This Friday was my "every-other Friday off" which means I try to get out on a "new-to-me" trail for a little exploring. I've been eying Picketpost all summer long, which is segment 17 of the Arizona Trail that winds through Alamo and Telegraph Canyons. Waiting patiently for a cool day after months of night rides and pine rides.....Friday presented itself with high's in the mid 60's.
Riding away from the truck, I was instantly transfixed by the massif in front of me, Pickpost Mountain. I thought to myself how one could get to the top as I climbed gradually, heading south.
The northern section of the trail was very fun, buff singletrack that wound it's way through boulders; up and down through side-drainages descending off of the western flank of the mountain.
Fractured boulders the size of small homes littered the apron of sediment below the cliffs which are the same unit of rock forming the saddle of Pass Mountain. Born of a giant volcanic avalanche of glowing ash and rock, the beautiful multi-colored and layered rock let my mind wander.
Stopping for a break to inspect a boulder closer, I marveled at it's sometimes fine texture; interrupted by the occasional large clast....and a single strand of wild grass.
Moving onward, I was on the lookout for side canyons containing large groves of Sycamore which I hoped were about to start their fall transformation into a sun-burst of yellow....but I was a bit too early. I'll be back to explore, on foot, some of the side canyons pressing into the toe of the mountain where I'll be sure to find some sunlight...
As I continued on, I transitioned out of Alamo Canyon and dropped into Telegraph Canyon where they overlap each other en echelon. As I left the soft formed, tan colored volcanics of Alamo Canyon behind; I transitioned into a world defined by angular, dark and shiny schist propping up magnificent stands of Saguaro. The similarities to Black Canyon Trail were uncanny with the rock type being the same as found on sections of the BCT. However my pace was much slower given the tight and twisty nature of this trail vs. the high speed, run-out spaces within the BCT.
It was at this point I became hyper aware of the absolute sound of silence. Looking around, I noticed the track in front of me barren; behind me, the sole imprint of my leading tire pressing onward presented itself. Save the occasional call from a Cactus Wren or the sign of mule deer on the trail...the environment around me beyond the sights was devoid of stimulus. This was a visual trip for sure, and this trip was dialed up to 11.
Stopping for lunch by an AZT sign; I unpacked a hard-boiled egg, some roasted garlic humus and a pita. I quickly found myself hounded by some curious bees who were trying to get at my carbo drink as it oozed out of the bite valve on my camelback, into the porous soil beneath me. I have a child-like fear of 3 things: flying things that sting, crawling things that suck blood, and clowns......so I mounted up and pushed on.
The post-card views continued to amaze me as I pushed on, the mature Saguaro did not disappoint.
Noticing another change in the rock as I crested a hill, I was amazed to find a granite boulder, fractured and weathered, perched upright in my path. The strength and beauty of the geometric fracture sets resisting the eons of erosional time stood in stark contrast to the rest of the landscape which owed it's existence to erosion.
Turning around to head home, I took another shot of the beautiful saguaro I had previously photographed...this time zooming out to give the riders perspective.
The textural exploration of the trail continued, finding patterns of life and death expressed in equally beautiful ways.
Returning to my truck, I felt a sense of calm much like the moment before one drifts off to sleep. This was belied by the 18 miles and 3,000 of vertical I had just traversed....I felt as if I had done nothing more than flip through a AZ Highways calender. This affection remained with me the rest of the day, until I drifted of to sleep...when one last image flashed across the neurons before fading......
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