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Archive for April, 2017

The Arizona Trail on Unicycle: Day 19, Black Widows and Beer

April 18, 2017

The push to Flagstaff! We were highly motivated at to get to town. Our backpacks were now much lighter after having eaten almost 5 days worth of food and we were excited to get to town to have some craft beer. Beer can be a high motivator for someone out in the woods. 

The previous camp site I selected wasn’t ideal. My blow up Thermarest suffered a hole and was completely flat by midnight. I tried to find the hole my ears and headlamp, but it proved impossible to locate so I just went back to sleep and woke up at 4AM with it flat again. Using a blow up sleeping pad was something I debated about doing. I had to be extra careful about camp site selection and sweep away anything sharp. In the end, it was sharp rocks that must have punctured it. At least I could get something else in town and not suffer with it going flat every future night. 

While we were all packing up our tents Rebekka started saying there was a spider in her shoe. It had created a web over the entrance but she couldn’t shake it out. I also tried and I was going to just stick my hand in and grab it out, but I thought against it and used a stick. And low and behold, what type of spider is it but a black widow! Fully covered in black with that distinctive red hourglass on the tummy. It is a good thing she didn’t stick her shoe on in the morning, and from then on we all started checking our shoes more often. 

The trail started out great: fast ridable terrain that was flat with views of Humphrey’s Peak in the distance that slowly was getting larger and larger the closer to town we got. 

At some points we had to push a bit; there was a loose rock garden downhill that was even tricky to walk through. 

One highlight was rolling by some gorgeous pancake red rocks in a beautiful canyon. The terrain was still full of pine trees and we were fairly shaded for the whole day. Once we got to the bottom of the canyon we rode the base until the hillsides disappeared. It was then a pretty ridable single track all the way to I40; the first real sign of civilization. 

We made a beeline for REI to restock on a few things. It was on the way to the hostel we planned to stay at, and we could get some more supplies and repair a few things. We got there a bit after 10AM and I found a non inflatable sleeping pad; one just like Jamey’s. I planned to mail my old one back to myself so I can repair it at home and not worry about getting a flat again. 

Rebekka held down the fort at REI while Jamey and I took a taxi to the post office that was three miles out of our way. There was no way in hell we were adding 6 more miles of riding onto our “rest” day when we already did about 12 that morning. We got our resupply packages, which is always a relief as sometimes they won’t hold them for over two weeks and might return them to the sender. I mailed home my flat sleeping mat, some extra AAA batteries, and my sucky Goal Zero AA battery charger that was hardly holding a charge and not charging off my panel too well. I forgot to include my old riding shorts, as I stopped using them once I got a new and better pair. Oh well! 

We Ubered back to REI after grabbing our resupply packages from USPS. I picked up a few more dehydrated dinners as I had intentionally shorted myself at this stop because I knew the town had an REI that we would roll right by. My water filter had broken a week or so ago and I was hoping to pick up another pump style filter, but I was disappointed that the selection was slim. I wasn’t going to buy my same filter from MSR that failed, and the other options were too big and bulky. So I ended up getting a micro Sawyer filter. I absolutely hate the squeeze filters, but I succumbed to the small size and weight savings. 

For the past two weeks Jamey and Rebekka have been using their non-inflatable camp mats for much more than just sleeping. They would plop it down at lunch for a nice cushy seat, or lay it out at dinner to put stuff on and keep things off the dirty ground. I was a bit envious because I couldn’t do this with my inflatable mat; it would surely get a hole. But now that I mailed it back (because it got a hole) I picked up one of the more durable ThermaRest Z-Lite pads. It is not only lighter than my old one, but I no longer have to worry about finding the perfectly smooth camp site to avoid getting a flat. The disadvantage is size; it is bulky, but easily straps to the bottom of my backpack. And now I have a seat for dinner, but previously Jamey was kind enough to share his with me. 

After REI, we rode to the hostel in downtown Flagstaff. The shared rooms had two bunk beds for four people. Jamey and I shared the room with John, a through hiker that we met a few days before in Pine Arizona. He is hiking super light, and super fast — doing 25 or even 30 miles a day (if I remember what he told me correctly). The other bed was taken by Toshi, a Japanese tourist visiting America to see all the cool sites. 

