Category Archives: Exploratories

Pre-Dixie 200 course recon

Dixie 200 starts on June 23rd so DH and I spent last weekend pedaling around checking out different parts of the course to confirm water sources and trail conditions. We started off with a quick jaunt on the Markagunt plateau to check the Sydney Peaks trail and Dark Hollow. Awesome trail conditions, zero snow and only a few trees to navigate over.

The rest of the weekend was spent roaming around on the southern end of the Paunsaugunt plateau. It has been a while since I have pedaled around up there and I was awestruck and wowed multiple times - so beautiful. By desert standards there was water everywhere so the course checks out nicely. OK maybe not RIGHT on the course but most are short easy detours off course. If you plan carefully you won't be thirsty in Dixie 200.

Here are a random batch of pics of the Paunsaugunt to feed stoke for Dixie 200 racers:

First stop was Robinson Guzzler. I'd call this desperation water. Even filtered I would guess it will taste skanky - I didn't try it. This one is 350 yards off course.


Next stop Robinson Canyon trailhead. There are great maps at most of the trailheads and clear signage on most of the Paunsaugunt plateau. It is an easy place to navigate.

Dixie 200 passes this trailhead

The dust on the ground at Robinson Canyon trailhead is littered with these Paunsaugunt paw prints.

Bear Paw

On top of the Paunsaugunt sunset cliffs looking at the Markagunt plateau. For Dixie 200 racers this is looking back over the 90 miles ridden.


More sunset cliffs.


Straight Canyon trailhead. The Dixie 200 comes through here.


Looking down on Grandview trail from Straight Canyon trailhead. Dixie 200 comes up this trail.


Tasty flowing water in Swapp Canyon 1.4 miles off course (from Straight Canyon trailhead take upper Straight canyon to Swapp Canyon).


Rubbly decent on Paunsaugunt trail 003 to Mill Creek Canyon has beauty views for miles to the east.


More tasty looking water in Mill Creek Canyon. At Mill Creek canyon turn left (north-west) on the single-track for 0.4 miles off course.


Crawford pass trail takes you under those awesome pink cliffs. There has been a Herculean amount of chainsawing done on this trail since last year. Some parts are a dead-fall cut-out corridor. Not a single tree was left blocking the trail - nice.



Tropic spring is cold and tasty. Worth a visit being less than 0.3 miles off course. It is at the south end of Tropic Reservoir on FR087 (the main road).


It even has a spigot (look around the back of the rock)


All this cruising around the Paunsaugunt has made me want to pack up my bags and ride the Dixie 200 now :-o It is such an awesome route.

Saw wild horses. Got snowed on. Had an adventure.

I can ride again :-) I can't ride fast yet but if I keep the power down I can ride all day. I rode for 6 hours yesterday and my average power was 98 watts! Those 98 watts propelled me and my bike 51 miles tho! Riding in whatever format makes me happy :-)

It was snowing on me as I pedalled along West Mesa (on the east side of Seegmillar mountain). It was windy and wild feeling. I hear a rumbling sound behind me and turn my head to see five wild horses galloping up towards me. Still moving, I whip my camera out of its holster like the Sundance Kid.

DH and I watched the original True Grit then Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid last week! I was so there with the sound of the galloping hoofs thundering on the dirt and the wild feel of the mesa!

They galloped ahead of me, rounded around in front of me then slowed up.

I stopped and they stopped too. The dark faced horse was clearly the boss and in charge. The other horses followed Boss Hoss.

After a moment checking me out from a distance they walked towards me led by Boss Hoss. At this point I wasn't sure if they were curious, wanted a snack or wanted to eat me. I was by myself.

They stopped about 30 feet from me and we stared at each other for a while. Then Boss Hoss started pawing the ground and snorting at me! I don't speak horsey language but got the vibe that boss hoss wasn't feeling friendly today! Google search later at home said:

Dominance - A horse will often paw when showing dominance. This is different from striking out. The horse will strike the ground with his front hoof. The leg will usually be straight and the neck will usually be arched. Sometimes they may vocalize or snort while exhibiting this behavior.

We had a bit of a stand off until the white faced horse moved out of the road to stand behind the other horses and I pedaled on past with them watching and Boss Hoss snorting and pawing.

Then they started galloping beside me again and ran beside me for a few minutes before veering away and thundering off with their hoofs rumbling on the dirt.

So cool. Made my day.

Here is a map of my ride:

My Lucky Walkabout – part one

I had a kinder free week last week and some vacation time on the schedule. Originally I was going to race Coconino 250 but unfortunately the knee I thought I had rehabbed had different ideas and said no thanks. Pedaling drives my knee crazy but walking is fine.So I went on a lil walkabout in Northern Arizona/Southern Utah. There are many magnificent places I do not often visit near here because bikes are not allowed.

