A hot ride on an angry mountain


Feeling like fish out of water because we are not in Alpine, AZ, Hal and I decided at the last minute on Sunday to ride Four Peaks, a locally well-known mountain near Fountain Hills, AZ. We chose to ride despite the predicted high temperatures, usually in the 100° F. range. It was one of those things that you weigh: put up with the heat, or don’t ride. “Don’t ride” is generally an unacceptable choice in our world, so we got on the bikes and off we went.

After seeing a sign on Highway 87 just before the Four Peaks turnoff proclaiming that there was “fire on Four Peaks” and not to report it, I looked up and saw this:

The demeanor of the mountain today was “angry.” Perhaps it wasn’t at all pleased that there was fire at the top, although I never saw any smoke. The clouds and possibility of rain and storms drew me to the mountain like metal to a magnet.

There were enough people out there, but the most amazing thing was that it was actually cool as we rode toward the top. I was pleasantly surprised by the beauty I found on Sunday’s ride up the mountain because by this time of year I am so tired of the sun and heat that I long for cool rain and clouds. I joyously rode under a mostly overcast sky, and once in a while I even felt a few drops of rain. Not only that, but the surface of the road was perfect: moisture plus crushed granite or sand = a velcro-like surface. We were able to travel quickly.

The road under glowering clouds:

Once we got to the top, the clouds had lowered to encompass the four peaks, and they were sitting very close to us:

Managed fire, road closed:

The road that was closed leads to a trailhead that goes up into the four peaks themselves. Nestled within the peaks is a world-class amethyst mine that is on private property.

The always-extraordinary view from the top:

As we were going down the other side of the mountain toward Roosevelt Lake, I finally got my photo of the “roundabout.” The little black dot on the road is Hal as he rides toward the switchback:

I almost think that photo is magazine cover-worthy. It could be almost anywhere, any exotic location in the world, but it’s right here in the Phoenix area. The lake in the background is Roosevelt Lake, a reservoir behind Roosevelt Dam that is very low right now due to the continued drought in the western United States.

Roosevelt Lake looked like it had been enchanted and was floating, an island in the sky:

This photo shows the amazing cloud formations, with Hal on his DR650 in the foreground:

After all that breathtaking beauty and wonder, we had brunch at Butcher Hook restaurant (unremarkable), then rode the Apache Trail toward home. In contrast to the beginning of the day, the Apache Trail was hot, and frustrating. The frustrating part was that we were stuck behind a long line of pickups kicking up dust and going slowly, with 20 more vehicles behind us. We made our tedious way up Fish Creek Hill, a steep, narrow climb near Apache Junction, but, amazingly, we did not have to stop to let traffic from the opposite way come through.

I was astounded that there were so many people out there at this time of year in the heat. There were a lot of boats being transported to and from both Roosevelt Lake and Canyon Lake. Oddly enough, the number of boats in Arizona is very high. We have a lot of reservoirs, and people are desperate to beat the heat in the summer by playing in the water.

Being on the Apache Trail was super hot, but still better than not riding at all. I was glad I was wearing my Camelbak full of cold water, for once. I generally don’t carry water on my back because it is too heavy, but I had to drink a lot today because of the fear of dehydration. When I got home, I had a headache from the heat, and I had to take a nap. It was all good, though. I rode my Kawasaki KLX250S, and Hal enjoyed his Suzuki DR650, our usual bike choices lately, and it turned out to be a great riding day.

We are stuck in town now for a while since I am back to work, but that won’t stop us from riding, even with the hot temperatures. It only requires a bit of creativity when it comes to riding gear.

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