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  1. #1
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    TR - Pine AZ for Memorial Day 2017

    With Memorial Day approaching some of the usual destinations were too hot, while some others were still snowed under. The week before I wasn't sure I'd go anywhere as my knee had been acting up. But some recent forum chatter about Pine AZ reminded me that I'd been wanting to get up there and ride as lots of work has been put into the trails the last few years. It looked like there were tons of ride options and bailouts so I made a pretty last minute decision to head up there.

    I normally like stopping over to camp at Buckeye as its close and I just like desert camping, but I decided to push on to sleep in the cool pines instead. An already late arrival was delayed slightly when I got pulled over by an eagle eyed highway patrolman who noticed my licence plate light was out. Oops. ...Fix it ticket.

    I headed up top the Mogollon Rim and got a spot along Milk Ranch Pt Rd. I didn't even notice this gargantuan fire pit til the morning, coulda had a monster campfire if I'd had the time to gather a cord of firewood.



    I settled on the Cabin Loop for a first ride, and checked out some views along the rim on the way over.



    As with the drive in prior night most of the better looking campsites were taken. A few gems remained. Camping on the rim would be cool to see sunrise/sunset, but seemed like it would be really windy.



    From what I'd read of the Cabin loop options, Ubar Trail had lots of downed trees and Houston Bros Trail was a nice descent. So I opted to do a loop of FR300 to Houston Bros to Fred Haught/AZT.

    Another view. It was about 3.5 miles ride on FR300 to Houston Bros Trail



    Houston Brothers was very raw trail to start. Within about 5 mins I was hike a biking up a steep hill. 5 mins later I ran into the first group of backpackers, a boy scout troop. Seemed like there was a group of hikers for each hike a bike. Between all of that and a dozen downed trees there was lots of start-stop in the first 3 miles.



    I had expected the trails all to myself, but I was running into hikers every 10 mins. I also wasn't expecting this many HABs but they were numerous as well. At least they were short, and in the shade.



    After crossing FR 139A the rest of the trail was a nice pedal through meadows and alongside a nice stream.



    Now this was the sort of singletrack I'd been looking forward to



    Not quite deep enough to go for a soak



    There were people camping at the Aspen Springs Cabin so I didn't go over for a pic, but did stop at the Pinchot Cabin a mile later



    From there I turned onto the Fred Haught Trail which heads over and then joins the AZT. There were even more backpackers on these trails. Without exaggeration I was running into another group every 5 minutes. All were nice people though and stoked to be out on such an awesome weekend. Interestingly most were unaware of the crowds as they were all heading the same direction and hadn't crossed paths with many others. A few commented how this was the first time they'd ever seen many people out hiking here even on a long weekend. Almost all were heading to Pinchot or Aspen Spring to camp. I told them they may be sleeping shoulder to shoulder with all the other hikers in front of them.

    Water crossing



    Ferns coming to life. Will be spectacular in a month or two



    Cool rocky section of AZT



    Another cabin. Meh....



    This was a pretty good ride, lots of variety and history. The Houston Bros descent was definitely the high point. The loop was close to 19mi and +/- 1,900ft. The more interesting stat was 50-60 hikers, and zero other bikers.

  2. #2
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    Day 1, Ride #2

    It was mid afternoon and I had plenty of time for another ride. I figured I would head down into Pine and finally use the 2 for 1 pints coupon that comes with Arizona Trail Assn membership each year. One look at the crowd at the brewery though and I drove right by, it was packed. Had lunch over at the Pine TH instead and looked at options for a Pine-Strawberry loop.

    It is possible to do this ride as an all singletrack loop. A couple segments needed to close the loop though, Walnut Tr and Hardscrabble Mesa, look like 5 miles of suck. Normally I am stubborn and would ride it anyways cuz it's there, but it was getting on toward 5pm by this point and I didn't want to burn my daylight hours on crap trail. So I cut those segments out in favor of a quick spin up Hardscrabble Mesa Rd.

