8.02.2014

Raystown Lake: Allegrippis Trails

My last two trips to PA were for family funeral services. I needed to head home on my terms for a change. I opted for a short weekend getaway and a chance to ride some PA trails I've been hearing a ton of good reports on: Allegrippis Trails at Raystown Lake.

I tossed one of my long time buddy's, Brant, an invite and he took the bait. He's been doing some on/off again commuting and has a mountain bike so why not make a day out of it. The trails out there are non-technical by all accounts and we'd ride at a touring/picture pace. I simply needed a bike to ride. I did some poking around and found Rothrock Outfitters out of Huntingdon, PA and they had a rental shack right at the lake!! $30 scored me a Salsa El Mariachi 29er hardtail for the day. I also snagged a route suggestion from another local rider via the online forums. We were set. As the day approached, I hoped the weather would hold off as well, the forecast called for a 60% of scattered thunderstorms. A forecast like that in PA almost guarantees you'll get wet!!

I jumped on the red-eye out of the desert on Thursday night, arriving in Philly bright and early. I made arrangements to meet up with an old freestyle BMX pal, Kev, for breakfast. We hadn't seen each other since I bolted the east coast for AZ back in '91!! It was great to get caught up and reflect back on our days riding the 20"ers around. You can see some of Kev's high flyin' antics in a post I did a while back" Rad Roots.
A little older, but still goofy!! Standing in front of Eastern State Penitentiary.
Mean streets of Philly don't look so menacing.
After a few hours in Philly it was time to head north to Allentown. I was meeting another longtime friend, Rick, for lunch at a famous (at least to people of Allentown!!) hot dog joint: Yocco's Hot Dogs!
It's a mandatory stop when in town.
Rick's toddler fell asleep before we could meet so I grabbed some dogs to go and met up with him at home. It was the first time I was able to meet his son and it was cool to see Rick relishing his role as Dad!!

Brant finally escaped work for the weekend and we met up for a brew before finalizing our gear for the weekends ride.

We hit the road bright and early, ok it wasn't all that bright - more like gloomy, but we were headed west to Raystown Lake. We arrived a bit after the 10a opening, picked up the El Mariachi and found the trailhead we'd stage our cooler at.
Well signed system.
We started right near the middle of the map, where the green & blue come together at the 'P'.
Almost immediately the trail pointed downward, swooping, carving and not needing to hit the brakes! Brant was keeping up pretty good, so we pressed on to the next trail junction. We rolled down the Osprey trail, full of whoops & banked turns!! Damn that was fun. The Hydro loop was more of the same, but I warned Brant that we'd have to pay the piper sooner or later for all these downhills! The thing was, even the climbs were fun! Well, at least for me they were. I found out early that these trails would be a dream on a singlespeed. We were back at the top of the Hydro loop much quicker than either of us thought. Let's do some more climbing!!
Lots of smiles early on, still dry too!
The sun started to poke out and weather wasn't really a concern. It was a bit humid, but at 72ยบ, who cares!! I still thought we may get poured on during the late afternoon.
Taking a break on the Hydro Loop.
Not sure about the 'Most Difficult' designation, but it sure was fast & fun!!
The El Mariachi back at the top of Hydro.
Still chugging along.
This was the trail surface for the day.
Came across a 5' Eastern Rat Snake crossing the trail.
Only a few puddles here & there.
Nice woodwork too.
We traversed across the Eagle trail and up Sleek Dog. At the top I could tell Brant was getting worked pretty good. There was supposed to be a nice overlook at the end of the next stretch of trail. I made sure we took plenty of breaks getting out there. I could tell he was about done, so I suggested he take an extended break while I knocked out a 6 mile loop since we still had 4 miles to ride back to the car.
Framed overlook.
Posing with the rental steed.
Landspeeder fun on Ray's Revenge!! Woohoo!!
Picked up a tag along rider.
Rip it!!
How can you not ride fast here?
Yes, please.
Up I go, short, but the steepest climb of the day.
I missed my turn onto Berrypatch, but decided to add a quick out-n-back (OnB) on Loco-Motive. Tack on another 2 miles and by the time I returned to Brant I had a bonus 8 miles in under an hour. Brant was all rested, ready for the return to the trailhead.
13 miles in.
Carving some turns.
Home stretch!
We arrived back at the trailhead a little before 5p. Brant was whooped, but hung in there for 17 miles - his longest ride evah!! Way to go! Trust me, the next time it will seem easier.