We all cleaned up a bit and settled in. I tossed some more JB weld on my handle to strengthen it up and let it dry for a long time. I went to replace my brake pads, and realized that the ones I ordered were slightly different than what was on my unicycle. I have a Magura MT5 caliper, which has two pistons and is super strong at stopping the unicycle. It takes one huge pair of brake pads, or two small pairs of pads. I had ordered the small pair, but it had the larger single on it. The pair require an extra bolt, so my next stop was the bike shop. Rebekka came to the bike shop and they found one spare bolt and gave me a Cotter pin to hack the other one on. I opted to do it a later as the pads were still okay enough to use. 

Then we hit the plethora of local breweries to sample craft beer. Rebekka, being 18, had to settle for soda, but me and Jamey were enjoying it! John also came along to enliven our company and it was great to talk with him. He does his hiking with no stove, so I was fascinated to discuss what types of foods he eats out on the trail. I’ll talk food later; right then it was about the beer. 

At our second brewery we got Something Ridiculous. The duo team of Mark and Jon showed up to hang out with us. They had been doing some gigs in Arizona and took some side time to ride a bit of the Arizona Trail on their geared 36er unicycles. Afterwards they came out and met us to chat and have some food and beer. 

My fourth craft IPA was at a pizza place called Dimarcos (I think…). We also grabbed pizza and scarfed it down before heading back to the hostel. I was feeling great and really enjoying the evening. John had some whiskey, so I took a few swigs and we hung out a bit. 

Our plan was to start early the next day after the free 7am breakfast, so I went to bed at about 8:30 after doing a little writing. It was a great rest day, and I really enjoy Flagstaff. 

The Arizona Trail on Unicycle: Day 18, You Didn’t See the Mountain?

April 17, 2017

Yesterday we were about 5 or 6 miles short of our riding goal, and on this day we were already planning on about 25 miles. So that meant 30+ miles all on the trail so we could remain on schedule. And we did it!

But we had to start a bit earlier. So I got up at 4:50AM and started my usual routine, except I opted for 3 oatmeals in preparation for the long day (and extra strong instant coffee). I somehow had an extra two oatmeal packets from a breakfast that we did in some other way one day. The plan was to carry a little less water and have me leave a bit earlier so I could start filtering water while Becky and Jamey caught up. I could then pass off the filter to one of them, since we were down to only two filters and wanted to save some time. So I got about a 20 minute head start and went off. 

It was cold that morning, and I debated riding with my long johns for a while. Instead I sucked it up and put my regular shorts on over my riding and shorts and knee pads on to keep my legs warm. The trail started with some up and down singletrack; some ridable and some I was more prone to walk. A heard of elk passed in front of me at one point, and I started to see some funny looking mountain squirrels. At first I thought they were bunny rabbits, due to large ears, but they ran with superb agility and had a huge gray fluffy tail and slightly red back with the rest a light gray. 

Jamey had read some user comments about good clear water going across the trail. The user comments on my Arizona Trail map were not updating, so I had to go off the info Jamey told me. I hit a spot with a trickle of water across and thought that a nearby spring shown on my map was the source. It was 0.2 miles from the trail, so I ditched my uni and started searching for it. I was just about to give up when I found it; but I wish I hadn’t. The water was barely a half inch deep in spots and didn’t look that great. So, I passed it up and headed back to my unicycle on the trail. Only I discovered it was hard to find the trail and ended up way further down from my uni and had to backtrack to pick it up. Rebekka caught up with me right then, and I told her the water source sucked. She took a break and I continued down the trail to discover the source people were commenting about; but of course… it wasn’t on my map and was a surprise to me. So, I filled up a liter and Jamey and Rebekka rolled up and also got about the same. We had a water stash in 10 miles and didn’t need too much water to make it to there. 

The past few days were a let down for riding ability and we really needed to get our spirits lifted with some solid unicycle time. The trail finally gave us a lot of long and rideable singletrack. Some parts were even smooth and slightly downhill, making for some fast riding action. We picked up our water stash, took some short breaks, and rode a lot of the trail. It was a great feeling to get the miles going by, and it meant we would probably hit our desired campsite at about 30 miles of riding. 

Jamey even managed to ditch his empty glass beer bottle and some trash off along the way. We ended up at a closed camp area, and he cruised down a bit further to a ranger in a truck that let him toss his empty into his truck bed. Lucky guy! Rebekka and I had to carry the bottle and our trash till the evening.

Back years ago the logging companies in the area had built some cheap railroad tracks to harvest lumber with. We saw some cool old indications of it; higher ground, stacked rocks, and rotting old wood pieces used to support the tracks. 