    Pine TH



    First up was the Pine - Strawberry Trail



    It had a stout climb to begin with and then some fun descending



    Lots of evidence of very recent trailwork



    Very recent



    Cool old manzanita on Bearfoot Trail



    While the new trailwork was nice there was still some tough riding and things weren't going as fast as I had hoped. It soon became obvious I was going to be finishing in the dark.



    I saw a couple elk down near some homes below Bearfoot, and then came smack into a couple more right on the trail. These ones were funny, they would run up the hill, and I'd catch them again in a switchback or two. Then they ran over the ridgeline, just as the trail contoured around it. Then they dropped down the hill, just as the trail wound around and did the same. Finally they took off the opposite direction and I didn't see them again.



    Ferns near the north end of Bearfoot



    The Bearfoot bridge. Final pic.



    I still had 7 miles to go. The trail profile didn't look bad with just a couple climbs otherwise trending downhill. The climbs had a few steep pitches and two series of switchbacks that seemed really flat but still required a lot of effort. This wasn't the easy downhill rip I had envisioned. My knee wasn't hurting like it had on the first ride, but I was completely wiped out by this point. Finally got back to the truck around 930, and didn't feel well enough to even drive anywhere. I think it was dehydration. Had a nap for an hour, then some food and headed east on the control road to find a place to camp.

    There was not much in the way of easy miles on this ride. Including the road pedal to start it was around 20mi and 2,900ft. Oof. That may explain why I was so tired, hadn't expected a 40 mile day...

  3. #3
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    Day 2 was still undecided. I had considered going over to Show-low / Pinetop-Lakeside for a day, but ultimately decided to stay closer to Pine. Someone had mentioned that 5 miles of Highline trail had recently been fixed up near Washington Park. I had camped not far from there, so I decided to check it out in the morning.

    Washington Park is the trailhead where the AZT begins its main climb up to the top of the Mogollon Rim, ~1200ft in 2 miles. From Pine to Washington Park is one of the notoriously brutal sections of AZT that has tons of HAB. The section going east from there is what has been recently worked on. Right now it's an out and back.



    Beginning of the Washington Park - east section



    A bit of tough climbing to begin with and then rolling terrain on red dirt



    There is plenty of rock around. Some nice rock rolls and slabs were included here and there, other rock will poke through the dirt as the trail beds in



    Parts will remind you of Sedona.



    Fern forest



    Nice views along the way too



    More Sedona



    Nice rideable roller



    Plenty of water flowing



    The last 1/2 mile of trailwork was obviously very recent. Mine were the only tire tracks on it. As it got loose to the point of being unfinished, the trailwork suddenly ended and a rutted out mess appeared before me. End of the line, for now. I had entertained thoughts of continuing another couple miles to where two ridgeline trails appear to drop back down to the control road. But walking a bit up the un-worked on trail changed my mind, and I rode back on the nice new trail instead. Big thanks to the crew doing this work!



    The distance according to my GPS was 4.4 miles each way, and +600/-200ft for the ride out. I ran into 3-4 families out hiking this section, mostly closer to the trailhead. No sign of the trail machine, so I presume they are done working for the season.

  4. #4
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    Day 2, ride #2

    One ride I wanted to do most on this trip was to check out a longer rideable section of Highline trail. A few years ago I looped Derrick Tr to Highline to Horton Creek Trail. Todays ride would include sections on either side of that. If time allowed, I would skip the Highline segment I'd done before and descend Derrick before climbing back up Horton, which seems to be the preferred route. That middle section of Highline was partially rebuilt but still has some nasty HAB and poor conditions.

    This would be a point to point self shuttle so I dropped the moto off at the day use area at the bottom of Derrick Tr and headed up toward the rim. For some bonus miles and shorter shuttle I parked at the Rim Top TH intending to ride the Rim Lake Vista trail over to the Military Sinkhole Trail, which would drop down to Highline. After just a hundred yards that plan came to an end as the trail disappeared into a field of logging carnage. I'm sure it would have emerged a few hundred yards later near the rim's edge. But this trail was not my main target for the day so in the interest of time I skipped over to the road for a quick pedal to the Military Sinkhole TH.


