Rain clouds over Phoenix on June 5 – an unprecedented event!
Friday was a l-o-n-g day for me. I spent most of it waiting for my riding partner, Hal, to pick me up with his truck and trailer so we could spend the weekend at our club BMW rally in the White Mountains of Arizona, our favorite playground! I say “weekend,” but I use the term loosely. By the time we left late Friday afternoon, we would be gone less than 48 hours, but would manage to get in some worthwhile dirt rides.
I packed four times. Yes, four. I was going to try and go earlier than Hal, and different scenarios went through my mind: ride the Kawasaki KLX 250S up by myself, taking only essentials (he would bring the rest later), trailer back with Hal; ride the DR650, fully loaded, trailer back with Hal; have a fellow club member trailer me and the KLX up, trailer back with Hal; wait for Hal to get off work and go up with him as usual. When all was said and done, I ended up riding up with Hal and trailering the KLX, as I always do.
The final packing configuration:
Friday was an odd day in the Phoenix area anyway. It rained. There has been no measurable rain on this date, June 5, in recorded history, until last Friday. I think it threw everyone off, and there were people that actually stayed home from the rally because of it. The rain was fairly heavy, and it was mostly the riders that were riding two-up with a spouse. I can understand that.
Hal and I didn’t leave until 4:45 p.m., and it is a five-hour drive. We made it to Hannagan Meadow by 11 p.m. with stops for dinner and gas (those are two unrelated events, BTW). It was much cooler in the White Mountains at 9100+ feet when we arrived. It felt GREAT to be cool.
The next morning, there were no other takers on our dirt ride, so Hal and I went out by ourselves into brilliant weather. It was cool, with sun and clouds. The other riders were on their street BMWs, which makes sense since it was a BMW rally. We brought our dirt bikes because that is what we do when we are in the White Mountains, we explore the forest roads and the trails in the area.
Getting ready to go out. Hal, who has to work too much, didn’t have time to get ready before we left, but it didn’t take him long to lube the chain and check the oil. Alex, my KLX 250S, watches patiently:
One of the things we were looking forward to was to explore a section of FR24 that has remained closed since the Wallow fire in 2011. The section of forest road didn’t open until late last autumn, and we hadn’t had a chance to ride it yet. When we last visited here, it was in December and everything was covered in snow.
We were not disappointed. When we got to the previously closed section, we were greeted with spectacular scenery.
An area where we think that there were a lot of erosion and falling burned tree issues. This is not part of the road, but is an area where the forest service is managing the erosion and debris:
Hal waiting for me to finish shooting photos:
What struck me most about this part of the road was how “big” everything seemed. The burned spiky tree trunks towered above us, the view was wide and far to the west, the setting seemed made for giants as we flowed through it looking (and feeling) very small.
Evidence of the fire is always everywhere:
Clouds rolled in as the day progressed:
We rode FR24 all the way to FR249 (paved last summer, sadly), something we haven’t been able to do before. Having that five mile section of 24 open gives us access to almost the whole network of forest roads and trails without having to use pavement. I have been looking forward to this for a long time!
Off FS249, we saw these measuring devices:
I am not sure what those devices are for, could be for measuring rainfall, humidity, aridity, anything. I was unable to find out what they are. There are so many things that could be measured and learned from in a severely burned forest.
We got onto FS285, and took it to FS85, which is where we saw the seedlings in cones last fall. There wasn’t anything significantly different about the appearance, but we could see growth in most areas. We were really too busy riding and enjoying to stop for too many photos at this point. 85 is one of our favorite roads.
85 dives steeply down and away from 285, and the surface is floury ash-filled dirt composition. The road flattens out as it winds through a severely-burned area, and that is where the seedlings are. It is a very open area now, denuded by fire. We rode through that part to an area of untouched forest, then ascended to a juniper-filled high plain south of the Sipe Wildlife preserve. Then we reached an intersection and turned left to take us back to Hwy. 191.
After we crossed Hwy. 191, we took FS275 all the way around behind Escudilla Mountain and Escudilla Wilderness to east of Alpine. In Alpine, we stopped for a piece of pie at Alpine Grill, and then fueled up and continued our day of dirt riding. About 12 miles out of town, we turned onto FS26. The sky was darkening again at this point, and a steel gray cloud, heavy with rain, was moving toward us. We could see the haze of rain coming from it, and we put on our rain jackets.
Soon we intersected with FS24 again, and we rode it back the way we had come in the morning. During this part of the ride we encountered a few drops of rain, but really didn’t need the rain gear. Then, we popped out of the forest on FS576 right next the lodge, and parked our bikes for the day. We had done 120 miles total, 100 of them in the dirt.
A nice evening of dinner and camaraderie followed, with our fellow AZBeemers club members. The weather was perfect, the company was great, and the dinner was delicious. And all this after a perfect riding day!
Tomorrow: a quick ride before we go home.