We were coming close to Flagstaff, and I was concentrating hard on the riding. I had another fall that put a crack in he JB weld on my handle, so I was being extra cautious and careful with my riding. Eventually I stopped and chatted with the others, and they asked if I saw Mt Humphrey, the 10,000′ peak by Flagstaff. I disappointedly had missed seeing it in a clearing due to me concentrating so hard on riding!

That was alright, because a few miles later we got plenty of views of the Mountain. It meant we were getting close, but the terrain turned a bit rocky and we had to end up walking. It was flat, so the pushing was easy, but my foot was getting sore and Rebekka was having some muscle pain in one leg. We ended the day wth off and on riding and got to the site (and another water stash) by a bit after 5:30PM. 11 hours out riding and hiking. 

At the end we met a guy camping in his RV by our site. Jamey hit him up for beer (no luck) and I asked if he could do us a favor by taking our trash. He obliged nicely and even grabbed an old bag for us to fill up. I think between me and Rebekka we pulled out at least a pound of waste that we were carrying. 

The next day will be on to Flagstaff — hopefully with a short 10 mile ride. 

The Arizona Trail on Unicycle: Day 17, Three Glass Beer Bottles on Easter

April 16, 2017

Brr… another cold night. It is deceptive in the evenings as the warmer setting sun makes you think it might be a warm night. But camping at almost 7000′ in the high desert makes you wish you had brought a portable space heater up the mountain with you. I just don’t know where I’d plug it into. 

The riding was mostly flat, but rocky. That meant a lot more walking than we would usually like. Rebekka would always prefer to ride over walking, as long hours on her feet was starting to give her some pain. 

At one point in the morning Becky realized it was Easter. Being out in the wilderness makes you loose track of time. There are no weekends or holidays, and just morning, day and evening. It pairs life and time down to the essentials and you are really just living with your only worry being water. 

The scenery was still mixed pine and fir trees with lots of shade. Nothing too spectacular, but it was still enjoyable to be out in nature. Our long stretch goal was a water hole quite a few miles away, and even with some shade it was still pretty darn hot out. 

Eventually we heard the whirring sound of ATVs in the distance and came upon another road. We had decided to ride about a half mile further to a close water source instead of another five or six miles like originally planned and stop a little earlier at 4:30 instead of the normal 5:30. 

Rebekka and I went across the road and continued a short bit on the trail. Jamey disappeared, and we waited. He couldn’t have missed the open gate on the other side of the road so we were perplexed as to what was taking him so long. Finally we see him off in the distance riding down the road towards us; it looked like he turned the wrong way. 

Jamey said that he went over to check out the guys running the ATVs. They were hanging out, barbecuing and playing with their off road vehicles. They didn’t speak much English, but Jamey asked to buy several cervesas and the just kindly gave him a few. Jamey said there was one catch: the beers were in glass bottles, and he who drank it would have to carry the bottle. I gladly obliged to do so and downed my beer as soon as we were setting up the campsite. I was a little disappointed as we were about five miles behind schedule, and I really wanted to have a full rest day in Flagstaff. Being behind schedule might mean we would have to rush to the Flagstaff post office to get there before it would close and not have enough time to just relax. 

We setup camp and our two through hiker friends Top Shelf and Two Liter passed by us. They weren’t feeling all that well but were still doing incredible miles. 

The Arizona Trail on Unicycle: Day 16, Found Trash

 April 15, 2017

We did our morning routine and started early, about 7 or so. The day before had proved to be so difficult, and we had no idea what was in store for us. My Vans are really inappropriate hiking shoes, but my get were holding together pretty well, but I feared another 20 mile hike would start to give me blisters. 

We left our river campsite and hiked about three miles away and I spot a plastic Pepsi bottle. Now, up to this point I have seen zero trash on the Arizona Trail so I was astonished to see it left there on the side of the trail with a tiny bit of Pepsi left in it. I wondered if it would fit the Sawyer water filter, and sure enough, it did! We got incredibly lucky; it means we have a backup bottle in case the filter bag broke. 

We sort of crested the mountain top and actually got to ride a bit. It was a welcome change and our feet were happy that the unicycle seat would be mostly supporting our heavy weight. The terrain was up and down, but more or less ridable and we were starting to make some good time. In fact, we passed two through hikers; the couple we had seen in Pine that normally lived in Flagstaff. We even got to do some long flat ridable sections and really pick up the average pace. Our normal hike and ride was averaging about 3 MPH, and hiking alone was something like 2 or less. Good clean terrain would be 4-5 MPH and paved roads where 6-7 MPH depending on the terrain. 