    Rim overlook at the top of Military Sinkhole



    Start of a fun, rocky descent



    Brief section that was not rocky



    Military Sinkhole flowed well til the bottom when it turned into a long series of steep techy climbs and descents.

    The next bunch of miles were really fun rolling terrain. No major climbs, but a nice descent to the See Canyon TH



    More Sedona



    After seeing no one for a couple hours it was a shock rolling into that TH where people were camping, screaming kids running around and an obnoxious asshole doing donuts all over on an unnecessarily loud ATV. It gave me motivation to climb away from the mayhem back to peaceful backcountry.



    A series of switchbacks which recently replaced some fall line HAB got me back up to some nice views



    I had my suspicions that if I dropped down Derrick Trail I'd bail on the rest of the ride rather than climb Horton Creek in the dark. So I kept going on Highline. The first mile and a half is nice, then there is some crappy steep HAB for a while. It was actually in better shape than I remembered, no downed trees at least. I was able to ride most of the descents until my dropper post suddenly decided it wasn't going to drop anymore. It really isn't that bad a segment, but the HAB is a bit of a downer.



    There is some nice trail in a few places



    Dropping in to the Horton Creek drainage there is a nice stream complete with waterfalls



    And one of the coolest things you'll see in AZ, where the stream flows right out of the rocks on the hillside



    There were a couple separate groups camping there and I was getting short on light so I didn't hang around



    There is a bit of a climb and some rolling terrain over to a small saddle, then it is mostly downhill on some loose rocky trail to the Fish Hatchery. And from there, about 3 miles of pavement descent back to the moto. Shuttle retrieval was not too cold, and then it was off to find a camping spot for the night.

    The ride was about 26mi total including pavement ending, +3100/-5200.

  5. #5
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    Day 3

    I decided to drive on til I found a place to camp that would have a sunrise view. As with the first night, most of the good places were occupied. I finally found one, but not having the best sense of direction in the dark it turned out to be facing too far southwest to see the sunrise itself. That was no big deal, as I slept through the sunrise anyways. Views were still adequate...



    Considering where I made camp, I was closer to the Cabin loop than anything else. So I decided to ride the other side of the loop, Barbershop to Ubar to Houston Brothers. A few hikers had informed me on Day 1 that I was riding the loop the wrong way and that Ubar and Barbershop were the better trails to ride.

    Parking where Barbershop crosses FR139 I quickly got into a fun, rocky descent



    This was immediately followed by a steep, rocky HAB. Then a section of nice trail



    This was the pattern on Barbershop - steep descent, steep HAB, nice section of meadow or forest trail. Trail goes straight ahead in the pic below.



    Big meadow made for nice riding



    I wasn't sure what to expect on Ubar but it had looked to have a more favorable elevation profile than Barbershop with a general trend of descending and just two distinct drops in/out of drainages.



    Start of the descent into drainage #1



    There was a nice campsite at the bottom of each drainage. The stream in the second one had small trout up to about 4" length.



    I really liked Ubar. There were just a few downed trees, and even with those the trail flowed a lot better than Barbershop without the frequent HABs. The HAB out of each main drainage only took 10 min but the drop into each was fun, and worth it. There were a few short segments of forest road but those went by quickly and I was soon rounding the corner back onto the sweet section of Houston Bros Trail.

    Nice contrast between bright ferns and dark rock ledge



    No one was camping at the Aspen Spring cabin this time, just a couple hikers hanging out by the spring



    I ran into a few of the same backpackers that I saw on day 1, still making their way around the loop. Seems like most of them took a different route than Ubar-Barbershop, or they were faster and already done.

    Mileage was about 17 for the day and +/- 2,200ft.


    This was a good trip in all. The knee only bothered me on the first ride of day 1. And almost all the trail was new to me.

    I wouldn't say the riding here is as good as Flagstaff or Prescott, but it was mostly fun and something different. Hopefully it will only get better if the trailwork continues.

