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2,515 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
2019 Arizona Trail Race - 750 miles from Mexico to Utah along the Arizona Trail.

For me this event is the final exam of bikepacking because it has it all: deserts, forests, big mountains to climb, scorching temps, freezing nights, snow at elevation, hike a bike, and the most intimidating challenge which is having to carry your bike across the Grand Canyon after riding 650 miles. For me doing this route had been years in the making. Not to train or prepare so much as it's very hard for me to get the necessary time off work this time of year. I've ridden a lot of miles on the AZT including the AZT 300 back in 2017 and doing the full 750 has been on my mind for a long time. But something had always come up preventing me from committing. Finally this year I got approval for two weeks off work. Time to get my **** together!

I have a pretty solid bikepacking setup already. Gear list was started months in advance, then revised numerous times. Some gear was upgraded, in particular getting a frame bag for my hardtail, a couple new accessory bags, a lighter bivy sack, and new tires and drivetrain on my bike. Having recently blown up the rear hub on my full suspension bike I replaced the Stans rear wheel with one that has a DT Swiss hub. Not a good idea to go into an event like this wondering if your gear will hold up!
The last few weeks before the race were spent studying the route, making cue sheets, gathering gear, test-packing and testing my carry system for the canyon. Before I knew it, it was go-time!

This was pretty much my final gear load, missing only my pack and the set of clothing I'd be wearing

I made cue sheets showing elevation profile, elevations, stats and notes for each segment. This would live on my handlebar/stem

Next up, final test pack of gear on the bike

Then, re-load that onto my pack for a final canyon setup test

Oof. Weighted, and unweighted. And this doesn't include food or water.

Box it up! Of a few available options I had chosen to fly to Tucson with the bike.

Now, time to hydrate

630am flight came early. Stopover in Vegas

Ruh-roh. This trip might end badly before it begins!

Arrive in Tucson safe and sound

Huge thanks to Mark at Sun N Spokes bike shop in Sierra Vista for picking us up and giving us a lift to SV.

First order of business in Sierra Vista - lunch! L-R myself and other racers Josh, Ken, Brian

Building bikes back at Sun N Spokes

Ready to go!

It was around 5:30pm when we finished building bikes. Mark asked me when I wanted to be dropped off at the start line. It really didn't matter, although I had hoped to do the couple-mile hike from Montezuma pass to the southern AZT terminus that evening. But with a 45 minute drive, it was too late for that unless we left immediately. It had been raining on and off that afternoon and there were still dark clouds over the mountains, so when Mark suggested I join his family for dinner and he could drive me out afterward that sounded like a great idea. Thanks, Mark! We got up to Montezuma Pass around 9pm. It was dark and windy, and threatening rain. I had planned to ride down to the start line from there which is a few miles down. AZTR doesn't start at the actual AZT terminus because that is in a National Monument which doesn't allow bikes on trails. Mark offered to drop me off right at the border given the blowing wind, which I gladly accepted. I knew there were 3-4 other riders planning to start a day early but saw no one else there. Mark headed back home and I was on my own in the dark. I found a spot a ways back from the border fence and got set up to sleep. Lights out by 10pm.

2,515 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Day 1

I'm usually a night owl and don't sleep great if I go to bed early. So I woke up around 1am. Back to sleep, I was awakened around 3 by rain drops. Had a pretty steady rain all the way through til morning. I wasn't worried about my stuff since clothing was in a dry bag and I'd have two weeks of clear weather to dry out.

I was planning to get up and start riding as early as I could. But at 5 am, then 530 it was still raining. It finally let up around 6 so I got up and packed my stuff. Had a quick snack and headed over to the border fence.

My sleeping spot. Backpack for a pillow got wet, but my clothing was in a dry bag so I wasn't concerned. Plus I'd have two weeks of clear weather to dry out

Early morning light was surreal. I'm curious what would blow apart a water tank like this!

On my own at the border line. I decided to do an ITT (individual time trial) a day ahead of the main group start since that day worked out better for me getting the lift to Sierra vista and the start

The AZT southern terminus is just beyond that saddle up the hill.

630am. Time to roll! I'd run into another 750 rider Dylan Gonda near the first road intersection where he had camped. He was starting the next day and planning to ride out and back to Parker Canyon Lake as a warmup.

Most of the ride from the border to Parker Canyon Lake where the 300 starts is dirt road. Pretty mellow grades mostly, and a good warmup. Nice scenery as well. A recent burn next to the road meant everything was green. I saw a coatimundi about 15mins into the ride.

I would lose my phone later in the ride along with most of my pics, so went through some go-pro footage I had taken looking for shots. There were a few good ones

Nice view to the west.

About a mile before Parker Canyon Lake is the first singletrack of the ride. It's a bit hidden and even though I knew it was coming I rode past it slightly

Nice and flowy woodland riding to start

First hike a bike follows soon after

Stopping at the 300 start line at Parker Canyon Lake. No one around except a couple border patrol trucks unloading an ATV patrol. I took 30mins to lay my stuff out to dry and eat some breakfast.

Rolled out of PCL at 9:15. First up is gear check hill, where you will find out if everything is attached securely or not.

The first section of Canelo hills is really nice, flowing along a ridge top with just a few short climbs

Then it gets tough with some steep climbing, steep twisty descents, and hike a bike. It is tough riding but I like it, and not bad on a cool day like today

Not many flowers out down here but some cactus was blooming brilliant red

Views for miles from up high

I'd already met a three thru-hikers, and then these two friendly equestrians + furry friend just before Canelo Pass. One other day rider was all I'd see all day.

The most interesting gopro captures came when I'd forget to turn the gopro off. I was trying to frame this shot so the Arizona lettering on the sign would be half sky, half mountain in the background

X means don't camp here (red ant nest)

Starting to see lots of flowers lower down. There were a couple nice re-routes in the Canelos, one before and one after Canelo pass that replaced some crappy trail, dirt road and hike a bike with nice singletrack

I got into Patagonia and stopped at the store for a drink and chips, then pushed on up the pavement to Sonoita. I was pretty shelled by then and wanted a full meal. The corner store told me about a new brewery in town the Copper Brothel. Food and a beer was great and I was rested enough to push on past Kentucky Camp.
The AZTR used to be roughly scheduled around the April full moon but is now the 3th Thursday in April. This year, we still got full moon. It got me some interesting pics using the Google night sight before Kentucky Camp

Pretty good day in all. I did catch my arm on a branch overhanging the trail which nearly threw me off the bike. Passed a few tents camped right next to the trail. Sorry if I woke you guys up. But not the guy camped right next to the super gate - you were asking for it.

I made it about 8 miles past Kentucky Camp that night and stopped around 2:30am. The goal had been to make it to Helvitia Rd which I was close to, but I opted to camp above it as I didn't want to end up camping in a cold air drainage.

Stats: 85.6mi, +8.630/-8,850. 19.5 hours

2,515 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Day 2

Sun rises at 6am. Time to go! There is some tough riding after Helvitia Rd that I wanted to get past before it got hot. 300 rider Ty Hopkins started the day before as well and passed me as I was getting ready.

The descent down to Helvitia is very fun

Then it gets harder dropping into and climbing out of numerous ravines

I made it through the hard stuff and past the magic green gate that signals easier riding. Flowers started appearing more frequently about that time as well.

The riding towards Hwy 83 is really nice. Passed a couple German thru hikers who had bailed off the PCT due to too much snow, and one day rider (same lady I'd seen day before in the Canelos)

Then at the Hwy 83 crossing had a visit from race director Schillingsworth, no doubt looking for rule violations. Good seeing you, and thanks for the pic!

Had to sign the trail register. I signed every one that I came across.

