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3 Days Spent Bike Packing The Black Canyon Trail
words by Bryan "B-Hard" Harding
I had originally approached Steezeman with the idea of arriving to BCT by way of a greyhound bus that would drop us off in Mayer, AZ. Once the trail ends, we could then ride surface streets to the northernmost light rail station in Phoenix, dropping us off in our respective neighborhoods. This would complete a full loop that didn’t require getting shuttled.
He countered my proposal and told me that if we’re going to ride all of BCT, then we’re gonna ride ALL of BCT which meant taking on the first 13 miles of trail North of Mayer (the road less traveled).
In the words of @dirty_biker, this was turning into a “good, bad idea”.
Day one started with a 6AM meetup at our buddy Scott’s house who graciously agreed to take 3 hours out of his day to drop us off; well worth the price of half a tank of gas. In those first 13 miles we were quickly reminded that the desert is untamable. Our legs were covered in droplets of blood and the bushes, brambles, and cacti along the trail were relentless. At one point we ran into a cactus that had grown right smack dab in the middle of the single track and the line around it put us into more (you guessed it) thorny branches of death. Seriously, if you’re going to ride this first portion, bring pants.
Early in the afternoon, we made our detour into the world-famous Cleator Bar & Yacht Club. Those who know, know. I’ve heard rumors that this establishment started as a few gentleman drinking and selling beers out of a cooler to those traveling up the Bradshaws to Crown King. They’ve since accumulated their own yacht club so remember kids, dreams do come true. What was supposed to be “a beer or two” turned into a two hour affair with new friends, a few beers for the road, and a very stern warning about the state of drivers out on the fire roads. We wound up making our way back to the trail and finding a comfy spot in a wash to rest up for the night.
The second day was where the real riding of BCT came out to play. Immediately after leaving camp we were greeted by a ribbon of seemingly never ending singletrack. We then rode up into the charred, remnants of a forest fire from two years prior before descending back down into the Gila River. Crossing the Gila has been known to be extremely dangerous at times however Arizona’s lack of rain this fall created a barren path of river rocks and dust for us to easily cross. Our salvation at the end of the climb out of river valley was a slight detour to Rock Springs Café for a much needed meal, beer and in Alex’s case two slices of pie (my hero). After our second Gila River crossing (we were actually able to refill on water this time around) we made it to the saddle of a climb and called it camp.
The third day was a mixed bag of good and bad. By this time we were both exhausted and Alex, who had been kicking my ass for the past 24 hours, was starting to get beat down by the huge rocks along the trail on his 2.4” tires. After we finished the actual trail and fixed up a flat on my fatty, we began the 8 or so miles of flat, dirt “trail” to the official end of BCT and some pavement. I don’t say this a lot but thank God for pavement. Once we got a tallboy in our systems those remaining 20 miles turned into some of the best road riding I’ve had in quite some time, even on a loaded fat bike. A mixture of bike lanes and canal paths opened themselves up for a few jib sessions along the way which were most definitely fueled by two additional tall boys.
In the end, I found this to be another lesson in admiring what’s available in your local surroundings. It’s easy to envy the traveling of others but adventure’s right outside your own front door, fucking send it!