  6. #6
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    Nicely done Evan!! Thanks for the awesome TR!! Now you know why I tend to skip the southern end of Houston Bros!! Good to see the trail work continuing up there, didn't know about the Pine-Strawberry work. Next time you're in the area add in an OnB or make a loop on the Blue Ridge passage (#28) of the AZT and the first 5 miles of Happy Jack - before it becomes not-so Happy.
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    Thanks for the post ... It is nice to see our work in the Pine area is being appreciated. We are working our butts off to get things done... couple of comments .. one.. YRU will be back in the fall to finish the piece of trail out of Washington Park going east to 144 road ... this will be about a nine mile section of sweet singletrack when complete. We will have a crew working on completion of the Pine View. This will add about a mile to the existing trail that connects the Highline to Pine Canyon Trail. Our next big project will a realignment of the Good Enough Trail... this piece of crap fall line trail that runs from the end of Manzanita Street to the Pine Canyon Trail will become significantly longer and very bike friendly. ... great place to start or bailout....
    Again ... nice post with some beautiful pics...

  8. #8
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    Loved it! Great report and photos. You got me itching to ride up there when I get back to az next month.

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  9. #9
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    Awesome TR! And a very interesting part of AZ, the edge of the Mogollon Rim.
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  10. #10
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    Great outing and TR. Amazed to see all the greenery!👍
    Wait whuuut, who did he tell you that!?!?....

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by schillingsworth View Post
    Nicely done Evan!! Thanks for the awesome TR!! Now you know why I tend to skip the southern end of Houston Bros!! Good to see the trail work continuing up there, didn't know about the Pine-Strawberry work. Next time you're in the area add in an OnB or make a loop on the Blue Ridge passage (#28) of the AZT and the first 5 miles of Happy Jack - before it becomes not-so Happy.
    Thanks! I considered Blue Ridge but decided against as I hadn't had time to research the better roads to loop or shuttle it. Always need a reason to come back, right?

    Quote Originally Posted by 90minIPA View Post
    Thanks for the post ... It is nice to see our work in the Pine area is being appreciated. We are working our butts off to get things done... couple of comments .. one.. YRU will be back in the fall to finish the piece of trail out of Washington Park going east to 144 road ... this will be about a nine mile section of sweet singletrack when complete. We will have a crew working on completion of the Pine View. This will add about a mile to the existing trail that connects the Highline to Pine Canyon Trail. Our next big project will a realignment of the Good Enough Trail... this piece of crap fall line trail that runs from the end of Manzanita Street to the Pine Canyon Trail will become significantly longer and very bike friendly. ... great place to start or bailout....
    Again ... nice post with some beautiful pics...
    Thanks for the info, and for all the work out there! I wish I lived closer so I could help out. There is definitely a big difference in enjoyment between what has been worked on and what has not. Hopefully I can make it back some time to check out more of the trails.

  12. #12
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    Nice....You must spread some Reputation around before giving it to evdog again.
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by 90minIPA View Post
    Thanks for the post ... It is nice to see our work in the Pine area is being appreciated. We are working our butts off to get things done... couple of comments .. one.. YRU will be back in the fall to finish the piece of trail out of Washington Park going east to 144 road ... this will be about a nine mile section of sweet singletrack when complete. We will have a crew working on completion of the Pine View. This will add about a mile to the existing trail that connects the Highline to Pine Canyon Trail. Our next big project will a realignment of the Good Enough Trail... this piece of crap fall line trail that runs from the end of Manzanita Street to the Pine Canyon Trail will become significantly longer and very bike friendly. ... great place to start or bailout....
    Again ... nice post with some beautiful pics...
    Is this the advocacy organization that's getting all the new trail built? Rim Country Mountain Biking Association - Home

    More and better trails. How cool is that.
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  14. #14
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    Sounds like you had a great weekend up there, thanks for spreading the good word about these trails!

    I am surprised at the amount of hiker traffic that you encountered on the Cabin Loops. I have ridden every combination of those loops many times and have never encountered more than a few people, more often than not I have encountered 0 other users when riding those trails.