Crossing under Interstate 10

I kept going north towards Colossal Cave park where I stopped for water refill and a snack, and then on to Suguaro National Park. It was hot out but not unbearable. Temps were going to rise to 97 in Tucson the next day so I wanted to get part way up Mt Lemmon that night.

Views of the Rincon Mountains to the north

I came across a couple thru hikers on this section and one day rider - aside from the thru hikers this morning that was it on the day

The mountains didn't seem to get any closer. We eventually turn onto the Hope Camp trail which curves around south taking us out of the National Park. Then a few miles south on pavement before turning back north to Tucson.

I had wanted to stop at the Rocking K Market to resupply and Saguaro Corners for dinner, but a strange rubbing in my rear brake that I couldn't fix sent me into Tucson to the nearest bike shop, 4 miles off route. I'd called ahead to see if they had a 160mm roter, and they did. When I got there it turned out they had sold it to someone else in the meantime. Seriously?? But the mechanic did some digging and pulled out a rotor someone had taken off thinking it was too worn. Well, it wasn't nearly as worn as mine. I usually bend them long before I wear them out so this wasn't something I checked before the race. Go figures it would start rubbing the pads once the race started.

Made my way back to the route after dinner through construction clogged roads and started up Redington Road. When I did the 300, also nighttime midweek, I'd seen no one on Redington Road until I woke up a fellow racer napping roadside. This time there were tons of vehicles driving up and down, and someone camped in almost every pullout along the road. No sign of any racers behind me yet so I kept going. The goal was to get up and over Molino Pass so I wouldn't have to do that in the morning. I made it through Chiva Falls OHV trail. It was pretty fun with the full moon as I could ride some of it without lights. Crossed over Redington Rd again and finally saw headlamps in the distance behind me. I was wondering when I'd be caught by fast guys from the group start. So I pushed on. Seeing how long I could hold them off was good motivation to keep going. I made it to just before the Milagrosa turnoff before the first rider caught me around 330am, racing too fast to say anything but "hey". Looks like he scratched on the pavement climb later than morning so maybe he was pushing too hard? I was fighting the sleep monster by that point so I found a good spot to lie down around 4am to rest for a couple hours. This was pretty much right at the bottom of the Molino hike a bike. Was bummed not to make it over that but you can't win em all.

Stats on the day 91mi, +6,890/-8,180. 20.5 hours

2,515 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Day 3

Heard a few riders pass me over the next couple hours. Finally got up and moving once the sun was up. Had my first cramp of the trip as I was getting up, a weird one in my foot and the back of my quad. Stretched out and it went away.

It was already warm. Gonna be a hot one. I got cooked on Lemmon during the 300 and could see it coming again. I decided to take the handlebar bag off the bike and strap it to my backpack thinking it would make it easier to lift the bike up and over some of the rock ledges and rock piles on the Molino HAB.

Classic section of Molino HAB. Steeper and gnarlier than it looks.

I was able to enjoy some great views though, so there's that

I played leapfrog with a couple thru-hikers. "Yes, this is as much fun as it looks"

Strapping the handlebar bag to my backpack turned out to be a major tactical error on my part. It provided little relief when lifting the bike over rocks and instead killed my shoulders and wore me out. It was a struggle up Molino and just as bad or worse from the Molino campground to Prison Camp. Had to stop and rest numerous times as it was getting very hot as well. It took me 2 hours to get to Molino and another 2 to Prison Camp. Not the start I wanted as I'd now be riding the highway up in the heat of the day. At least I'd had a couple hours sleep to help get me up the mountain. Abundant water was another plus, I'd been able to filter before Molino campground where the stream was flowing. So I was set for water as well. I'd never seen water there before.

Time to put head down and tackle that pavement climb. I had been hoping to bang it out in three hours before it got hot, but instead I was starting it at 11am and had to resort to my "shade to shade" strategy where I'd stop for a rest every shade spot, or .1 mile, or every 100ft elevation gain, whichever I got to first. I was hurting big time. Cooked.

Rounding the first of the long Mt Lemmon switchbacks I spotted a flowing stream down below the highway. A benefit of the wet winter was water flowing everywhere. At the second pullout I spotted a slope that was not too steep, and set off down the hill to filter water and cool off.

Time for a swim! Walked right in and lay down in the water shoes and all. It was cold and felt great. This gave me a huge lift… til I dried off and started cooking again. Used my water to keep sleeves and bandana wet on the climb to help keep me cool. It was still a struggle and ended up taking me 5 hours to get to the pavement turnoff.

Checking out the view during another rest stop. I refilled more water at the Bigelow Trailhead spigot and continued on.

The route had a change this year - rather than riding pavement all the way to the Control Road we would split off onto dirt and then pick up 1918 and Sunset Trails, which would take the route right through Summerhaven. And on this day, it would go right through this couple's wedding. I got to watch the bride walk up the "aisle" from where I'm waiting. As soon as they moved off to the right I rode through "we are gathered here today…" Didn't check to see if I got any dirty looks - didn't care - don't they know there's a race going on?

The re-route looked good on paper but I'm not so sure about it. Maybe it isn't always like that but 1918 was a mess from winter storm damage. And Sunset is a double black diamond descent that would be a handful on an unloaded bike. Downhill hike a bike, whoooo!! The trail goes down the rock face on the left in the photo below. I had ridden this trail years ago but didn't remember it being so gnarly. With the general store in Summerhaven closing soon I was not a happy camper. Fortunately I made it to the store with a few minutes to spare, loaded up on food and then headed over to the Sawmill Run restaurant for dinner.

A few other racers showed up just after me. Some made the store, most didn't. The burger, a beer and a pepsi hit the spot. I hung out long enough to charge all my devices since I'd have 2-3 days before I could do so again. After the burger I thought I was still hungry so I figured I'd order a side of tater tots. The waiter pointed out they were sweet potato tots and they weren't his favorite. I figured how bad could they be? And a side order wouldn't be huge. Wrong! The colossal plate he brought out would have been enough to share for half dozen people or more. I had a couple, didn't like them, and passed them over to Jason and Mike sitting behind me. As amusing as the order was, I was annoyed at the waiter for not telling me how huge it would be. I couldn't have eaten that much if it had been the only thing I ordered.

Done eating, I went outside and packed my grocery haul. I had enough food to get me through to Gold Canyon as I didn't think I'd make it to Queen Valley while the store was open. A few more riders rolled up, having missed the restaurant which had just closed. Pavel from Czech Republic was bummed and incredulous that he'd have to go off-route to Oracle to resupply in the morning. Where is the next resupply on-route? That would be Queen Valley about 120 miles from here. No, there's nothing else. You'll have to go to Oracle. He was determined not to go off route. Not sure what he did.

Time to press on. Oracle ridge in the dark, up next! Oracle Ridge might be described as a brawl at the best of times. It is even tougher in the dark since you have to watch out for trailside sniper rocks hidden in the grass, and drops that are deceptively gnarly. The trail starts off mostly rideable, then it gets burly with steep climbing and descending, and lots of rock outcrops to drag your bike over. After dropping down about 800ft you climb back up 500, most of which was steep hike a bike. It was a beautiful night and moon was still out, so I was having a great time. I could see headlamps off in the distance in front and behind. I passed a couple trailside tents and bivies. I got onto a steep road descent and knew where the singletrack picked up again there would be a good flat spot to camp.

Campsites had been very limited thus far. It was 12:30 by this point and I was beat. Also better to ride the rest of Oracle Ridge in the morning. It would be much more rideable from here and I'd make better time in the morning when I could see better.

