Our plans fell apart for the planned backpacking trip so we looked at our AZT completion list and adapted. Section 22, AKA: Saddle Mountain, is straddled between Highway 87 and the Mount Peeley Trailhead. The idea of driving 1.5 hours on a rugged dirt road for the car drop was not ideal. We found the Deer Creek Trail that connected to that trailhead which created a 25 mile loop with the AZT section. It also only required a 20 minute car drop right off the 87. Added bonus. We packed our packs and drove out under the stars.
Years ago Maricopa County decided that it wanted to create a trail system that would circumference Phoenix and connect the county parks. The trail is designated a 'multi-use trail' and mixes paved paths, unpaved paths, and single track to create a 200+ mile loop. After years of effort the county is finally in the home stretch of completing it.
With my new interest in bikepacking this trail looked like a excellent option for a multi-day trip. The route allowed multiple bail out points, and easy water locations. Using portions of the trail and connecting roads, bike paths and trail I created a 220 mile loop. Starting from South Mountain the route headed West along the trail till it connected to roads linking the trail South of White Tank Regional Park. The Maricopa trail was then followed till Happy Valley where the route deviated again following the roads to Lake Pleasant. Lake Pleasant to Cave Creek Regional Park followed the trail. Multiple factors played in to not completing the full 200+ mile intended loop.
A few weeks before our attempt at bikepacking the completed sections of the Maricopa Trail we had an idea. A trial run of gear, grit and glutes. The route was straight forward; ride dirt roads from Bartlett Lake Rd to Sheep's Bridge and spend the night soaking in hot springs. What was suppose to be a easy test run, turned into a slog minutes into the ride.
The route began at the junction of Bartlett Lake Road and Horse Dam Road. After reaching the dam the route would cross to the East side and continue heading upstream. After a leisurely (or so we thought) 25 miles we would arrive at our destination. But as you figured out by now things didn't go as planned.