A bad day on the bike is still a day on the bike, right!?
So I think I've been getting better at this mountain bike business as I've been trying to ride every morning before work. I feel my lines are getting better, I'm going down more challenging descents, and am just feeling better on the bike overall. My confidence was building and I felt ready for taking on National Trail at the South Mountain Park in Phoenix. I plotted out a course, taking note to avoid the side of National with the "waterfall" - thinking I'd try what looked to be the easier side to the west, at least on paper.
My plan was to park at the Five Tables picnic/parking area. Surprise, it's called Five Tables because there are five tables, very original! From there I'd take the little Ranger connector to Los Lomitas, and then up Kiwanis to National. Kiwanis basically takes you up to Summit Road and only has 400 feet of climbing over the course of the mile long trail, that doesn't sound so bad. Sure it's a black diamond, but how bad could it really be, there's probably just a few rocky sections...wrong! Kiwanis is pretty much all hike-a-bike unless you're awesome at trials and feel like track standing/bouncing your way to the top. So hike-a-bike it was.
As I climbed, I just kept thinking the downhill on National would be worth it. Finally, I reached Summit Road and National Trail, only there was no descent, just more climbing. Slowly, I worked my way to the top of South Mountain, where I finally found a rideable trail.
Riding along the ridgeline was fun and I certainly enjoyed the few parts of the trail that dipped down and around, giving amazing views to the south and some sweet exposure to ride. For the most part, the trail wasn't all that difficult, mostly just typical singletrack with a few sketchier, rocky descents. Nothing I couldn't handle. It was fine, but it was far from the reviews of National that I've heard. It appears, my fun little loop was anything but fun.
My ultimate plan was to take National all the way to the San Juan Lookout but after being out for over 2 hours and barely riding 8 miles, I decided to give up and head home. Once I hit San Juan Road, I beelined it back to the car. Finally, after two and half hours, I was loading up the bike and heading home. By no means was it my most fun day on the bike, but it was still riding, which beats working, so that's alright.
For what it's worth, the eastern part of National is where the action is. Considering this is where most of the photos, videos, reviews come from, I guess that makes sense. We'll give that side a go shortly.