Stats 32.5mi, +6,200 / -4,080ft. 17.5 hours

2,515 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
Day 4

I woke up before sunrise to the sound of riders passing by my campsite. Got up and after a quick bite to eat I was pedaling away onto one of the best sections of Oracle Ridge where the trail drops down and then traverses up high for a little while.

Great colors as I got ready to roll

This pic doesn't do it justice - the light coming through the clouds just after the sun came up was incredible

The traverse, with a view that goes on forever

Lots of fun rocky sections

I was surprised to run into a couple day hikers this high up, and this early. Said they started around 4am.

Down on the Cody Trail I made a short detour to fill up with water at Highjinks Ranch where there is a spigot available to AZT users. Bike and bag were thoroughly inspected by Mr kitty. With a full load of water and my resupply in Summerhaven there would be no need to head in to Oracle.

American Flag Trailhead, about to enter Oracle State Park

Not many trail users out. I nearly lost the game of "stick or snake" here. Didn't see this guy stretched across the trail til the last second, and he recoiled lightning fast. Didn't strike though. He wasn't moving so I grabbed a stick to shoo him off the trail just in time for a day rider to come by

There weren't a ton of flowers, but the ones that were out were pretty nice

I stopped and had a snack under Hwy 77 then continued on up Tiger Mine Rd to pick up the AZT again. There was a nice breeze blowing so even though it was warm, it didn't feel bad at all. Pavel caught up to me near the top of one of the ridges. I took a few pics for him with his phone then he continued on.

Flowy section in the Black Hills.

This is my favorite desert bloom. Like cholla, it blooms later than most of the flowers

More desert flow. The bump in the distance to the right of center is Antelope Peak. That's where I'm heading next

But first a long descent down into Bloodsucker Wash. The final descent gets more loose and raw, and with cactus lining the trail you have to watch your lines

Not sure what changed on the descent but all of a sudden that breeze was hot, not cool. There is often some shade long the near edge of the wash under some trees but it was late enough the sun had swung around and the shade was gone. I found a tree across the wash that offered some shade and tool a late lunch break. I hadn't seen anyone else for a few hours but soon enough I heard the sound of tires coming down the hill and Annie LE from Scotland appeared in the wash. Funny meeting her here, I'd followed her on Instagram for a few years (@a_girl_outside) and had messaged back and forth a bit when she posted she was coming over for the 300. Nice finally meeting your Annie! She continued on, I had an hour long nap. Time to keep going!

There was still about 10 miles left to Antelope Peak and Freeman Rd. There is a shade structure with bench and water cache there where I planned to stop for a snack and get ready for night riding.

I caught up to Annie just after Freeman Rd before the trailhead. Not 5 minutes after we stopped another pair of riders showed up, Josh and Liz. I had seen them behind me a while back but managed to hold them off til now. They were both doing the 750 as well. There was a nice sunset going on while we ate and got ready. Annie headed out first, then me, then Josh and Liz some time later. We were just a few minutes apart each but I barely caught any glimpses of headlights ahead or behind for quite a while.

I finally passed Annie when we got to some climbs and then had to scare this huge spider off a gate to get through it.

I got passed by Josh on one of the steep climbs. He had gotten a second wind and blew past me like I was standing still. There is a new re-route somewhere in this area. I didn't recognize where it started, but could tell I was on some trail that wasn't entirely familiar, and didn't see a couple features that I remembered. Always harder to recognize things in the dark though. Soon enough I was at the gate at the drop in to Ripsey Wash. It was 11pm and I was hungry, so I stopped for something to eat. Liz and Annie caught up and kept going. I could see their lights moving down the wash and then starting the climb up Ripsey on the other side.

There was a light or two up on top of Ripsey Ridge which would have been Josh or maybe Pavel. It was finally time for me to take off. The drop into Ripsey wash is always fun in the dark with g-outs into little ravines, steep exposed side slopes and switchbacks. Once into the wash I turned off my lights and walked up to the start of the climb. Its tough enough in the daylight so the bottom is pure HAB in the dark. With the moon up I didn't need lights at all which was very cool.

I came across this guy on one of the upper switchbacks.

He was pretty chill and cruised on down the trail after I put him down. I expected to come across people camped on the top of Ripsey but I didn't see anyone. I was pretty much done at that point and wanted to sleep up top anyways to catch the sunrise. So I picked a spot that I thought would give me a good view, and crashed out for the night. It was around 2am.

Stats 62.5mi, +6,360 / -9,260. 20 hours

2,515 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
Day 5

I'd been able to experience a full moon ride on Ripsey before but never sunrise or sunset. There weren't any clouds so the colors weren't amazing, but it was still pretty cool. I got some great photos of a few riders who came through then, which are unfortunately lost with my phone somewhere. I planned to ride down to Kelvin before having breakfast so I just had a quick snack and was off.

Ripsey is one of those cool spots that everyone should check out at some point. Photos don't do it justice

Chasing Miles Carlson down the switchback descent

Party at the A-dot spigot. New chairs, even! Miles, Paul, Josh, Liz getting ready to roll out.

I got some great pics along the Gila that were lost. But no pics of the clothing optional swim at our lunch break. The river was flowing fairly fast and high, and was welcome relief as it was toasty out. I ate my noodles neck neep in the water. Everyone filtered after hearing stories of people getting cooked and running out of water the day before. I took some extra to pour on my bandana and sun sleeves.

Climbing out of the Gila, I got two thumbs up!

Ocotillo were blooming and the trail was mostly in great shape

I was going a little slower than I would have liked but made good progress considering the temps.

The first overlook, some of the best scenery you can ride through in the state

Still some work to do up Martinez Canyon though

Caught up to Miles again briefly before I stopped for a snack

Top of Martinez comes into view

Lots of yellow on the hillsides too

Here, kitty kitty

Picketpost by sunset! Doing the 750 also gets you credit for the 300, and I got a time of 4 days 10:15 hours, knocking almost 3 hours off my first 300 run. Was hoping to knock more off, but I had bigger things yet to come so I continued on.

Two riders from Bishop, Rick and Adrien rolled into Picketpost a few minutes after me. A couple miles more AZT was next to get to Hewitt Station Road, then a long dirt road detour around some private property before rolling into Queen Valley. There were quite a few turns to navigate in the dark and I had to backtrack a couple times. Queen Valley was deserted at 11pm. Then we cross onto State Trust land and navigate more dirt roads up to Gold Canyon. There were so many braided OHV roads in there, a few more turns were missed. I wanted to get through the singletrack of Gold Canyon so I pushed on. Made it close to the far side and found a nice flat camp site around 2am. Done! This would set me up well to hit Basha's for a resupply first thing.

Stats: 76mi, +7,100/-8,700. 19.5 hours

2,515 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
Day 6

Woke pretty early again and packed up. I discovered I had a camp mate, curled up about 15 feet away from my bivy. Fortunately he didn't snore :_)

Just as I was about to get moving Josh and Liz rolled up. Perfect timing!

We spent a bit of time at Basha's shopping, re-organizing, and cleaning packs out. And eating. Justin Manring and Paul showed up at Basha's too. Ready to go, we had a bit of pavement to ride before getting onto the Jacob Crosscut trail.

I had ridden part of Jacob Crosscut before and it wasn't a ton of fun on a loaded bike. There was a bit of a climb up to it which was tough. The trail is still rocky but has been cleaned up a bit, and has decent flow if you can keep your momentum up. I fell in behind Liz and actually had fun on this bit of trail.

Then onto Lost Dutchman state park which threw some unexpected hike a bike at us, followed by some very faint and raw trail as we traversed east.

Finally it was onto pavement all the way to Tortilla Flat. The rest of the day would be all new territory for me and it had some pretty spectacular scenery.