Due to my last minute change of plans I had no permits or reservations anywhere. I threw a bunch of maps and a variety of gear in my car and rolled solo with my fingers crossed.

Grand Canyon National Park North Rim was the first place I aimed for. There was an inch of snow on the ground, the sign on the entrance station said "north rim campground full" and the entrance station ranger was Mr Grumpy! Not a great start.

Lucky #1: 4pm at the back-country office I got the last back country permit for the following night at Cottonwood and the night after at Phantom Ranch. Super lucky to walk up and get those!! The ranger in the back-country office was Mrs Jolly.

Lucky #2: Mrs Jolly ranger at the back-country office called over to her buddy ranger at the "full" campground and hooked me up with a spot in the group site - score!! That saved me about 50 miles of driving.

Lucky #3: I was invited to join a roaring fire at the group site and had a great evening chatting with the group.

North Kaibab Trail down into the Grand Canyon is pretty much a highway. I think next time I am on this trail I will have a bicycle with me (if I am lucky enough).

Lucky #4: I hiked into the inner canyon. It has been a long time since I have done that. I love the Grand Canyon. It is perhaps my most favorite place in the whole world. Lucky me to be there.

Lucky #5: No wind, beautiful day. In fact weather was absent from my entire trip.

Cottonwood campground. The tarp was mostly to keep the full moonlight out of my eyes! Beautiful night.

Ribbon Falls is a side trip off the main Kaibab trail and worth it. I got wet taking this pic.

Cute cabins at Phantom Ranch. To sleep in a cabin here you need to apply 13 months in advance on the 1st of the month and be really lucky. Sounds like getting in to some bike races...

Black suspension bridge on Kaibab Trail crossing the Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Self portrait pic to prove I was there!

I loved the hike out of the canyon the next day. Stowed my camera and motored up in a sweat. That felt great. My knee has hurt too much on a bike this year to build up much of a sweat but hiking seems fine for it - frustrating as riding my bike is really what I want to do most days and all day. I really like to ride my bike.

Lots more lucky ensued the rest of my week - more picslater.

Black Canyon Trail

We'd been hearing about the Black Canyon trail for quite a while from Guy and Chrystal. It is a long single track paralleling I-17 north of Phoenix. How long depends on which sign you read. I saw 79, 78 or 62 miles. We started at Hwy 69 at the very north end of the trail and rode a total of 114 miles out and back and we didn't reach the end of it.

While we were getting ready I discovered my camera was broken. I was a little sad about this as I was looking forward to taking lots of pics (and it was a gift from DH so had some sentimental value to me). All pics on this blog are from DH's Droid. FYI: Black Canyon Trail has full 3G service!

The trail is non-stop fun. As I didn't have a camera we rode non-stop more too. I saw a lot of things I would have had to stop to snap a shot of!

Water was everywhere with multiple creek crossings, Bumblebee Creek, Black Canyon Creek and the Agua Fria which we crossed at least six times. Doe spring, windmills and tanks. Made staying hydrated easy.

Breakfast might look like puke but it tasted good. Dried eggs and some unidentified mush.

Saguaros were the cartoon characters this weekend. So many shapes and sizes and so big! A pair of bald eagles flying overhead side by side and a gila monster sighting made for a real Sonoran experience. DH didn't get a pic of the Gila monster!!!

The goofy pics from this weekend are of me this time and not DH as he had the camera. I had a batch of super yummy Keps Balls wrapped in gold foil, which made me think I was eating these or these instead of a healthy natural energy food.

This evening I took my camera apart. It sort of detonated and springs popped out and off when I unscrewed the cover. I cleaned it and put all the tiny springs back with tweezers and a lot of patience and it works!! I am pretty impressed with myself and happy I have my camera back too.

Joshua tree cartoons

My next event is the biggest event I have done before. Arizona Trail Race 300. It is my A+ event of the year and I am really excited for it. I have a hall pass and I am going to be there!! April 15th. No entry fee, no prizes, absolutely no support. The training countdown clock says 5 weeks to go. What that means for me is that all my speed work, VO2max and threshold work is done. All my intervals are done and cross country racing is done.

Now the plan from here to AZT is to ride a LOT at my happy smile pace :-) Pack up my bike and head off into the desert for a few days. I did just that last weekend.

I had the pleasure of DH's company too which made me very happy. An adventure with DH is always a good time. We explored the Woodbury desert area and camped in the Joshua tree forest. Joshua trees make crazy shadows near sunrise and sunset.

The silhouettes of the Joshua trees against the night sky turned into dinosaurs and cartoon characters

It is amazing how much stuff you can pack with you on a bike! Unpacked it kinda pukes out into a yard sale

We found some tasty water out there. This one made happy noises, blurp, sqwoosh, blop, splash, blub-blub.

