Saturday, January 28, 2012

Black Canyon Trail - Section 2

Black Canyon Trail Run
Black Canyon City, AZ
Mileage - 18.01
Time - 2:45
AEG - 1667ft

After running the first 20 miles of the Black Canyon Trail last weekend, we were left wanting more. What lied ahead? According to the maps, it appeared to be lower in elevation, yet bigger climbs and a few river crossings of the Aqua Fria. This time out, it was only myself and Jamil. James was going to join us on the bike until a flat tire changed those plans. Instead, he followed the trail by road and met us at at a few intersections along the way.

Once again, this BCT didn't disappoint. All day we were treated to some incredible mountain views, plenty of variety, and a very run-able trail through the desert. Although quite windy, the weather was really pleasant. It's hard to beat running in Arizona during the month of January when the clothing of choice is a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. We picked up where we left off last week at the Bumble Bee road crossing, and ran 18 miles to the Black Canyon City trailhead near Rock Springs Cafe. It won't be long before we have this entire trail complete. The next segment appears to be hilly as it climbs high above the river valley, although, it will eventually drop into the low desert and finish out relatively flat.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Black Canyon Trail - Section 1

Black Canyon Trail
Mayor, Arizona
Mileage - 20.31
Time - 2:55
Elevation Gain - 785ft
Elevation Loss - 2,398ft

One of my goals for 2012 is to run the entire Black Canyon Trail, all 79 miles of it, from North to South. The BCT is a newly completed trail system spanning from route 69 near Mayer, AZ all the way South to the Carefree Highway near Anthem. The trail parallels Interstate 17, adjacent to the Bradshaw Mountains. The challenge covering all this terrain is logistics. I had to figure out a way to efficiently cover as much ground as possible without back-tracking, so a car shuttle deemed necessary. On top of that, I needed people to run with who could cover this kind of mileage. Last weekend I proposed the idea to Jamil and he seemed very interested, and after a little planning, things came together beautifully this morning.

Nick joined us for the run, and James followed on his mountain bike, which was nice because we used him as a rolling aid station. Thanks James! I really didn't have high expectations about the trail itself, after today, my mind changed completely. The four of us ventured into what has to be the some of the best, and in certain areas, the most pristine singletrack in the state. Being that it's mostly downhill, those 20 miles flew by in what seemed like a matter of minutes! I cannot wait to discover what lies ahead in the next segment further South.

Running the high desert on the Black Canyon Trail

Descending into Antelope Creek with the Bradshaw Mountains in the distance.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Southwest Tour Part II

The weekend started off with a solid 13.5-mile run in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve with Jamil and Jay. I hurried home in order to pick my sister up from the airport before noon to catch our tour at the Southwest Wildlife Center in North Scottsdale (pictured right: Toh-cho the 180lbs male mountain lion). From there, it was another trip into the McDowell Mountains, this time a hike up the North access area to Tom's Thumb where we would explore the large granite formations high above the surrounding desert.

Sunday morning we loaded the car and drove almost non-stop to the legendary town of Tombstone, Arizona. Neat town, great history, although now... a tourist trap. Literally, just about the only thing free in town was a small reptile exhibit, which was awesome!! What's not to love about Rattlesnakes and Gila Monsters?

Before we actually reached the town of Bisbee, Shannon and I parked near the mule pass tunnel and began our trek to the summit of Mount Ballard. Roughly 2 miles of tough climbing later, we reached the peak at 7370ft, which is also the highpoint in the Mule Mountains and the 34th most prominent peak in Arizona. Nice, another peak checked off the list! After spending a few minutes enjoying the Southernmost views of Arizona and Northern Mexico, we hiked back down and made our way into Bisbee, the highlight of today's trip. What a cool town. Bisbee is sort of an eclectic mountain town with plenty of character and characters alike. I already want to go back!

Having Monday off work because of the holiday was nice, so we stayed in Tucson and planned to hike through Catalina State Park to Romero Pools. A heavy batch of rain passed through Tucson and the surrounding mountains Sunday night, supplying the canyons with ample rain that turned into rushing falls at the pools. Talk about great timing! Shannon and I were also treated to some really nice weather the entire weekend, and even had the opportunity to hike in the rain for a few miles. Before putting an end to the trip, we visited the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument near Coolidge, AZ to see the "Big House" and surrounding compounds. The park service offers an excellent guided tour with a wealth of information about central Arizona's past cultures.