Friday, April 20, 2007

AZT flagstaff to feenix

280-ish miles
18000+ feet of climbing
5 days

who knew downhill could feel all uphill

Day 1

Flag to south of Mormon Lake

We awoke Saturday morning in flag at casa de gnome. It was COLD but we donned our gear and pedaled to Late for Train for fuel. Picked up the flag urban trail, which led us right to the AZT as we passed Fisher Point and Lake Mary.We spent the day riding single track thru the pines watching elk. The going was a bit slower than I thought it would be but we made it to Mormon Lake and decided to push on until 4 or 5 and make camp. We found some water around 5 and camped a half mile away so we could easily get water in the morning.


walnut cyn frost

steeper than it looks

good place to miss a turn


happy hour

Day 2

South of Mormon Lake to Pinchot Cabin

It was plenty cold at night as the temp dipped below freezing, evidenced by the frost on my bag and bivy bag . We intentionally camped where the sun would hit us 1st thing in the morn so we could dry/defrost quickly. We filtered water at a tank and were off. In the course of the morning the gpx track we were following disappeared from my gps unit and then we missed a turn that added lots of miles, which is just part of the AZT. We did have paper maps of Andrea Lankford’s route so we used those and maps loaded into our gps units. It was super windy out but most of the time the wind worked in our favor, at least during the morning.

We made it to Blue Ridge Ranger Station where we loaded up on water and looked at the map. It looked like Pinchot Cabin was our best bet for water and a windbreak. After the descent into and climb out of Clear Creek we found that cabin after a few missed turns.

We initially set-up camp outside the cabin but the dropping temps and relentless wind forced us into the rodent fecal infested cabin. After some discussion on hantavirus, pine boughs were used to sweep the cabin. Someone had unloaded a shotgun into the plywood that served as the door so it was quite easy to get in. Good move on our part, I think that was the coldest night/morning – temps in the low 20s/teens I think. Seriously.

really cold morning and a scenic detour


nice section of zero track

blue ridge ranger station

clear creek


Day 3

Pinchot Cabin to Payson

We made coffee and oatmeal from the confines of the cabin, knowing it was going to be shiver inducing outside. We rode with frozen toes to the edge of the Mogolion Rim where things started to warm. The descent on Col. Devin trail was awesome – highly recommended. The road from there to Payson was scenic. Payson itself is, well, not so scenic. We got a motel for the night and had showers, beer and dinner. We started to get worried about time so we planned on rolling all the way to Roosevelt Dam in the morning.

waaayyyy sub-freezing

dropping off the rim was fandamtastic

29er magic

looking back towards the rim


Day 4

Payson to Upper Burnt Corral Campground

Turns out there is a part of Payson that isn’t all bad. Main Street looked a bit more our speed as it led us out of town towards the Mazatals on forest disservice roads. After a grunt out of town we caught favorable conditions and made good time to Jake’s Corner enjoying the wildflowers and hearing the humming birds flying and chirping around us.

Pre-made sammiches and drinks were had as we contemplated our 30-mile road segment (the longest on the AZT mtb route) into a headwind. Two or three flats later we milled around the marina and the dam as we decided what to do. Seeing as the Apache Trail was next on tap we thought it good to go as far as we could and still have water which led us six hellish miles to Upper Burnt Corral Campground on the edge of Lake Apache. A great spot that allowed us to soothe our aching legs in the cold water and watch Egrets, Cardinals, Gila Woodpeckers, Turkey Vultures and Gray Herons. With plans of getting up early to crank out a long day we had a few evertinis and called it a night. Not before off-loading every extra bit of useless weight in the trash.

world's largest masonry dam

apache trail beckons with headwinds and brutal climbs

upper burnt corral campground

Day 5

Upper Burnt Corral Campground to Home

We got up early and got out of camp early, and the beatdown immediately commenced.

The climbs were killer but we didn’t have the wind (until 10) and ups were rewarded with screaming descents and sweeping views. Very happy for disc brakes. We made it to Tortilla Flats pretty quickly and realized that we were indeed going to be able to make it home by dark. Not before some more climbing and some scary road riding in Apache Junction. Finally back on familiar territory on the Arizona Canal out at Granite Reef Dam

And more headwind the 30 miles back into central feenix for a beer and a cold shower.

turkey vultures

let the beat down commence



john said...

Why do I look like I'm dancing in the "happy hour" photo?

Sean said...


That's pretty f-ing cool, and how cute is it that you all got matching sleeping bags?

Yuri said...

them there is bivys.
better get used to that
in the northwet.

Marty said...

Thanks for sharing your expriences! We have been wanting to do a trip like this. Awesome!