Then something amazing happened. I was riding ahead on the trail and saw an Arizona Trail sign at the trail head by a large paved road. Underneath someone had left a cooler and a note next to it. The note said, “Go AZT racers! Please take one and the cooler will be restocked regularly.” I opened the cooler and it is full of ice cold Gatorade. Now, I’m not doing the Arizona Trail race, but I really hoped the guy who planted it there wouldn’t mind a few unicyclists taking one. So I got to indulge in what was the best and coldest Gatorade that I had ever had in my life. My body really needed the electrolytes, and I could feel some energy returning as I downed the drink. Jamey and Rebekka rolled up and also took one. We were happy, and I give many thanks to this “trail angel.”

The scenery had been changing ever since we got to Pine. The town’s name probably stems from the fact that there are a lot of pine trees around — probably ponderosa pine. We hadn’t been seeing any more cactuses, and there was more grassy vegetation around. The trees were a nice cover from the sun, and allowed us to ride and hike in a bit shadier of an area. Unfortunately, this made it difficult to keep our devices charged, as the solar panels off our backs were also hanging in the shade. 

Finally, we were about two miles from our water destination and I pushed ahead solo. I caught up with two other hikers we had met in Pine — one by the name of Two Liter and another called Top Shelf. I stopped riding (it was rocky anyways) and chatted with them. They were hiking super light; frameless packs, no tent, and no pants, just shorts! We hiked together until the water stop where Jamey and I planned to camp; the hikers wanted to hike more and went a few miles further. 

The water stop was a large pond, with fairly clean looking water. Another backpacker coming south from Flagstaff heading to Pine already had his tent pitched by the pond. He came over and introduced himself as Beaver. He was hiking solo and said he spends a lot of his year living out of a tent; something like 300 plus days a year! He was just doing a short portion of the AZT for fun. 

Once Jamey and Rebekka showed up we all setup our tents and cooked some dinner. Beaver was a no stove type of guy, and let some Ramen soak in water for a while and then he spread it onto some tortillas with a bit of tuna. Jamey and I have been going the more expensive route by purchasing dehydrated dinners and simply adding hot water to them to make them rehydrate and warm up. I had never had one before I started planning for the trip, and I do like them quite a bit but they are pricey at $8-$10 a piece. Luckily the guy at REI gave me a bulk rate discount because I bought so many! Rebekka has been cooking a prepackaged pasta dinner and adding a thing of Ramen for extra substance. It is super cheap and she has been saving the most money on the trip. During the day we eat energy bars, granola bars, gummy snacks, trial mix, and jerky. I also brought a jar of peanut butter and a honey bear; I mix some honey into the peanut butter and it it straight out of the jar. A fresh hole jar weighs a full pound, but I think it is with the calories it contains. The jar lasts me about 5 days, and I had mailed myself a new one at each food resupply. 

That night, much to our neighbor Beaver’s dismay, the frogs came out and croaked to us while we fell asleep. 

The Arizona Trail on Unicycle: Day 15, Hike a Bike…I mean, Uni

April 14, 2017

A 20 mile hike would be hard for me. Throw in a heavy backpack and pushing a fully loaded unicycle and you have one tough day. 

I woke up at my usual time of about 5:15AM. It was a little rough for me to sleep at night as the road was close by and there was a lot of noise from it. I guess it is hard for a country person to sleep with the sound of cars when they are used to the sound of nothing. Animal sounds should be okay, but the loud howling from a nearby group of coyotes didn’t help. They have this incredible high pitched whine of a howl. 

The night was back to being really cold again. I got out of my tent and it was covered in frost. I made my usual breakfast, two oatmeals and coffee, and started packing up my tent. After about 30 minutes I moved my camelback; the tube had frozen in the short time it was outside my tent! The condensation on my pot’s lid also froze solid. Talk about a cold morning. 

We got moving at 7AM but we saw several of the hikers starting at 6AM or earlier. Some of them were wearing just shorts and I was astonished; it was literally freezing out at that time. Nathan Hoover would be pleased. 

The trail up was a long hike. It was almost completely unrideable, and we had to flip the unicycles backwards and push them up and over a ton of rocky terrain. It was the most difficult 20 mile hike that I have ever done. Towards the end my feet were feeling like lead weights, and it required so much effort to lift a foot and take a step. 

