I guess I'm responsible for putting these routes together, hatched from an email by Ray. After last year's inaugural running we decided to add a third shorter option for folks. Pick your poison if you will, the C-ride: a 33 mile 6k effort up & down Montana Mtn, B-ride: Tack on another 17 mile loop through the demanding Telegraph Canyon adding another 2k of climbing and the A-ride: The full meal deal, 81 miles & 13k including a 4x4 extravaganza and the AZT from the Gila River.
My logic was simple, I put these gpx tracks together, so I should at least do the route once, right? The week leading up to the event I kept trying to estimate a finish goal time. Midnight? 11pm? The more I thought about it the more 10-11p seemed reasonable based on my ride history. I also knew by starting at 5am and finishing late, no one else would be around. A bit of a bummer for an AES event because that's half the attraction, the post-ride festivities!!
I knew a few people would be camping out Friday night, so I gathered most of my stuff up early and made the short trek over to Picketpost TH to see Scott & Eszter, who recently completed one of the coolest bikepacking trips evah!! Check out their blogs for the full rundown from CDTbike!! It was good to catch up with them, enjoy a fantastic sunset and chat with a couple other riders before heading home for the night.
|Arizona sets the bar high for sunsets!!|
First light broke somewhere near the main climb on FR650 and I lost visual contact of the others for a while. I stopped for a quick snack and to convert to daytime riding. It was a gorgeous morning, cool, clear and only a slight breeze. This year the switchback climb was much more forgiving, no headwind to deal with and the road surface seemed much less rubbly.
|Daytime conversion at dawn. Picketpost Mtn. beginning to fade in the distance.|
|Northern views and trees on upper FR650.|
|Near the singletrack turnoff to the AZT. Superstition Mtns in sight.|
I cleaned all but 4 switchbacks on the upper descent with those all coming on the final third of the drop. After the typical on/off/on/off due to the numerous wash crossings I was back at FR650 and ready for a snack.
The next section of trail is pretty good, just a bit tough to follow in spots due to the terrain camouflaging the trail. One more crossing of FR650 led me into Whitford Canyon. The trail through here is very scenic albeit sandy in stretches. I was more than glad to finally leave the wash area behind in favor of the rocky ridgeline descents.
|There are some fast sections too!!|
|A touch of Sedona?|
|Climbing away from the wash.|
I went inside to inquire about a water fountain, there was one just inside the door, but the practitioner offered up chilled bottled water from a cooler!! Yes, please. Outside, Ray & Yuri now approached after another speedy guy from BC went by. They too were stoked to get good H2O. It seemed like a flurry of activity was going on in a 10 minute span as Carlos & Jason rode by after hitting the local Circle K in Superior. I called out to them, but they didn't hear me as they turned south onto Telegraph Canyon rd. It must've been 15 minutes later when Ray, Yuri and I left the clinic as Bart came rolling down the 60.
|Picketpost Mtn. from Telegraph Canyon rd.|
I was a little sluggish on the final pitches of Telegraph Canyon rd, but figured there was a ton of downhill coming up. I was now at the point of no return on Ajax Mine rd. Into the abyss of the pain cave I went.
|Weaver's Needle on the far left horizon while Picketpost Mtn. shrinks behind a ridge.|
|Same vantage point looking east.|
|Entering into an off road paradise.|
Down below Ajax Mine a bunch of 4x4's were crawling up a tight canyon, spotters in place, as they wiggled their vehicles up to the mine. I passed by a few groups of ATV's, 4-wheelers, lifted trucks, etc. Anything that could handle sand and rocks was out in force. It was a fantastic afternoon to be down by the Gila.
I traversed up & over to Box Canyon rd and continued my downhill trend on a well traveled gravel wash. The downhill spinning was about to come to an end as I made the hard left onto Martinez Canyon rd.
|Box Canyon rd.|
|The rock crawlers were out in force. I wasn't fast enough to capture this guy at the top of the hill - it was super steep!!|
|Golden hour beginning to settle in.|
|Rubble, rubble, rubble.|
|Dale's Butte pokes up on the left, the AZT is getting close.|
|A wicked solid rock stairstep descent.|
|Only a few miles from the Gila River.|
|Summit #5 gave these jeeps all they could handle.|
|Beautiful place to ride a bike!!|
|Looking east towards Kelvin.|
|Dale's Butte, the 'real' Picketpost.|
|Finally!! The Gila River comes into view.|
|No SOS button here.|
|The mighty Gila, life giver of the desert.|
|Just me, my rig, and darkness taking a 10 minute break.|
I eventually made it to the boundary of Passage 17, Alamo Canyon, 12 1/2 miles to go!! There's a barbed wire ranch gate there and it had recently been re-worked. Let's just say the barbed wire was taught as was the barbed loop digging into the wooden post. The last thing I wanted to do at that hour was wrestle with a barbed ranch gate. 10 minutes later I finally broke it free.
Another long break ensued. I was ready to be finished. I was also ready for a nap!! Only one climb remained before a mostly downhill final 10 miles. It couldn't go by fast enough. I was beginning to have flashbacks from my delirious state on the AZT300 through here. I was completely exhausted of all energy required for any sort of power moves, quads fatigued more than I can ever remember. The final 10 miles actually seemed to go by fairly quick, contoured downhill grades sure help!!
It was now well after midnight, I was still a few miles south of the trailhead and I could hear music thumping off in the desert. I never did see the source, but somebody was having a good time out there!!
Some nice cruising and few more HAB bits went by and I crested the final rise in the trail. A few turns later I popped out into the parking area. It was 1:24am. Picketpost Pulverizer - Complete!!
Carlos was sound asleep in his truck bed next to my car and somehow woke up while I was packing my things together. We shared a few stories from the day and I found out both he and Jason finished around 10:30p. They also arrived at the Gila River only 30 minutes before I did, I must've missed them by minutes!
I'm glad I stuck with it. It's a really cool route, but extremely unforgiving. There are NO easy miles out there. My entire body was worked over afterwards. My legs finally feel normal 3 1/2 days later. Hat tip to the Pulverizer class of '14, 3-for-3!! I can't say I have a desire to ever do that route in one day ever again. Afterall, I still have a redemption date with the Gila100 in a couple of months.....