Canyon Lake

It was hot by the time we got to Tortilla Flat so that was a mandatory stop for snacks, soda, and water. Cool place, but tourist central. We got a lot of funny looks and questions.

Paul explains to a motorcyclist what we're up to

After Tortilla Flat is a lengthy climb to Fish Creek overlook. Not sure what got into me but I got sick of sitting and spinning so I dropped a few gears so I could stand up and pedal to give my ass a break. Found that I could pretty much keep that pace sitting down too, so I shifted a couple more gears down and cranked out the rest of the climb. I got way ahead of the others except for Josh, he was off to the races and I wouldn't see him again (he won the 750!)

Fish Creek overlook, feeling great

I saw Liz fly past while I was stopped, so I took chase. Spectacular views from the road

Dreading the next climb all the way up that valley, no shade and no breeze.

I was still riding strong but definitely slowed down on the remaining dirt climbs. There was a lot of up and down and they really started to wear on me. Especially here along the reservoir - the road would drop right down to water level and then climb back up above cliffs several times. Not big climbs, but their effects were definitely felt.

Apache Lake

Not too much further the road turned to pavement and there was one more climb up and over the Roosevelt Dam. I was pretty burned out so I decided to pedal over to the marina and get a snack and something to drink. Turns out there is a new store and restaurant there. Pavel was there hanging out, and Justin would show up a little while later.

I was pretty burned out, and also needed to wash clothes and charge electronics. The store had taped over all the electrical plugs apparently to prevent thru hikers from setting up camp in their sitting area, so I wouldn't be charging anything here. Decided instead to ride into Tonto Basin and get a motel room, then get up early early the next morning.

Roosevelt Lake from the highway pedal to Tonto Basin

Pavel had made a mistake at the marina and while trying to adjust air in his fork had let all the air out. Neither of us had a shock pump. So he had to ride up to Tonto Basin on a flat fork and try to find someone with a pump. There was a hardware store but he popped into one of the local bars and found someone with an air compressor and they were able to get him going. Close call! Most people don't want to carry something they're unlikely to need, but sometimes when you need it you need it. It would have been a painful ride into the nearest bike shop in Payson without any air in his fork.

Pavel caught me on the highway after getting his fork aired up. I wouldn't see him again.

I got a room at Punkin Center Lodge. Set my stuff up to charge, threw my clothes in the washer, and hit up their bar for dinner. Their kitchen was closed but they happily threw a pizza in an oven for me - no complaints, it was great! Got to bed around 11, fairly early for this trip, and was out like a light.

Stats - 79mi, +5,940 /-5,660. 13 hours.

2,515 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
Day 7

Early start. I was all packed and ready to go, just had to get dressed and roll out. The shower and bed to sleep in made a huge difference and I was raring to go. 12 miles or so paved highway riding, then some dirt road and jeep road to get into Payson. Planning to be there for breakfast. Rolling by 3am.

It was just getting light as I crossed over Hwy 87 at Rye.

There was some steep climbing up this jeep road but mostly it wasn't bad.

After crossing the highway at the top of the hill before Payson I stopped to remove a layer and didn't notice when my phone in its case fell off my chest strap. Noticed it about 5-10 mins away and had to retrace my steps. Should have taken that as a warning and tied it on, and that would burn me later.

A bit more dirt took me right into Payson and I rolled part way through town to McDs where I stopped for a quick breakfast and water re-fill, then a re-supply.

The segment between Payson and Pine is a notoriously shitty section of the route. I'd never been on it before, and it wasn't bad at first. The road was good at first with lots of stream crossings. There were dark clouds nearby and thunder, and it rained on and off. Eventually the road devolved into a rough jeep trail that climbed up and over a ridgeline. Some steep hike a bike thrown in here and there. I stopped for half hour and waited out a rain shower under a tree. Had a bit of a nap.

Up top, it flattened out and the road took me through some logging operations.

Rain in the distance towards Pine

Buckhead Tank was full

Aside from the steep hike a bike nothing had been terrible so far. And after passing the logging operation I was surprised when the route popped onto a paved road for a little while and then dropped down a steep grade into a private community. Strange place - private property signs everywhere but no one around. The route follows a road through the community and then turns onto an unmarked trail that crosses a rocky drainage before climbing steeply up a hill. This was a connector back to the AZT, which we had bypassed since Roosevelt Lake.

Oak Spring was running clear. I topped up my water here

Once back on the AZT the trail was in better shape but there was a burly climb up to another ridge top. Flowers made it nice though! Recent rain had left some mud and I could tell the others before me had to clean some caked mud off off their bikes. It was ok by the time I went through, though.

A bit of nice pedaling on the way out to the highway.

I knew Beto Villegas was not far behind me and I had kept moving trying to hold him off til Pine. Got a surprise when I ran into his wife Shannon near the trailhead, waiting for him. Great seeing you Shannon! She was the first person I'd seen on the trail all day. They'd meet me over at That Brewery shortly. Liz was over there too eating and packing food away for the next leg. This was the last time I'd see her, on her way to setting a new fastest women's time. Congrats, Liz!

With each year's Arizona Trail membership you get a 2 for 1 coupon for Arizona Trail Pale Ale at the brewery. I'd been through town before but never able to stop in, so I made good use of it today. Burger and fries were great, and I ordered a grilled cheese and bacon sandwich for later. Resupply at the Ponderosa market and I was rolling back to the trailhead to take on the Highline Trail just before dark. I saw a herd of elk not too far in and a couple hikers and their dogs heading back to the trailhead. They warned me about some nasty mud ahead resulting from the afternoon/evening's rain.

Highline may be the most notorious part of the AZT for bikepackers. A few people told me to take my pedals off because it was so unrideable. The trail was nice for a few miles, then it got steep and rocky, with switchbacks. Aside from some hike a bike it wasn't bad though. Rain earlier that evening left parts of the trail muddy, but it had dried enough it didn't affect me much. I paid attention to the conditions though as enough was sticking that my wheels were picking up some rocks from the trail. The hardest part was fighting the sleep monster. By this point I was falling asleep upright every time I stopped walking, so I wasn't making a lot of progress.

I had wanted to make it at least to the Geronimo trailhead roughly half way, but I was done and started looking for a campsite. I'd passed a very nice one under some trees not too far back but didn't want to backtrack. I figured I'd find another nice one ahead, but I wasn't seeing anything. In fact, I wasn't seeing any spots that were even wide enough to crash next to the trail. I was getting pissed off because I really wanted to stop by this point. Finally found a spot where the trail corridor widened just enough, and crashed out.

Stats - 70mi, +8,280/-4,790. 19.5 hours

2,515 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
Day 8

I woke before the sun was up. Rain the previous day had left the trail damp and the bushes were all holding water. All my stuff was wet. Not going to do anything about it now, so I ate half my bacon grilled cheese sandwich and packed up. Rolling by 6am. I expected tough going and tons of hike a bike so I wore my hiking shorts rather than chamois. Go figure, much of the trail was rideable so here I was riding it without padding. Wasn't a big deal but I found it amusing. I also found an awesome campsite about ¼ mile past where I stopped for the night. With tree cover I would have stayed much dryer. Oh well….

I was only about 3.5 miles from Geronimo trailhead and it was mostly downhill from where I camped, so I was able to ride quite a bit.

The trail near Geronimo TH was very lush, lots of greenery and bigger trees.

