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  1. #1
    Death Mud
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    A Buckeye among the Saguaro...The Return of the Poisonous Nut

    Thoughts of yesterday's 2 1/2 hour rain-soaked ride still in my head, I peer through the window to watch the blasting snow cover the layer of freezing rain from the last couple of hours. Ohio winters are volatile, and yesterday's 60 degree temperatures have plummeted to 18, with constant precipitation. And so I think "Screw this, I need to go riding in Arizona." My dog farts contentedly. I take this as a portent of beautiful vistas and warmer, dryer climate. Time to start planning!

    Two years ago I rejuvenated my passion for biking with a weeklong stint of Phoenix-based riding and car camping, hitting up BCT, Picketpost, and McDowell, among others. Since then I've ridden throughout Ohio, West Virginia, and North Carolina, but the desert pulls on me still. I figure an early March (mostly) bikepacking tour should be a nice kickoff for Spring, and minor details like where and how are being sorted. Any feedback (yes, it's another "Help me plan this trip" thread) would be much appreciated, if nothing else to let me know if I'm as crazy as my wife says I am.
    So, what I've figured out so far.
    • When: March 2-10 (Fly in Thursday night, work Fri from a hotel, and take off from there, fly home Saturday or Sunday)
    • The bike..A 27.5+ hardtail (Cannondale BOTE) with Snakeskin Rocket Rons (running tubeless...I realize tires are a constant topic of discussion here, but open to mentions for other, better options).
    • Tent: Ultralight Big Agnes (I'd prefer my Hennessey Hammock, but it's not real desert-friendly)
    • The rides: I'm eyeing the Coconino Loop or The Gila Rambler as the backbone of the trip


    I've done some overnight bikepacking in Ohio, and several car-camping bike trips, but this will be the longest tour I've done. Consideration for either route:
    The Cococino Loop would likely be 5-6 days, leaving me 2-3 days to check out other trails or local entertainment/dining if I feel so inclined. I've not been to this part of AZ, an exploring new spots is a plus. It seems less remote than the Gila Rambler, so I could pack lighter. But, it would leave less time to explore other areas. Also, there might be enough tree cover for the hammock..maybe?

    The Gila Rambler would be 3-4 days and possibly more interesting. I'd have more time to check out other trails and points of interests. Exploring more of the AZT is appealing, even if only from an "I've been there" perspective. It's more remote, so I'd need to plan and pack more, and getting there will likely be more of an issue.

    I figure I'll need to carry 5-6 liters of water. I'll likely ship the bike beforehand to a friendly bike shop and pick it up once I'm there. The logistics of traveling between points will affect whichever option I choose...the Cococino may win out simply because of this (I figure I can ship the bike there and ride out, as opposed to needing to arrange travel to the AZT for the Gila ride). But, if anyone has suggestions for other routes, I'm all ears. Thanks for reading yet another plea for help from a pasty winter refugee, any feedback welcome!
    A Buckeye among the Saguaro...The Return of the Poisonous Nut-img_2342.jpg

  2. #2
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    Whats that white stuff?
    If you decide to be in the Gold canyon (1/2 hr E of Mesa) let me know; could do a 2 day bikepack there.
    Or od AZT ; Picketpost south for 2-3 days; then back. Safe pking at Picketpost.
    Cheers.
    TS
    I could help with having bike shipped to me in Apache junction;

  3. #3
    Death Mud
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    Thanks for the offer re: bike shipping...I'll definitely let you know once I get more figured out! I hadn't considered Gold Canyon, I'll look into that. Parking at PP could be a viable option...or possibly a shuttle from a local outfitter...I know at least one provides a shuttle.
    And that white stuff...it's actually better than the other option here, which is just wet, slushy muck (or just wet and cold). At least the snow is pretty!

  4. #4
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    Coconino would likely be partly under snow in March. I think you'd want to stay at lower elevations.

    The Gila Ramble area would be prime. Check out Schillingsworth's Queen's Ransom route - it is around 200mi and includes some of that area. Then if you want to extend it by a couple days and check some other things out, you could. It also goes through Gold Canyon.

    Flying into Tucson would be another good option. Or fly into Phoenix, do partial Queen's Ransom route then stay on AZT toward Tucson, head toward 50 Yr then into Tucson and fly home from there. That would be pretty easy to do with no car rental required.

  5. #5
    Death Mud
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    Thanks for the heads up on weather around Sedona...I honestly didnít expect it to be that cold. Iíll look into the Queenís Ransom route. So many good options!

  6. #6
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    Sedona should actually be fine temps in March and no snow. You could ride south from there to BCT. It is the rest of the coconino route that would be the problem. You hit high elevations on Mingus mtn, at Williams and then all the way through Flagstaff and back to towards the south. Very likely snow and downed trees. If it is a low snow year maybe you could pull it off but it would still be cold.

  7. #7
    Death Mud
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    Ok, good to know. Iíll have more options than expected. Hardest part of this trip may be choosing what NOT to do.

  8. #8
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    Hey Velocipede! Another Buckeye posting, been exploring the Arizona desert for about the last 7 months since moving here. I'd be happy to help out with logistics, and might have some availability to ride/bikepack that first weekend you're here, if you want some company. Send me a PM if I can help.

  9. #9
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    If you do the BCT and need help with logistics let me know. From where I live near Prescott, it's 30 min. to the northern trailhead and a little over an hour to the southern end. I ride sections of it frequently during the cooler months. River crossings could be an issue, but otherwise early Mar. would be perfect.
    Veni vidi velo!