    I actually had plans to get up there this coming weekend, but it looks like the whole area will be shut down for a while..

    https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5208/

  15. #15
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    The work I am speaking of is the Pine-Strawberry Fuel Reduction Trail Crew... Our race, "Fire On The Rim", gives us the ability to pay for certain trail projects like the recent completion of the Pine Canyon reroute, bridge, etc. The trail crew is responsible for smaller hand built projects (reroutes, maintenance, track layout, etc.). We also have a gal, Janet Brandt, who writes grants, and her husband, Mike Brandt, who had the vision for impacting Pines forests and to bring eco-tourism to our little hamlet. Our dedicated group of trail builders is slowly growing. One way the public can help is to support our race through donations (money, services, products, etc.) or through sweat equity in trail work. We got big plans but need dollars to get the big projects done... it will happen just will take some time.. The work over on the Highline Trail is being spearheaded by VOAZ... Michael Baker and Paul Panessa.. Paul is a big trail advocate and is responsible for many of the newer trails in the PMP. Retirement got him involved with VOAZ. Now that he is involved track layout is much more bike centric. Soon the section from Washington Park to 260 will be complete (a few years)... some remote areas with challenging terrain make this process slow but the machine built trail will make things amazingly rideable! One other way riders can help is to go out and ride these trails .. our presence is the best police force to prevent quad poaching...
    Lots of good things happening in the Pine area so come up and ride....

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by 90minIPA View Post
    The work I am speaking of is the Pine-Strawberry Fuel Reduction Trail Crew... Our race, "Fire On The Rim", gives us the ability to pay for certain trail projects like the recent completion of the Pine Canyon reroute, bridge, etc. The trail crew is responsible for smaller hand built projects (reroutes, maintenance, track layout, etc.). We also have a gal, Janet Brandt, who writes grants, and her husband, Mike Brandt, who had the vision for impacting Pines forests and to bring eco-tourism to our little hamlet. Our dedicated group of trail builders is slowly growing. One way the public can help is to support our race through donations (money, services, products, etc.) or through sweat equity in trail work. We got big plans but need dollars to get the big projects done... it will happen just will take some time.. The work over on the Highline Trail is being spearheaded by VOAZ... Michael Baker and Paul Panessa.. Paul is a big trail advocate and is responsible for many of the newer trails in the PMP. Retirement got him involved with VOAZ. Now that he is involved track layout is much more bike centric. Soon the section from Washington Park to 260 will be complete (a few years)... some remote areas with challenging terrain make this process slow but the machine built trail will make things amazingly rideable! One other way riders can help is to go out and ride these trails .. our presence is the best police force to prevent quad poaching...
    Lots of good things happening in the Pine area so come up and ride....
    For me it would be to come down and ride since I'm in Flag. Never ridden in the area which is pathetic. Lots of canyoneering in Tonto Creek/Salome and others and backpacking in the Mazatzals but need to change that.

    Anyhow, sounds like you've got the land manager engaged. What about those pesky Mexican spotted owls? Is there presence or absence?
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  17. #17
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    Thanks for the update 90min.

    Here's the link to the VOAZ Highline page.

    Here's the link to the Pine-Strawberry Fuel Reduction Trails page.

    A ton of great things are happening up there. Go ride the trails!!

    Hey 90min, can you talk a bit about the long range projects? IIRC, there were plans to work on the Donahue trail? Maybe have a more rideable trail to gain the rim. I would think the ATA would get a crew up there at some point to work on the AZT between the Walnut trail and AZ87. That approach coming out of Oak Spring...ugh. I wonder if anything can/would be done with the social trail linking Oak Spring to the community down by Pine Creek. (it's the Oak Spring Alt. access trail on trailforks)
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  18. #18
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    enjoyed the write up, going to get myself up there whenever I can thanks!

