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.
After finishing up the short stretch of single track out of South Mountain we met up with the portion of trail that flanks the Gila Reservation. The trail meanders along the canal that borders the land. The trail bounces from side to side and we have heard reports of individuals getting harassed for being on the Gila River side. Aware of this we attempted to follow the route as closely as possible to avoid any conflict. The views of the West Valley's agricultural area and the Estrella Mountains to other made a beautiful contrast.
As we came to find out the trail would follow a route that at times was less appealing. This particular section dropped into the Gila River Basin where sand and river rack made riding impossible. It was hard to imagine this area without power lines above and trash scattered along the sand, but the range in the background adds a element of beauty to an otherwise drab picture.
Eventually we arrived at the abandoned portion of the Eastern side of the Tres Rios Park. We were greeted by a pair of bald Eagles that were nesting in the area. respectfully taking some photos we left the pair and headed West along the trail. Shortly after leaving the Eastern side we were intercepted by City of Phoenix Water Services employees who notified us that we were trespassing and the area was closed. Due to the protected nature of the eagles and the deterioration of the abandoned park the area is closed to the public. The employees were understanding as we explained ourselves. As of this writing the portion of the Maricopa Trail between 83rd Ave and 91st Ave is closed to the public. I notified Maricopa County about the right of way issue.
Although the Eastern portion of Tres Rios was closed the Western portion was not. We were in for quite a surprise as we headed down the trail. The dry landscape suddenly became lush. The city runs a wastewater treatment facility that is helping to restore the riparian area along the Gila River. The area was alive with many large birds and lots of greenery.
As we reached the I-10 we were overtook by the loud Mexican music playing. We followed our ears to a semi-permanent food truck set up on the side of the road. Jon and I enjoyed the taste of touring life this location provided. We waited for Jeff to catch up who we somehow managed to pass during our deviation from the Maricopa Trail.
We reached the White Tanks and filled our bottles at the library. We had 40 miles left to Lake Pleasant for day one and we were slipping behind schedule. We hit the trail again for some fun single track through the park before being dumped back out onto State Trust Land. The trail wiggled through the desert until we finally arrived at Happy Valley Road. Arriving here as the sun set, we broke out our lights and deviated from the route once again. The aggressive mileage of the day was taking it's toll, so seeking encouragement we made our way to the nearest Sprouts. After a grocery store dinner we hit the road again with our intended campsite 12 miles away. A few dark hours of riding found us at a locked gate (thanks Google) where our only option was to ride the trail onto State Trust Land and dry camp.
As I woke up the morning of Day 2, I knew this adventure was going to be as solo one. Jon had already made plans for a pickup at Lake Pleasant and Jeff was on the fence. With some easy convincing from Jon, the two of them pedaled West to the Marina while headed East along the trail. The first few miles from camp were flowy single track. My spirits were high as I dipped through the desert washes.
At the trailhead I attempted to locate the cause of my subpar shifting and chain stick. An adjustment of the front gear roll improved my shifting, but the sand and dust was taking it's toll on my chain. I attempted to clean the chain as best I could, but I neglected to pack any lube so my efforts were futile.
After a few hours of mechanical issues and tough trail, I opted to bail using the Cave Creek Regional Park. I made my up into the park and made the final fun descent. The trail down was entertaining but the thought of quitting was a tough pill to swallow. After 110 miles in 1.5 days I felt I had accomplished something. Plans are on the books to come back and ride the next section.