Finally we reached a trail head that intersected with a nice river. We managed to find some soft and relatively flat spots just above the running water. We used the river to refill our drinking water supply, and Jamey busted a hole in one of the last two dirty water bags we use for filtering. My water filter was already dead and in the trash, and being down to one filter bag made me nervous. We leaned that most hikers ditch the bags and use a Smart water bottle instead. Apparently almost any water bottle can fit on the head of the Sawyer filter, and about 1/3 mile back we had passed a few people camping with some cars. I didn’t want to take a chance of having the last bag break so I mustered up the courage to walk back and see if any of the people had an old water bottle we could have. They guys were friendly, and had a few full bottles of some water. He let me try it out on the Sawyer filter; no luck, the threads didn’t match. I thanked the guy, and he was saying we could keep the water, but i told him it was really just the empty bottle we needed in order to filter water with. There would be no point to carry a few empty water bottles for the next four days. We had a backup plan; both Jamey and I had chemical tablets to get safe water. So my 20 mile hike ended with an extra ? a mile that didn’t pan out with the needed bottle. We planned to buy one at the next town we would hit in four days. 

The Arizona Trail on Unicycle: Day 14, It’s My Birthday

 April 13, 2017

Camping at the RV park in Payson was nice, but we had to get to our next destination, Pine, by 4PM before the post office closed in order to pick up resupply packages. We were going to have to do some more wilderness bypasses again and wouldn’t be back on the trail until Pine. So, we got up extra early and rolled away from camp by 6:30. 

It was also the start of my last year in my 30’s. Next year will be a new decade for me, so I should make the most out of this current one, and riding the Arizona Trail is definitely a great way to spend my birthday. 

Our first mini destination was a quick stop at Starbucks inside a grocery store. I got a nice double espresso and some lemon pound cake. I had already eaten my normal oatmeal breakfast, but I was still hungry and grabbed a delicious breakfast burrito from the store. 

We quickly left down on a dirt road. At this point we could see other bike tracks in the ground from people who are bike packing the AZT and racing each other. The race happens every year, and we knew at some point the bike guys would start passing us, as they can do the whole trail in less than a week!

The dirt fireroad had some beautiful red rocks in a small canyon, and flanked by some trees. We were starting to get into different scenery; less traditional cactus desert and more high country tree lined desert. We’d pass through some streams running across the road and the riding was nice and fast for the first ten miles or so. It was great to be off the highway and away from all the cars. 

The dirt road also offered some fun close encounters with nature. I hopped off the uni at one point and started pushing up a hill. Jamey started making a commotion about a black snake rattling on the side. I went back and checked it out. Yup, a big fat dark rattlesnake was slowly meandering away in the brush. My first rattlesnake that I saw on the trail; Jamey and Rebekka’s second. Apparently it had started rattling at Jamey at the exact spot I had hopped off my unicycle! 

We had to go on some pavement for a short bit and start a downhill into a deep canyon. That wasn’t a good sign, as it meant we would have to climb back out the other side, and we could see some pretty steep and rocky terrain. The downhill was a dirt road the led to a bunch of small cabins and after we crossed a dry creek we discovered that this bypass was pretty tough. It was overgrown, rocky, hot out, and uphill. We had a time limit, so I kept on pushing through so we could arrive before the post office closed. 

Once we finally climbed out of the bushy canyon we hit the proper Arizona Trail and got to ride a bit before finally hitting Pine. Jamey had realized his package got sent to That Brewery, a local brew pub that would hold packages for hikers. I had my package and some brake pads from Amazon at the post office, so I branched off from them and rushed over. 

I hit the post office at 3:45 – 15 minutes before closing. They had my brake pads, but not my resupply package! I was a bit worried, but I called the brewery and discovered they had picked it up. If you are doing the trail just get your packages sent to That Brewery in Pine, Arizona. 

At the brewery I got my resupply package and we hung out a bit and relaxed. The Strawberry Blond beer was my favorite! The mac and cheese wasn’t so great, but it came with a fresh salad and my body had been craving fresh green food. It was a great birthday dinner, and the gang got me a slice of cake with some ice cream for dessert. 

The place was hopping with hikers. We met Two Liter and Top Shelf, a bearded man named John, a couple from Flagstaff, and one other guy. This also was the point that I realized people took upon pseudonyms for the hike. I don’t really understand the purpose, and I also never was too into the alternative name that people give themselves at Burning Man. Jamey, however, goes by the Unicycling Unicorn — but this is to promote himself as a performer, which makes sense to me. 

So after dinner and two beers we rolled half a mile away to the trailhead. This was the first time we got to see a large heard of elk crossing in front of us in the setting sun. We setup camp right there, and went to bed early, as it was starting to get cold. 

