Monday, November 28, 2016

Curses... foiled again!

Huge dam made Lake  Pleasant, county Regional park.

IN January 1998 , nearly twenty years ago, then live-in Deb and I trucked, two XT 600 Yamaha's down to Arizona and rode the entire length of the Baja peninsula.  It was my first foray down there although she had visited the southern mainland a number of times.  I relied on her sparse Spanish, "Donde esta Banko, donde esta Bano, mucias gracias, dos cerveza's senor, mucho fria, por favor." I would be lying if I said I wasn't a wee bit apprehensive.  I mean two large bikes, her inexperience (which actually didn't prove to be much of a problem, Deb had a very 'can do attitude) thousands of kilometers on many types of road surfaces, sketchy directions and questionable fuel availability... yup it was quite the adventure let me tell you.

Some of these Islands are submerged parts of the year

Lone Kayak-er, mirror waters

On the back side of that trip I discovered the Castle Hot Springs rd north of Lake Pleasant which of course is one of many man made lakes.  Lake Mead, Lake Roosevelt, and then there's Lake Pleasant.

Over the years I have often ridden this route from my home in Glendale north into the Bradshaw mountains for a photo op at L.P.  From there I have now ridden near and far, across country to Prescott, Crown King, Wickenburg and generally it is my first ride of every visit.  The main route called Castle Hot Springs road is drive-able in a higher clearance car if you have a penchant for that sort of thing.  Mostly what I see out here are Jeeps, Utes, and bikes.  There are a few river beds to traverse which can pose a problem for cars with small wheels or bikers that have no hub deep gravel experience. There are some steep climbs and narrow sections but in general if you want a casual 3 hour tour, without Gilligan and the Skipper too... and you have a suitable bike, it's a great and very scenic I might ad, route.

If you are more experienced and adventurous you can branch off the Cow Creek or Champie or Crown King or Buckhorn roads, and get into gnarly technical stuff.  Not for the faint of heart or those with BIG  ADV bikes.

New sign, no bullet holes!

One year while enjoying a break a couple of Sheriff's department deputies came by to check on me.  They warned me to warn readers NOT to try the Crown King trail, they had to make 100 rescues a year costing the county huge money.  People drive in with their uni-body SUV's and get stuck or high sided or otherwise stranded.  It can be hazardous for certain.

This trip I wanted to get the bugs out of my system so set off for a loop around the CHS road.  I had actually just thought of riding to Morristown and either zip up the highway to Wickenburg for a lunch or maybe just turn around at pavement and retrace my route for the day.  Either way it's about a hundred miles half of it off road.

Today I passed Cow creek turn off which meant I wasn't going to get real technical, then the Champie road turn off and when I got to the Buckhorn road I decided to head north from there.  The first thing you do is descend a steep drop to the dry riverbed.  From here it's about 5 miles to Walker's Gulch, all of it on the riverbed only occasionally navigating off to skirt some towering cliff or rock formation.
Dry riverbed making up part of the Castle Hot Springs rd

The very first time I tried this route about 4-5 years ago I had a badly ailing left shoulder and fighting the deep sand wore me out to the point of tears, I was about half way in but of course had no idea what to expect getting there and once I got there.  I turn around with a great deal of difficulty and backtracked home. Since then I have traversed this ground several times from both directions and knew it as well as you can any trail in the desert especially one that was for the most part, river bottom.

Very cool little 4X4 SJ Suzuki, used to have one of those

With each spring much dependent on run off, these places can change a great deal as attested by the various detours you will find made by Jeeper's.  I had no issue riding in to the junction, but it was obvious I was out of practice or the sand was deeper!  At Walker's Gulch you have several choices, you can cross the wash and continue to follow a narrowing trail and if you have a hard core rock hopper raised Jeep you may be able to ride it to an abandoned mine some 20 miles distant.  I tried this once and u turned shortly after passing a sign painted on a rock face that proclaimed "Jeeps Only"  I had ridden in about 5-6 miles and that had taken about an hour and a half in 35C heat. I'd swallowed my water in gulps and only had enough if I turned around right that second.   There are days I get defeated much as I hate to admit it, sometimes the trail or (the relationship) beats me! 

At the 4 corners of W.G. you can turn left up a steep trail on the continuation of Buckhorn road eventually coming out atop Wickenburg via the Constellation road!  It's a beautiful ride and for the most part no tougher that CHS road.

Taking a break

On the other hand I can follow a boulder strewn snaking dropping, climbing dry riverbed to my right.  This route is Known as the French Creek rd and will get me to a point where I can once again turn north and do a wicked 5 miles to the Wagoner road and turn right to Crown King or left to Wagoner and onto route 87 which will get me into Prescott.

Thor's boulders
I wasn't going to do that today but I was going to ride the French Creek back to Cow creek rd and then onto a lovely view back to Lake Pleasant.  The first 5 miles up from the junction can be very technical and each year as I say changeable.  This was not different.  What WAS different was the rain.  I had left in sunshine but had some sprinkles once in the mountains. Here it began to rain steadily.

You will see everywhere warnings NOT to ride low lying areas at times of rain, flash flooding is a very common danger problem anywhere you are traveling in desert country.  I wasn't worried about today even though I would be crossing and riding in numerous such spots.  It wasn't raining heavy enough nor was there time for the rains to accumulate.  What does happen though when it rains back here are three things.

Walker's Gulch crossroads.

One... the 'slick rock' gets slicker.

Pretty as a picture isn't it... except that sand is a foot deep needed a rock under the stand

Two... The talcum powder on the road surface turns into abrasive multi purpose grease.

That's rain!
Three... I get real unhappy!

By the time I reached the turn off to Wagoner, I was pretty unhappy I can tell you.

It was raining steady and pretty hard by this time and my road speed got lower and lower.I would spend most of the remainder in first or second gear rarely creeping above 15 mph!

Not a friggin' clue.......

Even though I was only about 50 miles from Phx I still had about 25 miles to get to pavement. It's times like this I wish I had a pick up truck or maybe even a Star Trek transporter!

The Crown King Trail

Seeing as I had neither I do what I have on hundreds of occasions in my 47 years twisting throttle, hunker down get the job done, don't get hurt! No point in viewing the scenery, one mistake and you could go over the cliff edge and become a permanent part of the scenery!  In any case I couldn't see anything anyway the clouds were low and thick.

When I finally got to the pavement I was soaked through from once side to the other.  I did have a dry fleece in my saddle bag, at least I hoped it was dry. I stripped on the roadside as SUV's coming from L.P. were filled with passengers that were warm and dry.  Curse you all... kidding, I love doing this stuff!

The only good news droning back into the city was that most of the thicker goop got washed off during that final 25 miles.

My teeth were chattering even though it was actually about 18C but being soaked on both sides of my T shirt and riding at 55 mph, seemed to have brought on the goose bumps but not in the same way as if I'd spotted Heather Locklear on the side of the road.  I could picture the shining (wet) knight (moi) on his white stallion pulling off to change a flat for her on the side of route 74, the Carefree Highway as it's known.  Yes sometimes my mind wanders like my path...

Abandoned homestead

When I'd finally pulled into my home, I'd had enough.

I didn't even bother taking my clothes off in the shower...


just kidding of course!

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