Wednesday, April 6, 2011

AZ: Picketpost

More catch-up photos from our Arizona trip. Our next ride was yet another section of the AZT, this time near the jank-town of Superior. We'd tried to ride the Picketpost section the previous year, but had gotten rained out.

We spent the morning in camp, busily studying bird song, taking sample photos of botanical specimens, and measuring the changing intensity of solar radiation as a thin layer of cloud burned away. Important scientific stuff.

By early afternoon, we'd made it to the trailhead where we boldly charged past the large AZT sign onto a wide jeep road that quickly disintegrated and became a rocky wash with no real trail to follow. The going was tough and we were walking lots of it and I kept thinking, wow, this doesn't seem to be the kind of trail that anyone would be very enthusiastic about. But then an actual trail crossed in front of us and we realized that we'd probably missed the other end of it somewhere.

Once we were on the actual trail, the going got much better. It was a smooth climb that took us around the back side of Picketpost Mountain and headed steadily toward a high ridge. We wound slowly upward through the saguaro scenery, sharp peaks and ridges punching upward in the distance.

Trina and Zeek stopped for a nap in the sunshine while Sprocket and I rambled onward. We made it to where the trail seemed to top out and began to head downward into harsh and beautiful canyons. The view was enticing, but we turned around and headed back to gather up the other two. Then all together we headed back down the way we'd come.

We swooped downward on the curvy trail, grinning and spinning. When we got to where we'd dragged ourselves out of the rocky wash, we turned onto the section of trail we'd missed on the way up. Or... At least we hoped it was the trail that would lead us back to the trailhead.

This section of trail was so fun that, for a while, we didn't really care where it was going. Nice flowing singletrack punctuated with rocky sections that kept us challenged and alert. We were having a great time, but the day was starting to fade. Were we really on the right trail? Were we headed toward the truck? Would we make it before dark? We kept on riding through the golden light beneath the glowing cliffs of the mountain.

There was still daylight left when we popped out at the trailhead, just to one side of where we'd foolishly ridden up the jeep road and into the wash. (The route which was -- foolishly, we thought -- right behind the main AZT trail sign.)

Happily tired and hungry, we loaded bikes and dogs and drove off into the sunset toward civilization, where in the midst of miles and miles of completely generic strip-mall American chain restaurants, we happened to stumble through the doors of a funky dive* that served us some of the best Mexican food we've had. Then we slipped away into the darkness and slid past the glittering hulk of greater Phoenix and back into wilder lands where we slept under bright, crisp stars while coyotes sang lonely songs to a lonely land where we did not feel alone.

*Elvira's Mexican Restaurant in Apache Junction. Go there. It's the kind of place that should be kept alive.

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