The Arizona Trail on Unicycle: Day 13, The Welder

April 12, 2017

It was supposed to be an easy 10 miles or so from where we camped on the side of the dirt road to the next town of Payson that we had planned on staying at. We weren’t 100% sure of the route, but we continued up the dirt road and kept an eye out for our turn. 

Eventually we saw a service road number 47 and turned down it. Later we discovered that we should have kept going on the main dirt road further to a different number 47 road! This road seemed to head in the right direction, and it started out as a semi-ridable trail. Then we hit a fork in the road and google wasn’t helping us out in the wilderness. We took the lower route and followed it till another fork at the end of the “road”. I use that term loosely as there is no way a car could get down it. The trail continued down, but it wasn’t the direction we really wanted to go. If we took it, we would hit the main highway and have 20 miles on the hot road to Payson. The alternative was to back track and go another road that was unmarked; we also couldn’t find it on any of our maps. We decided to go down the sure fire way instead of taking an unknown which might lead us far astray. 

The trail. It quickly became overgrown brush that we were pushing the unicycles through. It was downhill and in the shade but we had to walk behind the unis to push aside the weeds. Even so, my legs and arms got a bit scratched up from all the brush. After 5 or so slow miles we hit a larger fireroad and started making some better time. 

Jamey had stashed more water at this road, so we topped off and each of us was carrying three or four empty gallons at this point. We felt like homeless trash men going down the road with plastic bottles clanking from the side of our packs. 

I was taking it pretty easy on the terrain and trying hard to not fall. Another fall or two could cause my handlebar to snap off, which would be a lot harder to repair and require full welding. With a small crack I could get some JB weld and patch it up myself, but tossing on a full bead would be much better. Or best yet was to do both things: metal weld and JB weld. 

I was debating hitch hiking to Payson to take care of my unicycle. I disliked having to take a car and not being able to ride it all, but it seemed like the best idea. However it was around 11:30 and the shops are usually closed around lunch so I decided to swap into my smaller 127mm cranks and ride as fast as I could to Payson. Jamey and Rebekka could take it easier on the road and I would have been able to meet up with them later in the day. 

So I blasted off spinning my legs on the pavement making good time. The sun was hot with no overcast. I saw a bunch of old cars and bikes on the side of the road and a large shed full of stuff. An old bearded guy named Ron was out near the front so I started to yell at him and ask if he had a welder. I explained my situation and he said he did have an old wire feed welder that I could use. Excellent! He pulled it out and found some sandpaper for me to scrape the paint off with. 

The welder was a pretty old school 120V that was missing the amp and wire feed knobs. Oh well, I figured it was better than nothing. I put on his old welding helmet (no gloves) and started trying to make it stick. It is tricky without a modern auto-darkening welding helmet but I finally got a big chunk of metal over the cracked area. I don’t know how good of a weld it was but it was better than a crack. 

While I was welding Rebekka and Jamey rolled up. They must have seen me on the side, and came on over to check everything out. Ron had a ton of junk in the large oversized barn. Tons of old motorcycles, in various states of disrepair, old car parts, old bikes and even an old unicycle. He pumped up the tire on this relic from the 60’s for us to give it a try, and sure enough: it still worked. 

I gave Ron $20 for letting me use his welder and we were off in the hottest part of the day. Ron also warned us: Payson, our next destination for the evening, was all uphill. 

And Ron was right. We had to slog through a long uphill. All of it was ridable road, but it was a 4 lane highway and not all that pleasant in the baking hot sun. But arriving in Payson had it’s rewards: a Dairy Queen! I had pointed it out to Rebekka and Jamey who were riding behind me, but it didn’t mean anything to a German girl. Jamey got it, and we stopped for some of the most delicious ice cream ever. The heat makes you really appreciate it so much more. 

The plan was for me to go to Wallmart to buy some JB weld to add strength to my cracked (but hackily re-welded) handle, while the others got us a campsite at an RV/Camp park up the road. I had never been in Walmart; I just tried to avoid the chain after hearing such bad stories on how they cause lots of job loss and pay workers poorly. But, out on the trail necessity won over morals, and I went in to get JB Weld. I also meant to get my own Sawyer water filter, but I forgot and left promptly after getting the JB and headed to the campground to do some more makeshift repairs. 

The nice thing about an RV park was that it had free showers and a laundry room. We were getting pretty stinky so it was nice to freshen up a bit and then head over to the restaurant a few blocks away to grab a beer. We had opted to save a few bucks and eat the dinners we had lugged with us on our backs instead of splurging on a real meal. But we usually can’t carry beer… and while drinking we overlooked maps and figured out where we should have gone on that day.