The rental shop was open until 6p, so I bolted for a quick OnB to the next trailhead, about 2 miles away. Shortly after leaving the trailhead I found something so foreign to the rest of the system: techy rocks!!
It took over 25 miles to find some of this.
Trail cave.
My turnaround point.
I kept a close eye on the clock, reaching the other trailhead on my scheduled turn around time. I made it back to our car, quickly swapped out the parts I slapped on the rental (pedals, feed bag, GPS mount) and we zoomed down to the rental kiosk. I scooted up to the window with 2 minutes to spare!! I had to make sure I got my monies worth from the Salsa.

As you can tell by the photos, the weather held up just fine. No threat of rain the entire day, simply perfect.

I'll definitely make the 3 hour trek out to Raystown Lake to ride again. I can't recommend this place enough. It was such a fun system of trails that flowed and flowed some more. Granted, if you're looking for a technical challenge, this isn't the place, but there are plenty of trails north of here reportedly filled with rocks. I told Brant I'd love to come back and put together a Raystown 100, he just shook his head. But really, it would be a blast - do the route I did (29 miles) plus the one loop I missed puts a 'lap' at nearly 35 miles. Repeat 3 times!!

I only had two things left to do before heading back to the desert. Have breakfast with my Mom and do some beer shopping!!
I thought I did pretty good on my beer haul.
Adios Allentown, until next time.
Of course my weekend wouldn't have been complete without a bit of a travel adventure. The first part was self-induced as I didn't quite give myself enough time to drive to Philly, gas the car, return the car & check my bags before the 45 minute cut-off time. I missed it by 10 minutes!! I told myself I wouldn't have gotten a standby seat anyway as the flight was oversold & I was 4th on the list. Unfortunately the next three non-stops to Phoenix were also full, but when it comes to standby travel, never leave the gate until the plane physically pushes back!

The next flight proceeded to go on a 1 1/2 hour maintenance delay before boarding and to my surprise my name was called almost immediately. Boom! Seat 4A and for a second I thought I may have snagged a first class upgrade, but no, bulkhead instead. The crew made a couple of announcements for people to take their assigned seat so we could get going. Apparently some lady behind us had an issue with her seat location and couldn't wait until after takeoff to relocate. So what did she do instead? Locked herself in the lavatory!! 10 minutes later a few of Philly's finest escorted her off the plane, not a wise relocation effort.

Here's another pro-travel tip: Upon landing, do not, get out of your seat while the plane taxis to the gate to retrieve overhead items!! This will make the crew cranky and yes this too happened on this flight!! C'mon people.

Let's get back to the riding stoke. Cheers!!



7.19.2014

AZT #27 - Highline Trail

The Highline Trail. Simple statement, complicated terrain. Why all the fuss? Well, there just so happens to be a rather large mountain biking event I've thrown my attention towards. I've heard the stories, seen a few pics and watched the slow progress of riders advancing via Trackleaders during the AZTR750. I figured it may be a wise to pre-ride this stretch of AZT, the piece that connects Pine to the top of the Mogollon Rim - 19.5 miles. Oh, and by pre-ride I mean hike. By all accounts there are copious amounts of bike pushing opportunities on the Highline trail, I'll save those for when it counts.

Cue the list of usual adventure suspects and we had a nice group of five willing to tackle a rather hefty one day outing. The plan would be to meet up at THAT Brewery in Pine, drop a vehicle or two at the Pine trailhead, then camp out near the AZT on top of the rim.

We all met up within 45 minutes of each other, which was great considering we were all coming up from Phoenix after a work day. Jeff & Nancy took shotgun in Mike's truck while Mark and I got cozy with all our gear in the pickup bed. At least I had my sleeping bag to lean against!

We found a good enough spot just off FR300 & AZT near General Springs cabin along a utility corridor, not the most picturesque of places, but it was already dark and we were only there for the night.
Deluxe accommodations.
Mike's alarm went off at 4:30a and I was surprisingly well rested and ready to get moving. Soon enough everyone was stirring and we began chowing some breakfast and packing things up. We had talked about a 6a start the night before and I was pretty stoked that we met the goal!! Time to get after it.
Mark and I ready to go. Like my ski poles? Photo by Jeff.
It was overcast & cool, almost looked like rain, but the forecast was favorable for the rest of the day. We started down the steep/loose terrain. Yuck. Mark and I immediately started cracking jokes about how much this was going to suck with our bikes the other direction. So keep that in mind, we were hiking down to Pine from the rim, while the AZTR750 goes up the Highline from Pine.

