As I was finishing up, along came a fella on a blue Redline Monocog. He offered assistance, which I declined, and complimented my bike, which I accepted. "Glad to see that somebody else out here is crazy enough to ride this full-rigid!" was his heigh-ho Silver line. Heh. I don't need suspension, just tougher tires.

I got the tire back together with its reinforcing boot and pumped it up, all the while expecting it to blow out. The tear opened up a bit like a coin purse, but did not rip. Very gingerly, I rode down to Posta Quemada Ranch, where I picked up pavement to Pistol Hill Road. I stopped several times to inspect the repair, which held admirably. I opened up my pace on Old Spanish trail and averaged 20mph all the way to the rendezvous at Broadway and Pantano.

I might be able to salvage the tire by gluing in a more robust boot, but it's probably not worth it. I'd never trust the repair, and the tire is one of the wire-bead OEM jobbies that came with the Redline D440, so it's heavy and fragile. Probably time that I remounted the trusty Panaracer Ram-pazhes anyhow.