AZZTR750: Apache Junction to Flagstaff
May 15, 2014
Day 5: Apache Junction to Payson
Today almost felt like a rest day compared to the previous 4 days - 100 miles of dirt roads and pavement from Apache Junction to Payson. No trail, no rocks, no hike-a-bike. A 4am start guided by a blazing full moon got me to Roosevelt Lake by late morning. The Apache Trail (not really a trail but a well maintained dirt road) was great, pretty hilly but scenic. For some reason I didn't take any pictures before the lake, guess I was too busy riding.
Approaching Roosevelt Lake
Not much to report for the rest of the day - just easy, fast road riding along the lake, the miles passing by incredibly quickly.
Lunch at Jake's Corner Bar - that place has personality! Kept waiting for some nutjob locals to come in for some entertainment but I had the place to myself. Left with a belly full of burgers, baked beans, and coffee, yum.
I stopped at the bike shop in Payson, 87 Cyclery - I can't remember his name, but the guy there was awesome, he'd been following the race and sat me down with a cold beverage while he worked his magic on my bike. Grabbed dinner and headed out into the beautiful evening towards Pine, bedding down for the evening about halfway there. It was warm, I slept like a baby.
Another damn fine evening on the trail, somewhere between Payson and Pine
Day 6: Pine to the Mogollon Rim
Some fun singletrack just before Pine
I got moving around 4am again, hoping to get to Pine at 6am when the local supermarket opened to stock up for the long push to Flagstaff. Didn't actually get to Pine until 7:30 - those final miles before Pine were tough! Bushy, loose hike-a-bike, a nice little preview of what awaited me.....
Came across Brad Mattingly, the sole Southbound racer, just before Pine - fun chatting with him, he was not at all amused by Highline, which he hike/stumbled his way down the day before. He warned of frigid nights ahead!
Pine wins for best breakfast. I think I got more excited about huge, syrupy breakfasts than anything else on this trip.....
Not wanting to repeat my earlier bouts of starvation riding, I bought an absurd amount of food in Pine. No more going hungry, even if it means dragging a boat anchor of a bike up Highline.
Oh Highline. In some ways, it was every bit as bad as everyone had said - hours and hours of hiking and bushwhacking through horrible prickly bushes that tore up exposed flesh and spandex. Trail often so narrow that awkwardly pushing the bike ahead of you and following it was the only option. Making matters worse, after my huge breakfast, my stomach shut down entirely, and eating anything made me incredibly nauseous. Zero calories consumed during the 9 hours from Pine to the Rim. All this heavy food and I couldn't eat any of it! Luckily, water and electrolytes weren't a problem.
Shoes were toast. No more tread, walking directly on the cleat. No bueno
BUT - it was also incredibly beautiful. The Mogollon Rim itself loomed large and rugged, while views of the valley to the South kept the mind occupied.
There's the Mogollon Rim. We go there.
No riding here
It got more rideable as I neared the final climb to the Rim
The final hike up to the rim. 1000+ feet straight up bouldery slabs and chunky loose trail.
I gained the rim around 6pm and decided I was done for the day. Not being able to eat took its toll, and I found a nice spot in the trees and crawled into my bivy. Asleep by 7:30, only to be woken up around midnight to some loud hoots and hollers - great, some AZ rednecks out for a backcountry joyride, please don't shoot your guns in my direction - oh wait, it's Mike P. and Elliot! They caught me! My competitive side told me to get up and ride! Don't give up 2nd place! But about 3 seconds later I was fast asleep, knowing they had a long, hard day and would probably sleep for a long time, whereas I had a 3am start planned.
BRRR! Woke up to water bottles full of ice! Got moving and warmed up pretty quickly, it was nice to be riding again! And I could eat! And the sunrise was amazing! Today was gonna be a good day.
The morning singletrack buzz eventually wore off, and the trail became somewhat tiresome - featureless terrain through a sparse pine forest, badly rutted dirt roads alternating with singletrack, not really climbing much nor descending. Mormon Lake couldn't come soon enough.
Photo by Jeff Hemperley
Finally. Mormon Lake. It was mid-afternoon, still 4 or so hours till Flagstaff, and I debated skipping the detour down to the little town and just pushing on, but the call of hot pizza was too powerful to ignore. Ran into Jeff Hemperley heading down to the town, was good to meet him, his enthusiasm was infectious!
Chowed down a whole pizza and salad. That was dumb - yep, felt like crap climbing back up to the Arizona Trail. Luckily it was fun, fairly easy riding to Flagstaff, and after a couple road detours due to logging and a forest fire, I rolled into Flag around 8pm. Those two brutal days combined with caloric deficit took their toll, and it was all I could do to ride in a straight line. Grabbed a cheap hotel room, excited to have made it this far and knowing that I'd be at the main event, the Grand Canyon, tomorrow night!
Magic. Awesome dirt and insane evening light, heading down into Flag
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