  10. #10
    DFL>DNF>DNS
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    Here's the Queen's Ransom route, slated to kick off on Friday March 2nd at 7am.

    Check out the blog links within and grab the .gpx track there too.
    My Two Schillingsworth


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  11. #11
    Death Mud
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    Thanks for all the support everyone! I'm going to try to meet up for the Queen's Ransom ride and then hit up a list of trails for the rest of the time...possibly BCT, or maybe Sedona. It's 18 degrees here and I'm going for a ride, but I'll be dreaming of warmer times coming up!

  12. #12
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    Also the Sedona MTB fest will be happening when you arrive so you could hang there for a day or two before you wander off in the wilderness. WARNING - You may end up wanting a new bike if you go

  13. #13
    Death Mud
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    Yeah, I noticed that the festival was that weekend...Iíve committed myself to the Queenís Ransom ride that same weekend...fortunately it will be on a new bike, so Iíve already scratched that itch recently

  14. #14
    Death Mud
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    Making last minute decisions as to where to go after the Queenís Ransom ride, and Iím torn between heading to Sedona/Flagstaff for a few days, or staying on the AZT and riding to Tucson. I figure Tucson would be about 100 miles from where Iíd split from the QR group, and my heart says ďgo for it,Ē but my head says a few days of relative comfort camping/hoteling around Sedona and day rides would be more realistic. Which way to go?

  15. #15
    DFL>DNF>DNS
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    I'd probably head north, but combo Sedona with Prescott as weather/trail conditions in Flag could be wintry. (It may still happen this year!!) The AZT south of Kelvin is incredible, however, IMO rides better in the northbound direction especially with bikepacking gear. Then there's the whole getting over/around Mt. Lemmon. You wouldn't be taking the AZT up Oracle Ridge, that's tough enough coming down. You could take the dirt Control Rd. up the NE side and the Catalina Hwy down or go for the full meal deal and add on the Lemmon Drop route. Again, a very demanding 'downhill' route that includes about 4000' of climbing. Tough enough on an empty bike.

    Plus, it would be kinda nice to mix in the Sedona red rocks & pines of either Prescott or Flag after doing 4 days of desert riding on the QR. Just my 2/.
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  16. #16
    Death Mud
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    Excellent points, and kind of what Iím thinking. A nice change of scenery, and probably a little more relaxing after getting my butt kicked for four days.

  17. #17
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    I was hoping to get out and ride in the QR route with you folks, but I'll need to be available for work on Friday 3/2. So instead I'm planning to hit the Sedona MTB Fest on Saturday and Sunday, and will probably do a bonus ride near Sedona on Monday 3/5. If you're headed up that way after QR, let me know if you want to ride together. BTW - where is that picture in your original post taken? I 1st started MTB in Central/Southern Ohio.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by schillingsworth View Post
    weather/trail conditions in Flag could be wintry. (It may still happen this year!!)
    dream on...

  19. #19
    Death Mud
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    Quote Originally Posted by prezgonis View Post
    I was hoping to get out and ride in the QR route with you folks, but I'll need to be available for work on Friday 3/2. So instead I'm planning to hit the Sedona MTB Fest on Saturday and Sunday, and will probably do a bonus ride near Sedona on Monday 3/5. If you're headed up that way after QR, let me know if you want to ride together. BTW - where is that picture in your original post taken? I 1st started MTB in Central/Southern Ohio.
    Cool, Iíll be in touch when I head up north. The photo was taken at Chestnut Ridge, which may not have been around when you were here, if itís been a while. Itís a nine mile bike-only loop with a nice mix of single track and flow. Iíve riding off and on around here since the late 90s, and the trail situation has gotten much better over the last several years. Not awesome, but still better.

  20. #20
    Death Mud
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    Just a few days away! Iíve decided to head to Sedona for a few days after the QR rise. Iíve booked a room in West Sedona but havenít had a chance to really check out riding in that area. From what I can see thereís quite a bit of riding I could maybe ride directly to without a car (Iím staying in west Sedona right on 89). Is it worth it to rent a car while Iím there, or is there enough within a short ride to save the expense?

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by velcipede View Post
    Just a few days away! Iíve decided to head to Sedona for a few days after the QR rise. Iíve booked a room in West Sedona but havenít had a chance to really check out riding in that area. From what I can see thereís quite a bit of riding I could maybe ride directly to without a car (Iím staying in west Sedona right on 89). Is it worth it to rent a car while Iím there, or is there enough within a short ride to save the expense?
    Probably not. You can pedal to everything from there. Oak Creek isn't running too high so you can also cross the creek and access the Village of Oak Creek side trails as well.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by rockman View Post
    Probably not. You can pedal to everything from there. Oak Creek isn't running too high so you can also cross the creek and access the Village of Oak Creek side trails as well.
    Here's the link to the stream gage for Oak Creek: OAK CK - SEDONA (OAKA3)

  23. #23
    Death Mud
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    Phew! After 100 miles and two days on the QR ride I opted to catch a ride into town from Picketpost. I brought way more stuff than I needed, and the hills beat me down a little more than expected. I decided early on to be the slow one, and I never gave up my position! Hats off to John and the rest of the badasses continuing on the rest of the way, and much thanks to Sam and Amanda for the ride to civilization. Now time to regroup before heading to Sedona on Monday. (Selfie from day 2 attached).

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