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    schillingsworth.... we have tossed around a lot of ideas as to how we spend our money and how we allocate work. With both being limited we've had to make some hard choices on the direction we take. The best, most cost effective way to get off the rim down to Pine would be the Old Wagon Road 608. This is a historic road but has been poached by quads and with the forest service having virtually no manpower to police this due to most conflicts taking place in more populated areas in the Tonto it has sat neglected. We actually have the green light to make this a dedicated downhill track if we could stay within a reasonable distance from the corridor. It would be the perfect shuttle trail as it basically spills out onto Hwy 87 just south of Strawberry where the Bearfoot Trail begins. We did spend about 3 days GPS'ing routes off the rim for the Donohue Trail and it is still on the back burner... Another great place to dump off the rim is the Pine Canyon Trail. Both the Donohue and Pine Canyon have some huge logistical building issues because of the terrain we face... 1000' feel of vertical with not many choices on how to reroute the track due to steepness, rocks the size of 1972 Volkswagons, etc.
    This next fall we will begin work first GPS'ing a route the would run on the existing Oak Springs Trail from the Pine Trailhead running ESE. In the area of Bradshaw Meadow a new trail will skirt the Pine area and meet up with the Walnut Trail then taking you out to FSR 428.... this would complete a our vision for a circle route around Pine...
    We also have plans to build a brand new trail up and over Strawberry Mt. this would allow us to get off the ranch for our race and have another trail system at the Trail 15 TH. So if you know anyone about to die and they are wondering who to endow their fortune to... please put in a good word for us... or .... Come up and support our race... drink Arizona Trail Ale..... (a percent of sales goes to AZT) .... come up and ride.. spread the butter.. I mean word...

  20. #20
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    love riding the Cabin Loop. Every season change the trails take on a different personality.

    Great early winter riding after the first few snows as well.

    Here is Houston Bros in late June.TR - Pine AZ for Memorial Day 2017-img_0697.jpg
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  21. #21
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    This got me motivated enough that if all goes right I'll be up there tomorrow. Been too long.
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    Quote Originally Posted by TacoBeer View Post
    This got me motivated enough that if all goes right I'll be up there tomorrow. Been too long.
    Not sure if you made it up there today or not but I did. Completed the same 20 mile loop the OP did, pretty nice work and saw quite a few people out working on the trail. I'm really excited to see what can come in this area, for years I've said the area could be another Sedona if the right folks get involved.

  23. #23
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    I made it and started at Pine trail head heading north then to Bearfoot tr to Pine/strawberry tr then Hardscrabble through the neighborhood back to the start.
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    Congratulations Tacobeer ..you win a taco and beer when I get back to Pine .... : - ) Isn't it great to have all of Pine Canyon Trail rideable??? Thanks for spreading the love. Hope to see you up for "Fire On The Rim" this September. Always good to read your posts. Look for the fall "beerduro" maybe the 3rd week in October .... colors and great singletrack .... and good beer and some other shenanigans ...... I'll keep you posted.

  25. #25
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    I sent a PM letting you know I'll be up there to ride. I forgot I had your phone number. I'll call next time.
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  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by schillingsworth View Post
    ... or make a loop on the Blue Ridge passage (#28) of the AZT and the first 5 miles of Happy Jack - before it becomes not-so Happy.
    Crappy Jack

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  27. #27
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    I climbed Derrick trail this week, didnt really care for it - very cobbled and was so hot I didnt have much left for Highline.

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    The Derrick Trail is sick to try and climb as in "NO FUN" ...... next time ride from 260 TH west to Derrick Trail ... come down Derrick to a cooler full of cold beer and a shuttle ride back to 260 TH ...... this I how the "Hipsters" roll ; - )

  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by 90minIPA View Post
    The Derrick Trail is sick to try and climb as in "NO FUN" ...... next time ride from 260 TH west to Derrick Trail ... come down Derrick to a cooler full of cold beer and a shuttle ride back to 260 TH ...... this I how the "Hipsters" roll ; - )
    yeah I was going to climb Horton Creek as per evdog's trip suggestion, but the idea of Highline from Horton to Derrick seemed rough. *facepalm* Next time. Derrick descending was pleasant.

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