The Arizona Trail by Unicycle: Day 12, The Day of the Push

April 11, 2017
A 15 mile hike pushing a unicycle is hard work. Add on 5 miles of riding and it makes for one long day. The views and scenery should make up for it, but that didn’t happen on this day. 

I woke up at about 4:45AM hearing Rebekka’s alarm. She usually hits snooze 2 or 3 times, but once I’m up I’m up. So I got out of bed and started cleaning up my tent at about 5AM. It was freezing the night before and my tent was full of frost, particularly the area under my outer rain shell. Your body head moisture rises at night and freezes on the top. I had washed some socks the night before and tossed them outside to finish drying. Within 30 minutes they were frozen. 

Smiles had camped with us the previous night and started cleaning up her camp by at about 5:30. I was drinking my coffee and eating my oatmeal. She was packed up and hiking within 30 minutes. She said she doesn’t do a hot breakfast and just has some bars on the way. We never saw her the rest of the day, despite following the same trail for at least 16 miles. She is a fast hiker and we are slow at pushing our unicycles. 

I decided to start earlier than Jamey and Rebekka since I got an earlier start. I was worried that my handlebar would crack if I were to fall again, so I wanted to ride slower and more conservatively. At least, that was the initial plan. 

The start was a fireroad downhill. It was pretty ridable but had some loose spots that I’d hop off and walk through. The road lasted a few miles and then the trail continued on a single track path to the left. It immediately was impossible to ride and became a push. 

My normal pushing technique is to flip the unicycle backwards and push from the handle. It sort of feels like a wheelbarrow and I can balance it just right to make it fairly easy to push. But I was still worried about snapping my handle off, so I instead pushed it forwards with my hand on the rear rack. This is much more difficult to do and takes more energy. 

The trail was mostly downhill, but it just wasn’t ridable. A few spots I’d ride for a few feet and then have to hop off because of a bunch of loose rocks or some other obstacle. The scenery was also just average. We had moved to a high desert and the foliage was less cactus and more vegetation. This also added to the aggravation of pushing as it was thick in some places and scraped up my legs and arms. 

I did manage to ride a bit of one section but crashed hard; my upper left buttock when straight into a rock and left a bad bruise. My left shin also hit hard and was left with a lump. 

My goal was to ride to the main river and wait for Jamey and Rebekka. I relaxed and washed up a bit and soaked in the sun. One nice thing about the day was the weather: mainly overcast that kept it a bit cooler with touches of sun shining through. The others rolled up about 45 minutes later and we all filled up with 3 liters of water before continuing with the push. One highlight is that they saw a rattlesnake! Our first on the trip. I saw a bunny that day, which wasn’t nearly as exciting. 

The trail went under highway 87 and we just kept pushing with short bits of riding. Eventually we got to some large power lines and veered off the trail onto a fireroad to avoid the no-wheel wilderness area coming up. After a mile of fireroad we had a treat: a regular paved road. Finally some easy riding. We road for about 2 miles paved and 2 miles off gravel dirt road before hitting the campsite at 5:15. 

Jamey had stashed water at the side of the road. Rebekka went and grabbed the 3 gallons but discovered one gallon had a hole and was almost empty. We were bummed as it would make the next day harder, but Jamey went and took another look and found a forth gallon that he had left marked “free water” in a slightly different spot. Ah, perfect, we had enough water and it was definitely warmer than the night before. 

The Arizona Trail by Unicycle: Day 11, Shade and Cracks

April 10, 2017

Yesterday was effectively a rest day. A drink beer and rest day waiting for the Visitor Center to open. 

We packed up a little late because the Visitor Center didn’t open until 8am, but we got there about 15 minutes before to plug some gadgets in to the outlet on the outside of the building and let them juice up. I ran in and got my food package as soon as they opened and organized a few things. We all had too much food, so we rode down to the marina to drop off the excess in their camper box and grab a few snacks. Jamey got a coffee and I snatched up a breakfast burrito. It was frozen, and not all that great, but I ate it up. 

We were still doing a wilderness bypass and had to hop onto Highway 188 and go west to the end of Lake Rosevelt. The road was gently rolling and some pretty easy terrain and it made me wish I had my geared hub or a 36er to speed down the road. 

At some point I started to get worried my brake pads were going to run out. I had been avoiding using the brake the previous day and started to use my legs a bit to slow down. This was starting to make riding more difficult and tiring, and I decided to order some new pads from Amazon and have them shipped to Pine AZ, our next food drop. Luckily we still had some reception, and after quite a few tries of inputting the USPS address into Amazon I finally got an order off. Hopefully they will arrive within 4 days before we arrive!