Barely a quarter mile into the descent I slipped on some loose rock and went down. Whoa. Hopefully this is the worst of the trail?
Jeff picking his line down.
Yep, that's the trail.
Jeff & Mike nearing the bottom.
Mark at the bottom of the descent.
While the others were catching up, I was looking at the AZT sign in the picture above wondering why it was pointing to the right. From other reports we all had heard about the nasty final push up to the rim. We clearly started down on the AZT. Did we somehow miss a turn? Where? There didn't seem to be a whole bunch of options since we were dropping down a drainage following a powerline corridor. Then Jeff posted his pictures after the hike and guess what he accidentally captured? See below photo:
Mike near the top, but what's that on the left going into the trees? Yep, AZT. We all missed it!! Photo by Jeff.
I guess I'll still have 0.4 miles of new-to-me AZT to bag on this section next April.

At the bottom the trail became more friendly and we started seeing some small water crossings which fed the East Verde River.
Plenty of water sources over the first half of the hike.
Washington Park trailhead, we turned right officially merging onto the Highline trail.
Heading west into the tress from Washington Park, 1.9 miles from the top of the rim.
We did notice sections of trail getting some much needed TLC, the Girl Scouts stepping up to the plate through here.
Still under the cover of clouds, but it was a bit muggy. Caught Nancy posing!!
The trail for the most part was surprisingly good, plenty of rideable sections with the occasional HAB thrown in. At least that's what we're telling ourselves!!
Sure looks nice through here!!
Does this remind anyone of Sedona dirt?
Ok, this may be a problem!! It's only a short section.
Well contoured trail was found too.
Short vague section through an old burn area.
Close to the halfway point, could make a nice camp spot if needed.
Views of the Mazatzals
Jeff warned me of an upcoming snake off the side of the trail, cool looking fella.
Wild blackberries!!
A short ways past the blackberries, we crossed a spring that was flowing through a flex hose. We could hear the rushing water, but also noted a more audible sound coming from up the embankment. Deer? Elk? Bear?!? Our imagination started running rampant as we heard the branches crackling, whatever it was sounded BIG. Then Mike noticed a rather large plume of water spraying from the hose...up on the hillside making all the racket!! Funny what your mind does when you let it get away.
More touches of Sedona along the way.
Moments later we could have been in Flagstaff or Prescott.
Good tread or bad, the scenery was solid all day. Photo by Jeff.
A fine example of trail re-routing.
Tools of the trade.
Over halfway and the clouds were about to move on.
Layered Mazatzal range view.
Mark having tile installation flashbacks.
Yes please, may I have a few more miles of this?
Roughly 11 miles into our hike, the Geronimo Trailhead.
There was a sustained downhill into the Geronimo trailhead, good trail surface, but will probably be too steep to ride up. On the walk down the trail I noticed my left knee was starting to bother me. IT band? Never had an issue with it before, so I kept notice as the day wore on. It was only bugging me on the steeper downhill sections thankfully.
This map displaying the 50 mile length of the Highline trail.
I hope this sheet is still there in April.
Leaving Geronimo.
Bray Creek, the last water source but we were all good.
Still 8 miles to go.
Is this really the Highline trail?
Looking back, we've come a long way!!
Knee troubles persisted, so I popped a couple pills by this tree. This also marked the beginning of a long tough section of trail.
We started to come across longer trail snafus, more tech, more rubble.
The low point on the horizon is where we dropped off the rim earlier in the day.
Steep & loose.
Near Pine Spring.
Quite a few spur trails off of the Highline.
Some of the contouring looked nice, but even that had a slippery surface.
A portend of shameful downhill HAB??
Chunder abounds.
Finish line coming into view, AZ87.
Top of the final descent into Pine, knee aching, I let the others go while I took a few minutes to gather myself for the slow steep downgrade.
The final two miles were not pleasant at all. I had to make a concentrated effort to lead with my left leg whenever a ledge drop approached. I have never experienced as sharp a pain like that while hiking. Hopefully it's more of a system shock, since I hadn't hiked all that much leading into this one. Prior to next April I will have plenty of hiking miles under me.
The trail finally mellows out over the last mile or so.
This part will be easy, right?
Finish line!!
Time to celebrate.
The brew went down easily and after chowing down Jeff & Nancy parted ways. Mark & Mike loaded up and I shuttled them back up to the rim. They were camping out one more night and we found a perfect new place right on the rim's edge. We also checked out a few General Crook trail crossings for a potential exploration ride along the historic route. Here's a two part history of the GC trail: part I, part II. Here's another great resource for trails in the area.

It was a great day scoping out the Highline, really glad we did this pre-ride, errr, hike. It will be interesting to see how Mark and I fare going the opposite direction with loaded bikes next April.
Future bikepacking route?
Mike on the precipice.
Camp site for the fellas on night #2.
High peak(s) on the horizon: Four Peaks.
Thankfully I didn't realize I had this monster brewing until I changed my shoes/socks!!
One of 4 historic cabins, General Springs, on the Cabin Loop trail system.
History snippet.