Climbing away from it the trail reminded me more of Sedona with red dirt, pine trees, junipers and manzanita

There were sections like this but they were all pretty short and usually had a nice payoff

Consulting my handy elevation chart I still have some climbing to do

A surprising amount of trail was nice like this. I found a nice open area and laid out my damp gear to dry. It only took 20min or so in the sun, and by the time I had eaten it was all ready to be packed away

This chute made me pucker up a bit

Made it to Washington Park. Stopped for lunch, and stuck a half pepsi bottle in the stream to chill it off. A thru hiker I had recently passed stopped at the stream, grabbed my pepsi bottle, saw me watching him, and then put it back. Enjoy your hike, you thieving bastard. :lol:

A hundred yards or so before that bridge the AZT split away from the GPS track I was following. The track turned uphill on an old powerline road. But I could see AZT markers on a trail that continued straight. Looks like the track had not updated for a trail re-route. Re-routes mean better riding so I was definitely following the trail instead of the track. Got a text from Schillingsworth higher up the hill saying I was the only one who had followed the AZT here rather than the GPS track. The reward was some beautiful singletrack.

The singletrack eventually spat me out on the powerline road anyways, there was no avoiding it completely. Soon enough it split off to the right in a couple rocky switchbacks. Then it got steep

Awesome view higher up. And before long, I was at the top. Stopped at the General Springs cabin for some food

I was 9 hours and only 15 miles into my day, so I was looking forward to some faster miles. Came across a couple campers next to the stream

The AZT follows the Cabin loop for a while before splitting off and heading towards Blue Ridge. Some really nice singletrack in there, plus a couple decent sized hike a bikes

There were a couple steeper descents too, and I had a couple close calls. Decided to dismount when I came to a set of stairs here

Nearing the bottom of the Blue Ridge descent. Looks like water! Perfect, as I hadn't been carrying much and was running low.

No need to take shoes off when you can ride across. Was told later a lot of people have never seen this with water flowing

There was a solid 30 min hike a bike on the other side to a plateau, then another descent down to the Moqui campground. I put lights and an extra layer on here since the sun was down and it was getting chilly. Saw a big herd of elk as I pedaled on.

The shot above was about the last nice singletrack I'd see this day after crossing Hwy 87 and starting the Happy Jack segment. After a short distance the trail crossed a rocky wash and onto jeep road. My pace slowed as the road got progressively worse. It became so rocky I was having trouble picking out rideable lines. I finally stopped to check the GPS to make sure I was still on route. The GPS said I was. A few minutes later I spotted some reflective AZT trail markers up on the hill above me. Hoping I there was another re-route and I had just missed the turnoff I ditched the bike and hiked up to check it out. Like a cruel joke there were indeed trail markers and pin flags, but no trail built to connect them yet. Boo! Back onto the road where I struggled on for another few miles. It was freezing cold and I was making very little progress at this point so I'd had it. Decided to call it a day and tackle this stuff during daylight.

Stats - 37.7mi, +5,140/-4,360. 16.5 hours.

2,515 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
Day 9

It was freezing out, and the last thing I wanted to do was get up in the dark and start riding. But with the early stop the night before also wanted to knock out the rest of Happy Jack.

Not even 6am yet and I was pedaling away from camp. It seemed much easier pedaling in daylight even though my hands were frozen. I had almost all my layers on.


The stuff from the prior night was worse than this. I wasn't dreaming. But it was a nightmare to ride in the dark. And sucked during the day

Finally I came to a turnoff onto singletrack. What a relief.

Unfortunately it was short, and then back onto more jeep road. It would alternate like this for much of the segment. Some of the trail was buff and some of it rocky, but fun rocky not shitty-jeep-road rocky. I missed most of the turnoffs onto trail because I'd have my head down or missed a sign nailed to a tree or behind some deadfall. Had to backtrack half a dozen times. But was making progress. Things got better the closer I got to Lake Mary Rd. Stopped to filter water from the outflow of Bargaman Park tank.

Finally some rocks that add to the trail to make it fun and interesting

Nice meadow riding. Not a rock in sight. Bliss!

A bit of climbing and rolling singletrack brought me over to Mormon Lake, nicer singletrack, and familiar ground. This part went pretty quick although it was getting late into the afternoon. Crossing Hwy 87 again there was a short climb up to another rider favorite, Anderson Mesa. More rocky jeep road riding.

All of the tanks on the mesa were impressively full of water which at least made it interesting.

After about 10 miles the route finally turns onto singletrack. I could tell it had rained earlier as a hiker's footsteps had picked up clumps of mud. Glad it wasn't me. It was dry by the time I came through.

Proof of progress

Sunset over Lake Mary was the reward for my efforts

The last bit of singletrack up top Anderson Mesa was rocky and challenging. I continued on anticipating a fun descent off the mesa. It took what seemed like forever to get to the descent I remembered, including a whole section of switchbacks that cut back and forth over the GPS track, which ran straight. Finally there was a long slog into Flagstaff through a cold air drainage. I spotted a headlamp behind me as I got within earshot of the freeway. Pedaled on, had to hold him off til I got to town. Made it. Stopped at the first main intersection to see what was nearby and open for food just as Jacob Karlson caught up. It was almost 10:30. He was the first other rider I'd seen since Pine. Mcdonalds or Denny's were the only real options, and convenience won out. Jacob had similar thoughts. I'd decided earlier I was going to get a motel for the night as I needed to charge all my devices again for the final push, and wanted to hit up the post office in the morning to mail some stuff home to lighten the load. A shower and warm bed felt great.

Stats: 69mi, +4,460/-4,540. 16.5 hrs

2,515 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
Day 10

Closest post office wouldn't open til nine so I didn't need to be up early. Packed up and went across the street for breakfast at the Country Host restaurant. Meh… Wasn't super hungry and the food wasn't great.

Pedaled out in time to get to the post office just after it opened and filled up a large size flat rate box. I went through all my stuff the night before and picked out everything I could get by without the rest of the trip. Extra layers, toiletries, flip flops, hat, even took a risk and put my bivy sack in the box. I was getting apprehensive about the canyon hike and wanted to ditch as much weight as I could. I thought I had been pretty smart and stingy before the trip when I packed but I know now I can get by with a lot less. I forgot to ask the weight of the box but would guess it weighed 7-8 lbs. My pack would still be heavy in the canyon but I felt a lot better about things now. I stopped at a gas station on the way out of town for a day or so's worth of food.

There is a huge forest thinning project going on in Flagstaff this spring that has closed part of the forest to all public access, so the AZT has a bypass which follows some bike paths around the closure. We picked up singletrack off of Shultz Creek Road, and continued on the Fort Valley trails.

I ran into a rider Chris K who took a pic for me I was able to get my hands on later. Thanks Chris! Note the phone hanging from my chest strap. This was taken top of Lower Moto, about to turn onto AZT

Not long after, I took off my pack to grab my go-pro so I could film some of the faster sections coming up. I took it off again to put the gopro away near Snowbowl road where the route turns down an old pipeline right of way. At the bottom of that road I realized my phone was no longer with me. Fack! I backtracked up the paved road next to the right of way hoping it fell off just at the top. No such luck. So I rode back along the AZT. It was about 3-4 miles back where I stopped the first time. Came across a few riders and hiker/runners but no one had seen it, and it wasn't there where I stopped the first time. Looked all over that spot. So someone had picked it up. Kept riding back hoping I'd come across them or they'd leave it at an intersection, or all the way back at Shultz Creek trailhead. No luck at any of those spots.

I had turned the gopro on here so I think the phone was dropped just before this spot, where the trail first drops into a gully

More flowy trail I got to ride more than once

Ran into fellow racer Miles Carlson in Fort Valley who suggested trying to locate it using the "find my phone" feature. I was doubtful it would work since phone was in airplane mode, but willing to try. It was comical - to use Find my Phone we had to add my google profile to his phone, which required sending a code to my email since my account didn't recognize his device. Log into my Hotmail to get the code but that also didn't recognize his device and wanted to send a code to another email linked to my Hotmail account. Try to log into gmail to get that code and it sends us back to the google profile login which still required a code. Couldn't access my work email either since it didn't recognize the device. So basically, eff you to all the tech companies and their genius security features. After getting to Schultz Creek TH I had to accept I wasn't getting the phone back today and continued on. Nothing I could do about it now except hope that whoever took it would turn it in.