This one had four goldfish swimming around in. Kurt had already been there a couple of weeks ago but didn't tell us exactly where it was so we were checking every tank we saw. DH riding ahead found it first "the fish" he squealed out as I rode up. Giddy :-)

DH was single speeding and he would crank on ahead and wait for me at waiting places. This one was beautiful. Indian Spring. So much clear beautiful water in such a dry place.

Cartoon characters were out in force this weekend

Arizona Sunshine!!

A few times a year I like to take a week offline. Partly to prove I am not addicted to Facebook (which I do enjoy, a lot...) and partly to keep my head fresh for everything else. Christmas week was good timing for that. Kinders were off with their dad for Christmas this year. This was my first Christmas since my divorce without my kids. To take my mind off that, Dave and I conjured up a great bikepacking trip on the Arizona Trail. The plan was to be out under the full moon and total eclipse on the winter solstice and to be in the boonies under the sun and stars on Christmas day.

The timing proved to be most excellent. The sun shone while we were in Arizona while St George experienced the storm of the century and flooding. The timing proved to be most awful...Dave came down with the flu on the drive south and was in no condition to ride or bikepack :--(  :-(

My last minute 2010 OP duo teammate , Scott Morris, known henceforth as my Southern Arizona wingman stepped in to be my ride partner for the day.

Dave, weak and coughing, unable to ride, was able to drive and shuttled us so we could cherry pick a sweet point-to-point ride on the Cienega section of the AZT. It was a big cheesy grinner of a trail - yummy!! Scott took the beauty pic of me below. He can ride and take awesome pics at the same time - good talent to have.

Scott had to head home and Dave and I moved into the amusing and historic Old Stage Coach Inn in Patagonia, Arizona.

Dave continued to hack, cough, take flu meds and be my shuttle bunny for the next few days as I rode a total of 135 miles, point-to-point unloaded on the Arizona Trail. He watched my Spot from his Droid, streamed Netflix to amuse himself and even picked me up one day a few miles early before an intense storm cell hit me! Elite service!! It certainly wasn't as fun as bikepacking with Dave would have been, but it was still pretty darn ok to be in AZ riding big miles in the sun on the AZT. I plan to ride the 300 mile AZT race in April (and have another week offline then) so it was all good scoping time too.

On the 3rd day of the above shuttling/not riding/being sick in a hotel room, Dave announced he was "over it" and we drove home early. I finished out my week offline (mostly) at home. Christmas was a non-event at home and it made me realize that I really like Christmas and missed it and the non-event of it all this year isn't how I want to do it again. Expect more Christmas celebration in 2011 :-)

Following the Thin Dotted Line

Jackson pass sits between Square Top Mountain and Jackson Peak. It is a major skyline feature from St George. The map has a thin dotted line "pack trail" over it and Sunday, thanks to a gps, we followed that line.

It did have a few cairns.

and a little bit of scrambling

and a little bit of pushing

and a little bit of Tourettes  "Really?"

but the thin dotted line did exist on the ground - thinly

and was even rideable in places

and the very big view from the top of the pass was worth it. Wow!!

More Sevier Plateau Exploring

You know it was a good weekend when you have more to blog about it on Thursday

After all the trail maintenance and chainsaw action on Saturday it was time to ride on Sunday. Dave mapped out a nice little 27 mile loop consisting of 2 unknown trails and 3 known and nicely rideable trails. It took us 8 hours to go 27 miles...

We started out along West Hunt Creek trail we had cleared the day before and confirmed it was super fun. Then we turned left up Sanford Creek.

Parts of it were beautiful

At the top we hit the most brilliant view point on the Sevier Plateau (probably!)

I love old signs. I don't know what R.F.K is. Anybody know what that is? This sign points down Sandford Creek trail and says R.F.K Sandford.

Over the top and down the other side. The GPS said this was a 60% grade!

Descending down between the spires

Unfortunately DH did not bring his chainsaw today

We descended a long way down to the Fremont Trail. It was 90F and I overheated and boiled my brain and stopped taking photos. Next we got onto the Dixie 311 course at the Hancock Peak Trail. There was a creek and shade. DH filtered. I drank 50 oz and I immersed my entire head in the creek.

Up at the top the Hancock Peak Trail ends at 9,400 feet and I cooled off.

Next the Dixie 311 course just starts riding along a ridge line with no trail. It is easy riding but will be confusing in the dark.

The no trail section passes this water structure which will be a good waypoint.

Shortly the Dixie 311 course and our route for the rest of the day hit the Showalter Trail which was a mega fun fast gentle graded descent.

I like the Sevier Plateau. We didn't see a single other person out there on the trails. No tire tracks either. Just one set of horse hoof prints.