Originally published Thursday, October 12, 2017 at 06:00a.m.
For those few that are not yet aware, the Prescott Circle Trail is a 55 or so mile loop that circumnavigates our town of Prescott. It is an ever evolving masterpiece of single-track offering incredible views of the area. If it is not evident already, it’s one of my favorite rides. As I write this article I have completed the loop sixteen times from different start points and in either direction.
While I have done the loop twice in a row on a few occasions, I have always wanted to do a triple. This would be a ride of over 165 miles with close to 18,000 feet of climbing. My longest unsupported effort to date, especially difficult with a majority of the route being on trail instead of road. I had attempted a triple twice before. One failed due to lack of energy, the other fell short with a rear tire slashing itself upon a rock.
A ride of this length takes preparation and planning as well as a bit of luck. I had been watching the weather and while it is best to have cooler temperatures that also means shorter days with less daylight. This compromise resulted in a 2 a.m. start time anticipating about a 20 hour effort for completion. The Whitespar parking lot was empty and dark. Lap one was to be in the generally accepted easier CCW direction.
I did not see the sun rise until about mile 28 which had me just past the Kahtan trailhead. Always the hardest part of the PCT for me with its loose rock and steep pitches. Before I knew it I was back at the car fueling up for loop two. I felt great and it was an odd feeling to see the other trail users start to show up knowing I had already been riding for better than six hours. Lap two was in the CW direction and the climb up Wolverton really sunk its teeth in.
Rides like this are very much mental, so I worked to keep my head in the right place as the miles ticked away. With the Badger to Ranch extension just being cut through I knew once at the summit it would be all down T396 to the car and more fuel. Heading out on to lap three in the CCW direction once more I really felt drained but I knew all I had to do was finish. Abnormal to realize I “only” had to finish the PCT to complete my task… most riders are happy with just one loop to begin with. This includes myself.
At about mile 145 darkness had fallen as I sat to eat and soak in the full moon over Granite Basin. Final climb up to and then the descent from Wolverton was exhausted bliss. Sitting in my car for the drive home I felt a mix of accomplishment and dazed joy. Even though the triple is a very long day I share this to encourage people to work up to trying a loop on the PCT even if it seems unattainable. The rewards are more than worth the effort.
Steve Reynolds is a columnist for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Instagram at @Prescottopia. Contact him by email at email@example.com.