All the backtracking cost me over 3 hours and 17 bonus miles. Just what I wanted with my already late start! I was pissed at myself for being careless- all I would have had to do was check it was there. Go figure the one time I didn't check, it wasn't there. Pushed ahead figuring I'd be able to catch Miles and see if he'd let me send an email out to a friend asking them to keep and eye on craigslist lost and found and local bike forums.

I set a fast pace trying to catch up to Miles. Quick pic of San Francisco Peaks. Due to snow on the AZT below the peaks a snow detour was in effect taking us on a dirt road lower down

At the AZT / Road 418 crossing. Caught up to Miles taking a break here. No snow in sight. Bummer we couldn't ride the section above this, it is awesome when it's snow free

Turns out the section north of 418 is pretty rad too. Fast buff trail through the trees.

Last view of the peaks and last view of the sun

Sweet singletrack made me forget about the lost phone. So fun….

Eventually the trail dumps us onto jeep trail. We were out of the pine trees and would gradually descend from 8,500ft down to around 6,100 over 25 miles or so. Came across quite a few thru-hikers in this area, most setting up camp next to the road. We still had some miles to go

Last light

We came across one thru-hiker still plodding along in the dark. She called out the other hikers who had stopped for being weak! Haha! I don't think there is much scenery through here, just miles of same-ness, so I think pushing on was smart for her.

It was Friday night so there were some car campers out in a few places too, but everyone had gone to bed by the time we rolled through. After we bottomed out at 6,100ft there would be gradual climbing all the way to Grandview lookout where we would top out again at around 7,500. But that was around 40 miles away. I wanted to get that climbing out of the way but it never seemed to come. The elevation 6,440ft is stuck in my head now, because that elevation didn't change on my GPS screen for about 15 miles. It felt like we were going gradually uphill. Or was it downhill? I really couldn't tell in the dark. We were making good time though, and spun out my gears for a lot of it topping out at 22.7mph. Was still riding with Miles at this point, and getting close to midnight we were both ready to call it a day. Found a nice spot next to the trail that had some junipers for cover and set up camp for the night. It was cold out and Miles wanted a fire so he lit one up with enough wood to burn for about 20 mins. By that time we were each ready to sleep.

Stats - 87.3 mi, +5,640/-5,560. 15 hours

2,515 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
Day 11

Woke up around sunrise and got moving quick after a bite to eat. I had less stuff to pack up now.

Starting off with nice singletrack through smaller pines and junipers, we'd slowly climb up to 7,500

Still 19mi to Grandview TH. Had wanted to get there the previous night but it was not to be

Even the doubletrack was nice up here

This is not Russell Tank

Had it been later in the day this would have been a perfect place to take a nap

And this a perfect place to go for a swim. I was tempted even in the morning. Water was nice and clear. THIS is Russell Tank. Somewhere in here I told Miles not to wait for me. Wouldn't see him again

The AZTR doesn't follow the signed Bike route?

There was some really nice singletrack up there

Grandview tower. Did not take the time to climb it. Saving the legs for later!

I'd been expecting dirt road all the way to Grandview tower and then singletrack all the way to Tusayan. It was closer to the opposite. The nicer trail was on the way to Grandview, and there was a lot more doubletrack heading to Tusayan. Still nice riding though, and generally "downhill" to Tusayan.

Riding through an active prescribed burn, flames still visible in places. Wish I'd known, roasting some hot dogs and marshmallows in a roadside fire would have been awesome

Dropping down lower the doubletrack got sandier nearing Tusayan

The route turns north rather than going straight into town, so I had to backtrack to get something to eat. There was a nice bike path though. Should have skipped it and just headed to Grand Canyon village. Tusayan was obscenely expensive, and it wasn't much farther to the south rim. Oh well. One and done…

Entering Grand Canyon National Park

There was paved bike path for a little while, then the AZT splits off onto rustic doubletrack south of the village. Very nice!

I headed over to the South Kaibab trailhead first to check it out, then I could meander around the village however I pleased. I wasn't the only one drawing attention while resting in the shade.

Rode along the rim back to the village and checked out the view. Not bad!

Rode over to the backcountry permit office to see if I could get a camping permit in the canyon. Since this was a Saturday it was possible no permits would be available. If that was the case I'd have to do the whole rim to rim hike in one shot. 50 miles into the day, I wasn't sure how my legs would handle the hike down, nevermind a going rim to rim. If I couldn't get a campsite I'd sleep until midnight and start the hike then. It turned out campsites were available at Cottonwood Campground, which is 7 miles down and then 7 miles past Phantom Ranch towards the north rim. I booked a site for the next night so I could rest up. I also wanted to do the hike during daylight so I could see the canyon. I'd hiked Bright Angel before but never been on the north side of the river in the canyon.

Permit in hand I headed back to the main village to get something to eat and resupply. Met some cool thru hikers at the deli who were doing the same. Ended up camping with them in the hike/bike area at Mather Campground. Great deal at $6 each, and hassle free. Went through my gear and left some more things in a hiker box that I (hopefully) wouldn't need and didn't want to carry through the ditch - spare tube, portable charger, chain lube. Planned to get up before 5 to make it over to the S Kaibab trailhead for sunrise.

Stats - 52mi, +2,700/-2,380. 9 hours

2,515 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
Day 12

Up and packing in the dark. Rolling out around 5:30.

Made it over to the rim just as the sun was peeking over the horizon.

There was no one else at the South Kaibab trailhead when I got there, so I set to work taking the bike apart and strapping it to my backpack. Within 15 minutes buses started arriving and people started heading down the canyon. I was getting curious looks and lots of questions.

Ready to rock n roll

Started down the trail slowly and surely. Pack was heavy but didn't feel terrible. I ran into the same guy who snapped a couple pics for me the previous afternoon and he got some more of me hiking down the trail

Views were stunning but I had to pay attention to where I was stepping. A fall would be bad news

There were no shortage of people to take photos for me. I only had my go pro left for that, fortunately it takes decent shots.

Probably half the people I ran into had some comment about how crazy I was or questions about what I was doing. Lots asked if they could take a photo of me. And lots took photos of me pretending they were taking photos of someone or the view. Um, the canyon is that way 

Saw this mule train coming a few switchbacks down, so I pulled over as I needed a break anyways. My pack had been solid so far though the bike was rubbing the back of my leg a little. I decided to take the handlebar bag off the bars and strap it to the frame, thinking this would make it more stable. It was ok for a few minutes but ultimately left it more out of balance so the bike wanted to tilt over to the side. Bad move…

This mule train came around a blind corner without warning. Had to step out of the way.

Getting to the final descent down to the river the views really opened up. Some nice flowers too

Stunning. Really happy I did this in daylight

First good look at the footbridge

Got someone to snap a pic of me walking across

This sort of look was common. Another classic go pro screen capture

It's all uphill from here. My favorite interaction was with the rim2rim2rim runners. "You're my hero!" "You're crazy!". No, you're crazy! I'm doing this over two days and only crossing the canyon once!

It was only ¾ mile from the river to Phantom Ranch but it was hot out, high 80s. Knees were holding up great but the pack was really hurting my shoulders. Even worse, with it listing to the side the fork was contacting my leg each step and I was developing a nice bruise. My short term solution was to reach back with my left hand and grab the fork leg, pulling it up. This worked well but was tiring. I was ready for a break.

