Sunday, February 24, 2013

Bradshaw Range and Beyond (Day Three)

Continued from Day Two

The wind was relentless through the night. The rain was minimal and the clouds that where left raced across the sky leaving a spattering of sunshine for me to awake to. I was not looking forward to getting out of the tent. It was howling outside. I waited another 30 minutes or so in hopes conditions would change but to no avail. I pulled my amazing Arc'Teryx Alpha SL jacket over my down jacket and stepped out... only to almost be blown right out of my shoes.

Clouds playing with desert shadows

Trail side perfection

I decided to attempt boiling water for breakfast. I have never been so happy to have bought wind proof matches. Huddled under the limited shelter my frame bag provided, the little Pocket Rocket tried it's best and eventually succeeded. I huddled for shelter behind a tree while I ate. The gusts where unbelievably strong. Any item that was set down on the ground was instantly carried away to a game of chase through the desert. Packing up was next to impossible but eventually I got everything re-contained and loaded. 

I needed to head north on the Black Canyon Trail for about ten miles. My plan was to then turn across Antelope Creek road into Mayer and eventually back into Prescott. However, as all cyclists are aware, the concept of a "tail wind" is all but legend. A myth passed down from generations but almost never to be experienced  As was the case today. The mighty wind was absolutely head on. When it wasn't, it was forced into a side gust that would catch my kite like frame bag and hurl me off trail like a drunken sailor. 

Usually a great downhill run

Survey says.....

This particular section of BCT is usually one I look forward today. But today it was misery. Even the downhills were restricted to no more than five miles per hour as gust after gust crashed against me like angry waves. I couldn't hear my tires grabbing traction or even my thoughts most of the time. It was relentless and I started to realize the completion of my planned route all the way back to Prescott was in doubt. 

Big tree at the cow tank

Antelope Canyon. A strenuous four or so mile climb. I knew if I could get past this I would be in good shape, at least until my route became unknown again past Mayer. Much to my surprise, the climb actually was easier than expected. My pace was slow but regular. Then I noticed a strange click from my drive train. It was intermittent, but getting worse. Trying to keep forward motion I began to realize it was only occurring when coasting. Blowing apart two Shimano freehub bodies within the first month of owning this bike had me nervous once more, despite my recent Hope hub upgrade.

As I looked down, I could see my chain ball up and catch on the tire. My freehub was sticking. This was not good. I knew the Hope hub had a chance of being trail side serviceable with minimal tools. Perhaps the miles of mud had taken their toll and a simple clean and emergency chain lube would get me by. Or maybe I'd pull the freehub apart and loose some critical pawls or springs in the desert... and start walking home. Being most of the next few miles were climbing I just kept moving on, recognizing the chance of me finishing this trip were really starting to fade now.

The stout Antelope Canyon climb

I made it to the first crossing of Antelope Creek road and the wind seemed to be getting ever stronger. I now had a choice, ride the 2WD dirt road past Cordes or stay on the BCT which offered more singletrack and the slim possibility of headwind escape once in some of the canyons. I chose BCT. I chose poorly.

No shelter

The next mile or so are almost completely wide open high desert plains. The wind was now to my side but in order to move forward I hap to ride with my bike leaned over sideways into the wind. Despite my best efforts it was almost impossible to stay on the road itself... and this was doubletrack!!  I just kept getting blown to the side and eventually off the path. My speed was decreasing, energy fading and the biting wind chill finally got the best of me.

I am surprised it simply didn't take off...

Mid-day icicles

Ready to go... but the pilot was to weary

I made it to the corral. The windmill was spinning so fiercely that water pumped from the ground was spraying out the top and freezing everything it touched. I wanted to escape the wind behind the water tank but of course that is where the freezing rain was falling. I gained as much cover as I could and broke out the cell phone. I was done. I called Micki and arranged a pick up close to Mayer. Perhaps my planned route was just to much or maybe a better day might have been all that I needed. But it didn't really matter now.

Hardened cow chunk is miserable

The remaining singletrack I was looking forward to had been turned into a post holed Apocalypse by the cattle. Cows have little respect for muddy trail. In fact, they seem to almost revel in it's destruction. What was left of my spirit dwindled away across the corncob texture. One more climb and I was back on the road, heading towards Mayer... waiting for my ride to come the other way.

Soon enough my bike was loaded and I was out of the wind for the first time all morning. I was disappointed at the shortcoming, but looking back the route was still a big accomplishment for me. I had crossed a majority of the Bradshaw mountain range, been successful for the most part in my route finding, had found and explored relatively obscure trails and made it almost back to the start.   

All in all a great success that I may try again in the future.... but I'll be leaving Tip Top trail for others next time.