Eventually we hit the dirt fireroad and started our long climb up a mountain. The terrain was pretty steep, and we had to mainly push the unicycles with a touch of riding every now and again. The sun was not as hot as the previous few days and the time went by pretty quickly. Eventually we got to a one gallon of water that Jamey dropped off a few weeks earlier and we used the opportunity to fill up our camelbacks to about 2 liters each. Jamey also stashed 4 more gallons about 5 miles further up the hill, but put on bonus gallon here in case we needed it. We probably would have been fine without it, but it was nice to not have to lug extra water for such a long distance. 

The road wasn’t all that bad because quite a bit was shaded as the sun started to edge lower on the horizon. We loaded up with water at the second stash (I did 4 liters) and we were prepared to hike/ride about another 7 or so miles to a small creek crossing. 

The fireroad eventually turned into the official Arizona Trail and right at that point we saw our friend Smiles. We kept meeting up with her at various drops and ending spots, so it was super coincidental to see her as she hiked the normal trail (leaving the day before) while we did a 22ish mile bypass to make it to that same spot. 

The next part of the trail was some up and down fireroad. I did a stupid crash and cracked my handlebar. I have some ideas on how to fix it, but they will have to wait until we hit the town of Payson in two days. I hope I can avoid crashing anymore, as it can’t take much more before it will snap right off!

Eventually we hit the little creek that crossed the road and found a nice little campsite. Smiles walked up and joined us not too long after we arrived and were just starting to make dinner. 

The night was cold again; two sweater weather, and long underwear. 

The Arizona Trail on Unicycle: Day 10: The Unexpected Rest Day

April 9, 2017

We got up and rode (I mean, walked…) the mile from the lake back to the dirt road and started continuing along the bypass. All the loud people from the night before were snoozing, and we were polite and quiet. 

The road basically followed small rivers with some gentle up and down terrain. We rode most of of it, and eventually hit a huge damn indicating we were at Lake Rosevelt.  

The lake has a visitor center that we had shipped our food resupply packages to. Jamey had called to see if his arrived, but they only had mine. He told them to hold it for a few days till we arrived, and he had a backup food plan from the previous shopping experience that we did a few days prior. According to the website, the visitor center should be open on Sunday. 

But, the visitor Center website was wrong. We arrived after a short 14 mile dirt road road (well, the last few might have been paved), and I was disappointed that it was closed. We would have to wait till the morning when it opened at 10AM so I could get my resupply. I was a bit devistated as we could have gotten to continue riding and be ahead of schedule. 

We rode to the Rosevelt Lake and setup camp pretty close to the water. Jamey almost. Locked in a huge 5th wheel RV by camping right in front of it. And wouldn’t you know it, the guy pulls up with his truck to tow it away right after he got his tent all set up!

The guy was super cool. He also was towing a boat and just got done fishing. Well, technically fishing, but he has a bow and arrow to shoot the fish. The arrow is on some fishing line attached to the bow and he can then reel on in the fish. Apparently the lake is full of an invasive carp species. They come out close to the surface and can easily be picked off. So, he does some awesome bow fishing mainly to just reduce the invasive species. 

But, I said the guy was cool, and he quickly goes in his RV and pulls out two beers and a soda for us. Some Corona Light that tasted great in the hot sun. We helped him attach his 5th wheel trailer to the truck and chatted a bit. 

Jamey had read that the nearby marina sold snacks and beer, so we decided to walk over there. It was still early in the afternoon, and we had one beer in us but could easily down another. So we mosey on over and we happen to see “Smiles”, a through hiker we had met a few days prior at the hotel. She had picked up her resupply package from the Marina! And it turned out that they also had Jamey and Rebekka’s package. Excellent! Apparently the visitor center no longer likes to accept packages, but they took mine because I had explicitly listed “Visitor Center” on the address and we called them and told them to hold it. Jamey didn’t put their name on the address (just his) and the marina has the *same* address, and they like to take hiker packages as it means more business for them. 

So, Jamey got his package and we hung out at the marina and drink some beer they had on tap. Not a bad rest day! I leaned over the edge and tried to grab some carp; I almost had one, i swear! 

After we left the marina Jamey got a 6 pack of some cheap beer for the campsite. I had half of one more but was pretty tired. The nice thing was that we had a bunch of extra food at this point, and Rebekka called it “Christmas” for dinner. 

(c) 2008-2017 Corbin Dunn

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