I had some chips and some soup, and took full advantage of the $1 lemonade refills and the shade

Finally it was time to move on. I unstrapped the bike and re-mounted it to the pack trying to get it higher up. Seemed good to go, so off I went.

More color, and the last of the suns rays I would see

I was trucking along with my head down when I happened to look up and saw this guy cruising down the trail towards me about 10ft away. No missing him with that coloration vs. the dark rocks. He gave me a quick rattle and then slithered off the trail

I was stoked on the pace I was able to keep up without the bike hitting my leg. It seemed like I should be able to get to Cottonwood in about 3 hours. But slowly over the course of an hour the bike slipped down and started to hit my leg again. Stopped to re-position it, but couldn't really fix it. I figured I was getting close to Cottonwood now so I'd just push on and deal with it.

I had seen no one since Phantom Ranch. Just after this pic a group of hikers came towards me.

I made some comment about being close to Cottonwood camp and they replied it was just another mile. ¾ mile later another hiker came by, who said it was just another mile or so. Half mile after that, another guy came by who said it was just a mile or two more. What??? Half mile further I came to the turnoff for Ribbon falls. According to my map this left almost 1.5 miles to Cottonwood. Some four letter words may have been uttered at that point. Definitely the longest mile or whatever I've ever hiked!

I was even less impressed when I came to Wall Creek, with a knee deep stream crossing I'd have to ford. Taking off shoes and crossing required removing the pack twice, which I'd been trying to avoid since putting it back on was very tough. On the plus side I was able to filter some water so I was good to go on that for the next morning.

Just half mile further to Cottonwood. It was around 930 when I got to camp. Place was quiet, and no one was awake as far as I could tell. I kept walking up the trail looking for a vacant campsite but they all seemed to have a permit attached to the post. The site numbers were counting down and I got to #2 before I found an open site. Home for the night! That last half mile was tough. Quick snack and I was out like a light.

Stats - 17mi, +1,700ft/-4,800. 16 hours. These are estimates since my GPS went haywire in the canyon. But it was basically 3 miles to the rim, 7 miles and 4,800 down and then 7 miles and 1,500 climb to Cottonwood.

2,515 Posts
Discussion Starter · #14 · (Edited)
Day 13

Slept all the way through the night til the rumbling of thunder woke me just before dawn.

Dark clouds were coming this way from the south

I like the Hershey chocolate bars on trips like these, except that when it is hot out they melt. But they also harden up well when they cool down. This re-constituted bar was breakfast.

As I was packing up it started raining. Great time to use the toilet so I headed down, and then waited out the rest of the shower under an overhang. Got cornered there by an old timer who knew everything there was to know about the canyon, and was determined to tell me about it. Fortunately the rain passed and I had an excuse to get going.

I stopped in at Roaring Springs to fill up on water at the spigot and have a snack. A few rim2rim2rim runners came through. Hardcore!

I would pretty much only stop when there was something elevated to set the pack on. Having taken the rear wheel off helped but it was still very hard to put on if not elevated.

Roaring springs

Made my way steadily up the trail. Lower down it was in great shape with impressive construction

Had to be careful not to contact the wall with the bike

Clouds and mist were moving in again. I finally had to stop and wait out a thunderstorm beneath an overhang. It wasn't a big one and as the rain continued, water started running down the wall above me and dripping everywhere. I had about a 1x1 ft square to stand in where I wouldn't get wet. I put my plastic poncho to good use covering the bike and pack so it wouldn't get soaked.

Great view down the canyon after it cleared up a little

I didn't get far before another shower moved in. This time I was right at the tunnel, which was a perfect spot to take shelter. Except for a cold breeze that was channeled through it

The rain wasn't letting up so finally I put the poncho on and continued hiking. The runners I'd seen earlier were coming back down, some traumatized by the lightning that had been right over top of them higher up. I finally started getting into the trees and knew I wasn't far from the top. Just a few more switchbacks to go. Legs were still feeling great I just had to keep shifting the pack to keep the bike away from my leg.

Turned a corner and finally the top was in sight. A few pringles chips was offered as a reward by a couple runners who had just passed me

Get this thing off my back!

Just a few minutes later Justin Manring came chugging along up the trail

We'd ride together into Jacob Lake. "No bikes on road" but with a few feet of snow mother nature was telling us "no bikes on trail". The AZT on the North rim is a curious case - normally we are not allowed to ride trails in national parks. But we are allowed to ride the AZT within the park on the north rim. Before the paved road opens on May 15 the road is closed to all traffic, including bikes. The last couple years riders have been stopped by rangers telling them to get off the road and onto the trail. But since the trail is normally covered in snow and impassible this time of year riders only want to ride the road. Oh the irony!
Fortunately there was no one around, and very soon we were outside the gate.

It was a little chilly at 8,800ft

Buh bye Grand Canyon NP!

30 more miles to go and 90 mins to dark

We made good time on the pedal out. When it started getting dark around 15mi from Jacob Lake though, we started seeing lightning in the distance. 10-12 miles out the temperature dropped and a few snowflakes fell. It built up slowly, so we never stopped to put more layers on. The snow slowly got heavier and as we got closer to Jacob Lake it turned to hail, then sleet, then finally horizontal rain that was pelting us so hard in the face we could barely see. We didn't think it would keep getting worse, but it did when Justin's light went dead and we had to stop to dig out a backup.

8:20pm and we finally made it to Jacob Lake Inn freezing cold and soaked, and the doors were locked...closed! We could see people inside so we knocked on the door. "Sorry we're closed" said the guy who finally came to the door. "Pleeeeeeeeaaaase can we get a room?" "Oh yeah that's no problem, come on in" That was such a relief, and they even had a big fire going in the fireplace. They had a staff meeting going since they were just opening up for the season. Justin asked if we could buy a six pack even though the store was closed. Score!

Headed over to our room and cranked up the heater high as it would go. Showers and beers were great. With snow still falling outside my only concern at that point was conditions for the next day. There is a section of death mud about 10 miles north of Jacob Lake that had our names on it. Sweet dreams!

Hike out - 7 miles and +4,200. 8 hours including rain delays
Bike to Jacobs Lake - 42mi, +1,800/-2,100. 3.5 hours

2,515 Posts
Discussion Starter · #15 · (Edited)
Day 14

There was no rush to get up early in the morning. I picked up a bit more food once the store opened. Waiting a bit longer would provide warmer temps and hopefully a bit of time for things to dry out.

Parting shot by Justin at the Jacob Lake Inn. He wasn't getting picked up til the next day so was going to hang out a while longer.

The trail north of Jacob Lake is awesome, flowy riding through the pines.

It should say "Death Mud - 4"

Death mud - now! I was prepared to take the bike apart and carry it if need be rather than deal with mud. But things looked ok and I proceeded cautiously. No mud appeared. Guess mother nature figured the final storm last night was enough of a test

The trail is always beat but a bit by cattle and today was no exception. Still nice riding though

The trail alternates through pine/juniper forest and sage scrub a few times

Towards the end the terrain gets a bit tougher as the trail drops into a few drainages. I passed a few thru -hikers here. "Don't drink all the beer!" Everyone was in a great mood

A few flowers were blooming

First sight of Vermillion Cliffs

Such an awesome view to end the ride with

Not quite there yet, though

Then this happened. My Revelate designs feed bag made it 798 miles on this trip and then decided to **** the bed. Velcro failed completely and without warning and my water bottle was suddenly down in my spokes. Fortunately no damage, but that could have been bad

The trail threw one final hike a bike at me less than 100 yards from the end

Hey Dave! BRB, got some business to finish here!

When you can literally say the end is in sight

Another classic go pro capture. Is this thing on???

How to celebrate finishing the AZTR? Miller lite and cold-soaked ramen noodles!

