Tag Archives: South Mountain Park

Repairing Trails in the Largest Municipal Park in the U.S.

South Mountain Park

South Mountain Park, where Jay started his epic mountain bike ride last week, is the largest municipal park in the country.  It has over 50 miles of primary marked trails, and 100 of miles of social trails, many of which shouldn’t be there.  The park is home to natural and cultural treasures with rare flora and fauna and historic petroglyphs.  Surrounded by residents of the city of Phoenix, this park is very heavily used and in desperate need of some TLC.  Last Tuesday and Wednesday we had the pleasure of working with Volunteers for Outdoor Arizona to work on the Pima Wash Trail and Beverly Canyon Trail.

Jay and Sharon standing on new section of the Pima Wash Trail

Jay and Sharon standing on new section of the Pima Wash Trail

Using hand tools like the Macleod shown above, we fixed drainages, rehabilitated social trails, and rerouted a few sections of trail that were not well designed.  Surprisingly enough, water plays a huge role in trail sustainability in the desert.  It might not rain very often, but when it rains it pours and it doesn’t have a lot to slow it down in terms of vegetation so it just runs across the landscape, taking rocks and deadfall with it.  There were a few sections of trail where the path that the water follows and the path that the hikers follow were the same, creating deep ruts and wider trails where people tried to go around the rocks and ruts.  In these sections we worked to find a new path for the line that would be more sustainable.  In the sections that we re-routed we also had to rehabilitate the old trail so that people would know to use the new one and so that the desert could start to reclaim that previous path.

trail work on Pima Wash Trail

Volunteers creating a new more sustainable section of trail

Jay and I really enjoyed working on the reroutes, because you have a lot of room to be creative and you get to see a vast improvement in a short amount of time.

Jay carrying cholla balls to place at the beginning of the old trail to deter people

Our other main work involved using rocks to reinforce drainages.  By digging out a path for the water to go beside a trail and then layering it with rock, we hoped to keep the trails intact.  Rock work is always challenging.  In this section you have lots of great rock to work with, but hiding under almost every rock is a creepy crawly.  You learn to turn over rocks away from you and with great care. I saw more scorpions in two days than I have in at least the last year.  Once you have gathered the rocks it can be fun to build the drainage, because it is a lot like working on a puzzle.

For really large rocks we used a blanket so that we could carry it with two to four people

We really enjoyed working with Mike and the other crew leaders from VOAZ.  They have been doing trail work for many years and have developed some great techniques for building great trails and for working together safely and effectively.  I hope we have the opportunity to work with them again in the future.

petroglyphs in South Mountain Park

petroglyphs in South Mountain Park


A Day of Beer, Bikes & Bacon – Flight of the Pigs 2011

Some spend the day after Thanksgiving waiting at malls and big box stores and driving around.  I spend it riding, riding some more, having a can of beer on the trail, riding still more, eating bacon, yep still more riding, then at last arriving at Jim and Kim’s house for a tasty keg of Four Peaks beer and some more pork.  What a day.  What exactly am I talking about?  The Flight of the Pigs (FOTP) is a really unique group ride in the Phoenix valley that has been running for 16 years.  Every year for the last five years, this makes number six, I have participated in this ride.

AM rider check in-yep still dark

All riders check in to get the pig tail (pink ribbon) to attach to the back of their bike.  You also weight in with the heaviest rider and bike receiving a rubber pig snout.  At 228 lbs fully ready with bike I was basically dead average.

Flight of the Pigs in South Mountain Park

the riders entering South Mountain Park as the sun rises

The Flight Plan: This is a large part of what makes the ride so great, just riding National or Trail 100 is a bit of an epic, but making a huge loop including even more singletrack at Papago Park and some long stretches on canal paths and roads is a super epic.  For scale, South Mountain Park alone is the largest municipal park in the world at 23,000 acres.  Starting with National Trail in South Mountain Park is perfect, because it’s long, steep and incredibly challenging.

National Trail

We ride as a group to Pima Canyon trailhead, then take the dirt road to National Trail. Ride National Trail all the way to its end at San Juan (using Mormon Trail is allowed). Regroup and ride northwest to the Western Canal. Follow the canal to 7th Ave near Baseline Rd. Go north on 7th Ave. Stop for lunch at Sacks on Thomas and 3rd Ave.

After lunch, continue north on 7th Ave to the Phoenix Mountain Preserve entrance. Ride Trail 100 to its end at Tatum Blvd. People are really tired at this point. The end of trail 100 is known as the grassy knoll. There are at least 75 riders sprawled out on the lawn.

Grassy Knoll

This is where random people, either riders who couldn’t make the whole ride this year or significant others of riders, have provided things like bacon and cans of beer.

Regroup, then go south on Tatum to McDonald Dr, west on McDonald to 44th St, then south on 44th St past Camelback Rd to the Arizona Canal.  Go east along the canal to the Old Crosscut Canal at 48th St.  Follow the canal south to McDowell Rd.  Go east on McDowell to 52nd St, then south on 52nd until you reach the Papago Park entrance.  Ride this road until you can jump onto the trail that goes to the ramada.  Then head east across Galvin Pkwy.  Pass Hole in the Rock on its north side, then ride down to the Phoenix Zoo.  Ride up to and around Hunt’s Tomb (the pyramid).  Regroup, then ride down to the
east and take trails to Curry Rd just east of Mill Ave.  Go to Mill and head south across the bridge.  Go right on University, left on Hardy, right on Guadalupe, left on 48thSt, left on Olney, right and right again onto Pearce back the start.  Here they give out awards and celebrate.

The Vibe:  This is so much fun for all that participate.  Everyone is trying hard to finish and helping each other along the way. There is a lot that can and does go wrong early on along National Trail, this year Chris Gardner suffered a broken frame. He was able to cobble it together and make it home to switch out bikes to finish out the whole ride. The finishers party at Jim’s was especially lively this year as it turned out to be a fast group and it was still light out by the time I started my second beer.  It was Four Peaks Brewery’s Kilt Lifter again if I am not mistaken. Many times I have returned to Jim’s well after dark.

Thanks to Sharon who picks me up and drops me off.

43rd Week in Review: Holiday Season

This week we celebrated Thanksgiving with Jay’s family in Phoenix.  It was a traditional turkey feast.  We enjoyed the chance to gather with family and friends.  Being in Phoenix for Thanksgiving also means plenty of time outside.  Jay enjoyed his epic day after ride and I have been hiking almost every day in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve.  It is a beautiful time to be in the desert.

Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving Dinner

Tomorrow I start a seasonal job with UPS here in Phoenix.  We plan to stay put until the end of the year and earn a little cash before we get back on the road in January.  We hope to keep up the volunteer work, biking, and photography and will keep sharing our stories.

Hours volunteered:  22 hours combined working on the Pima Wash trail and Beverly Canyon trail in South Mountain Park with Volunteers for Outdoor Arizona.

States: 1 – Arizona: Phoenix, Surprise

Budget: Under

People Visited: Kevin Lockart and Mary Halfmann

Nights under the stars: 0

Best meal:  Thanksgiving dinner

Best beer:  Deschutes Mirror Pond Fresh Pale Ale

Photo Review: South Mountain Park, Phoenix

This morning I dropped Jay off near South Mountain Park for his annual post-Thanksgiving tradition, the Flight of the Pigs.  More on that from Jay on Tuesday.  For now I want to share a few photos I took hiking around South Mountain near where Jay started the ride.