April is AZT time

April is here, and ever since 2005, that means it’s time to start dreaming of the Arizona Trail. As soon as I figured out what the Arizona Trail was, once I first moved to Tucson, I knew it was something that I needed to, and would do. I had no idea it would become such a wonderful and rewarding obsession.

This year I am gearing up (mentally, mostly) to race the AZTR 750 route, including the Grand Canyon hike. My start date is still uncertain, but I won’t be starting with everyone in the ‘Grand Depart’ on April 19th. I’d rather have the time to focus on getting everyone set up, tracking and navigating properly, and leave my ride/race for another time when I can focus on it more closely. No matter what the time, or the circumstance, time spent on the AZT is always time well spent. So I am getting overly excited to spent a week (minimum) out on the trail, traveling through some of my favorite places anywhere. This year is extra exciting for me for one simple reason: Eszter! She has plane tickets for Tucson and will be racing the 300!

After recovering a little from Camp Tucson it was time for a short bikepack. A bikepackarita, as Ez so cleverly named it. I love it that bikepacking can be so simple:

1 – load sleeping bag into seat bag
2 – tie sleeping pad under bars
3 – add food and (in this case) stove to backpack
4 – open up TopoFusion for a half hour and figure out a loop
5 – go ride

For this trip it really was (nearly) that simple. It’s amazing how little “things” we actually need. How little we need to be, especially in this case, extremely happy. Going bikepacking is a reminder of this, every time.

We warmed up on pavement, heading to the start line of the 300 — Parker Lake.

The start is one of the best sections to preview, and I always jump at any opportunity to ride down there. It’s hard riding, but I’m always surprised by the number of smooth and flowy sections sprinkled in with the brutal ones.

Go granny gear go!

Sunset came quickly, but we didn’t plan to ride much.

“Oh my…. look to the right! Look at that!” Perfect place at the perfect time. The moon was flooding us, and only us, through a low pass in the Canelo Hills.

We continued riding nearly an hour in the dark. Rolling the Canelos at night, with bikepacking gear, isn’t really recommended, but many things that are not recommended are also incredibly fun. “On the plus side, this will all seem easier during the race!”

held still long enough to get a nearly non-blurry shot!)

We found a spot in the trees and fired up the AK-expedition stove. It made quick work of boiling up a couple dehydrated meals. I marveled at how easy it was to use with hands that could stay bare the entire time!

photo by Eszter Horanyi

Then we stood together under the moonlight, and celebrated all that is life.

photo by Eszter Horanyi

And played with cameras…

taking photos of the moon and everything illuminated by it. Truly charmed. By everything.

Two sleeping pads and bags, under a tree, just off the AZT. Full bellies, full hearts, a full moon. Life is simple. Life is good.

The morning was not even cold, somewhat to my surprise. It’s usually at least chilly for the AZT 300 start, even in hot years. We continued on with Canelo East, looking for unicorn dust and technical challenges. I threw myself at a few problems I dare not ride while racing. If I slice a tire now, no biggie, but please, please not with 730 miles to go!

I was sorry to see Canelo East end. I knew I shouldn’t be riding any more, though. Camp Tucson left a mark.

I rode with Eszter to the top of the pass into Canelo West, then she continued on. I turned back to the car, then drove around to meet her in Patagonia. This way she got to recon all of the Canelos, and we got to eat the most delicious item of her entire visit. Given the competition (we ate GOOD), that is saying a lot. We both agreed that the chocolate peanut butter pie was the best thing we ate in the 10 days of Ez spring break. The only failure was not getting a photo.

Ah, sigh. After a bikepack trip, an easy ride usually makes sense. How about a lunch date ride, with lots of flowers?

Yes please! Can we just stay here taking photos of flowers forever?

After an easy ride, how about something a little faster. But first! Ooh, look at that flower, is it real?

So cute! Trail warm up before the “workout.”

“We can ride more really rocky trail, or just coast down and get started.”

“Is that a real question?”

Spy camera indicates “training” occurring. Could be anyone, though. Anyone that can dust a couple very motivated boy roadies!

Endorphins coursing through my brain indicated some “training” might have occurred for me, too. Sometimes going fast just plain feels good. Usually, actually.

The AZT recon continued on a Kentucky Camp loop I cooked up that we had just enough time to ride before I scooted off to don a suit and a tie for Chad’s wedding (broke my ~10 year steak of no-tie wearing).

Nailed the switchback! I was quite pleased to see a bunch of trail work had been done between the Flume and KY Camp. Trails need love, too.

I was able to clean the “steak dinner” challenge section, for the first time in many years. Thanks to a bit of trail work and some magic unicorn socks!

A “workout” saw the self-shuttle up Lemmon disappear almost too quickly. On the way back down we rode Bugs because it’s so much stinking fun, and Prison Camp because it’s so much stinking fun, AND because it’s AZT!

AZT training!

Oh, the diversity of a desert sky island.

You have to love it.

And love all the fun riding, too. Someone has taken the time to open up a number of the corners on Bugs/Prison/Moline, creating a whole bunch of new lines. Speed is up, things are less awkward, fun factor even higher!

“Oooh, that’s my kind of downhill.”

It was a fantastic way to end what was the best spring break ever. Eszter’s return to the desert will be as a zoom-diggity EH pink dot. The last time the EH pink dot graced a trackleaders tracker, it killed the divide route in 19 days. Can’t wait to follow it on the 300!

In the meantime, I need to figure out just when my adventure begins, as a yellow (ITT) SM dot!

2 comments to April is AZT time

  • Misty

    Not getting a picture of that pie is a crime against humanity… at least you ate it… the apple cake of Dresden still haunts me.

  • Mark

    Get a job, you singletrack vagrant. Even the pigeon lady feeds the pigeons at least. You merely torture us with greedy tales of freedom and glory.

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