Party time!

Hung out with Dave Wicks for a little.

Dave had finished not long before me and was trying to fix a punctured tire. His plan was to do a yo-yo ride so he was going to ride the AZT all the way back south as soon as he could get his tire sorted out. Crazy! After that and some other mechanicals he just finished at the Mexican border on May 18 - nice work Dave!

Don't forget the finish line pic. Done! 13 days, 6.5 hours.

Now, how do I get out of here?? It was getting on toward 330pm. I'd opted not to drive out and leave my truck at the end, and no one was around who could give me a lift. I figured worst case I could ride into Page or Kanab and hitchhike from there to somewhere I could rent a car. So I started pedaling out toward the highway.

Stuck my thumb out the first time a truck came along and asked if he had room to take me and the bike into Kanab if that's where he was headed. Yes, and I think so! We squeezed it in and off we went. Mike is a tour guide and had a couple paying customers in the truck. They'd been out at Coyote Buttes. He dropped me off in Kanab at the main intersection where there are some gas stations, a perfect spot to catch a lift from someone passing through. Thanks Mike! If you need a guide in SW Utah contact Mike Henrie at Kanab Western Adventures Professional Tours.

I had just put the wheel back on my bike when an Xterra with bike rack pulled in. Walked over to see if he was going to St George and if I might be able to hitch a ride, if so. Yes, and yes! Not only did Damon give me a lift to St George but took me by the shuttle location and then to bike shops for some after hour dumpster diving since the shuttle only carries boxed bikes. Thanks Damon, great meeting you!

8am shuttle the next morning got me to Vegas airport by 9 local time. I looked at flights since the bike was already boxed but there were no cheap-ish seats on direct flights leaving soon. A rental would get me there much cheaper and just as fast. Budget wanted a $250 drop fee. Went to Thrifty next, who had a great rate on an SUV and I was off! Got a 4runner, nice! Home by 330pm, 24 hours after setting off.

After filling out a completion survey I got my name on the AZT finisher's list and last week this came in the mail from the Arizona Trail Association last week. Perfect, since I lost around 10 pounds during the race I've been wearing a belt again!


2,515 Posts
Discussion Starter · #16 · (Edited)
So…. Thoughts on the race.

First off huge thanks to Scott Morris, John Schilling and the AZ Trail Association for all the work that has gone into making the AZTR and the AZT what it is!

It was an awesome event, and an amazing experience! Hard to describe, really. I met lots of cool people. It was incredibly tough. Had pretty much any given day been a single day ride, I doubt I would have gotten out of bed before noon the next day. Instead, here I was getting up at sunrise to push on, day after day. But you get into it. It hurts, but then it doesn’t hurt. You just keep going. Toward the end I was hating the race format and having to push on constantly (I had a deadline since I could only get 2 weeks off work). But on the trip home I was already scheming ways to finish faster. I’ll definitely do the AZTR again but not until some planned trail projects are done: Kentucky Camp to Las Colinas, and Ripsey Ridgeline (re-routes for mine projects) and Patagonia to Gardner Canyon, Happy Jack, Babbitt Ranch (replace road riding with singletrack).

Thru-riding the AZT is a huge challenge but doable on whatever schedule you want to follow. If you’re into bikepacking I highly encourage you to try the 300 or 750. If not interested in bikepacking, try some section rides. The AZT is an amazingly diverse, tough and rewarding trail. And it welcomes bikes, which some others don’t. Looking at you, PCT!

Stats summary:

- 844 miles total. +76,800ft/-77,800 elevation gain/loss
- Averaged 63.7 mi, +5,800/-5,870 ft per day.
- Total moving time according to Topofusion was 173 hours or 13 hrs/day. That means my average moving rate was just under 5mph, which is pretty normal for me.
- The cumulative time from when I started moving each day til when I stopped riding was 220 hours or 16.6 hours/day.
- Comparing that to moving time leaves 47 hours total of stop time or 3.5 hours of stop time each day. Removing significant breaks each day still leaves 185 hours. Compared to 173 hours moving time this leaves 12 hours stop time for shorter stops and breaks.

- No real mechanicals – just had to swap out rear disc rotor in Tucson. I bled my brakes once.
- No real issues with gear aside from the feedbag failing just before the end.

Food, water, other logistics:

- I took two 1L Smart water bottles, a 6L MSR dromedary sack and a Sawyer filter with 1L pouch. Sent the dromedary home from Flag.
- Food – didn’t bring a stove. Brought a 2-cup jar and cold soaked noodles/rice meals and instant potatos. This worked great. All other food was store-bought snacks/fruit/candy/burritos and meals in restaurants where available. Also used time at restaurants to charge electronics.
- Stayed in motel on day 6 (Tonto Basin), day 9 (Flag), day 13 (Jacob Lake). This was partly to wash clothes, get a shower, charge electronics. Just picked whatever day this was most convenient. Would have skipped Jacob Lake if it weren’t storming on us.
- I mailed a bunch of stuff home from Flagstaff that I hadn’t used as much as expected or didn’t absolutely need. I’d leave some of this stuff home next time. Also took a risk and discarded more stuff on south rim. Would bring most of that stuff again, just didn’t want to carry it across the canyon.

Changes I’d make for next time:


- Get a smaller diameter handlebar bag – the one I have contacts the front tire when the suspension compresses. I locked out my fork a lot because of this.
- Might mount a water bottle on one fork
- Only take 1 hiking pole – didn’t need two
- Bring less clothing – brought a full change of riding clothes, didn’t really use them. Would keep 2nd chamois only. Also leave long underwear top, 1 pair socks (carried 4), flip flops, hat, rain pants
- Upgrade to lighter sleeping bag (could save over 1lb)
- Tough call on a shelter. I cowboy camped half the nights. Used bivy a few times when it was colder and/or damp. 3 nights in motel. Sent my bivy home from Flag. I would have been screwed if the Jacob Lake Inn hadn’t had room the final night. I’d probably take the SOL bivy next time instead of the OR bivy if the forecast is clear. Bivy is a good risk/weight compromise at 530g. SOL bivy is only water resistant at 240g.
- Get better pack with internal frame that won’t twist. I think this would solve the problem of the fork hitting my leg while hiking. The bike would list to the side because the pack twisted.
- Last minute I threw in a full bag of tail-wind thinking it would be perfect for energy at night when I didn't want to stop and eat. I ended up using it throughout the day but wouldn’t bring a full bag again...too heavy. I would buy gatorade or other powder along the way instead.
- Otherwise I did well at not carrying too much food at the start. I did bring 2 tubes of electrolyte tabs but ended up not using them much. Preferred the tail wind. Tabs got mailed home from Flag.


- Starting a day ahead of the group start worked great for me. I met lots of people and got to ride with some of the faster riders which wouldn’t have happened had I started with the grand depart.
- Make sure I get over Molina hike a bike and up to Prison Camp on Day 2 – that’s proven twice too hard to do in the heat of the day (or morning)
- Knowing the trail will help – try to push longer hours each day knowing what is coming up
- Won’t delay a day at the Grand Canyon again. I now know I can push through in one go if necessary. Can easily cut off a full day there. It cost me a full 1.5 days this year since the delay meant I got hit by the storm into Jacob Lake, otherwise I could have finished that night.

What’s next? Can’t get 2 weeks off at once often so nothing this big for awhile. Maybe CTR next year. I might do the Dixie 200 in August now that it’s been reinvented following fires. Also interested in the Big Horn Trail Race. Maybe Stagecoach 400 or Tour de los Padres next year now that April is clear!

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Great TR, I've climbed that fire tower at Grandview before and the view is well worth it (the hatch up and in was locked though).
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