The Kona Adventure Team Diaries – The Whiskey 50 Circle Trail

May 21, 2017
by Spencer Paxson  
The Kona Adventure Team Diaries - The Whiskey 50 Circle Trail

The Kona adventure Team is an extension of the Kona Endurance Team that aims to continue the exploration of amazing locations during our jam-packed, diverse race schedule. These riders can all claim over 100 years of elite-level racing experience amongst themselves. They've raced it all, from cross-country to enduro to cyclocross and downhill. And as the times roll on, being an elite-level mountain biker isn't all about tight shorts and race tape. The Kona Adventure Team is about sharing just what that means. For this trip, the team competed in the Epic Rides Whiskey Off-road in Prescott, Arizona, then got up to something a little different.



Monday, 11:30am, somewhere on the Prescott Circle Trail in Arizona amidst the desert sage and beardgrass, Willow Creek Reservoir looks like an inviting oasis in the distance. We're low on water and just 40km into our 100+km day. Lunches are "cooking" in our backpacks with a rationed pour of water into freeze dried food packs. We're testing this preparation strategy and hoping they don't spill. In years past we'd all be on an airplane by now, headed home from the race which took place the day before, the Whiskey 50 Backcountry Race. This year it was the "Kentucky Derby" of mountain bike marathon races, the first of a triple-crown series with a $100k prize, and the most competitive version in our seven years of attending the event. None of us are in it for the money, which is good since none of us were fast enough to win any. That said, our legs are punched, but at least it's not important to go fast during our self-imposed Stage 2 of the trip. We travel for more than just racing nowadays. We travel for mountain biking and seeing the world and bringing our friends along for the ride. For some of us this is a vacation from work, for others, it's an evolution away from the height of our competitive careers, and for a couple, it's a route towards the next peak. For all of us, it's good living and good times.

The Kona Adventure Team Diaries - The Whiskey 50 Circle Trail
The day before... young man, strong thighs, tight pants. Paxson is the epitome of giviner’ during the Backcountry Race on Sunday.

The Kona Adventure Team Diaries - The Whiskey 50 Circle Trail
High post, spandex manual on the hardtail? Typical Sunday afternoon for Squamish Native Rhys Verner.

The Kona Adventure Team Diaries - The Whiskey 50 Circle Trail
The day after the race... how does one go from full tilt race weapon to trail adventure machine? Just strap on some extra carrying capacity and install your baggy pants.

The Kona Adventure Team Diaries - The Whiskey 50 Circle Trail
Our fearless leader, Barry Wicks, enjoying the unending desert pumptrack of the 100km Prescott Circle Trail, beginning just north of downtown Prescott

The Kona Adventure Team Diaries - The Whiskey 50 Circle Trail
Passing under the highway in a tunnel is the closest to civilization we got to all day.

The Kona Adventure Team Diaries - The Whiskey 50 Circle Trail
Managing hydration and water supply was a critical element in the desert environment. A wet winter had many of the streams and lakes topped up, but one cannot count on these for reliable drinking water. We each carried four liters, but with burning sun, rock-bottom humidity and only two reliable refill stations during the day, it was barley enough.

The Kona Adventure Team Diaries - The Whiskey 50 Circle Trail
Actually, this was as close to civilization as we got! With most of the route clearly marked with Prescott Circle Trail beacons, there was a black hole in the northeast corner that necessitated breaking out the analog paper map.

The Kona Adventure Team Diaries - The Whiskey 50 Circle Trail
At the midpoint of the day (~30mi) we sat down in the shade for our lunch stop, relying on pre-saturated, slightly leaky freeze dried meals. They were delicious. Time and water management led us to this experiment and is was largely successful. We drew straws for whom would get the single hot meal, with Kris Sneddon winning the honors.

The Kona Adventure Team Diaries - The Whiskey 50 Circle Trail
Later in the afternoon we powered through some fast miles on an old rail bed, watching the ancient infrastructure slowly fade back into the desert landscape. Spending time out in the wilds shows how fleeting humans' impact tends to be, as most evidence of habitation is quickly erased by wind and time.

The Kona Adventure Team Diaries - The Whiskey 50 Circle Trail
The southwest corner of the Circle Trail was more familiar, with some of the Whiskey Off-Road course traversing sections of the route, albeit in the opposite direction. That didn’t stop Spencer from schooling us all in the rocks.

The Kona Adventure Team Diaries - The Whiskey 50 Circle Trail
The shadows grew longer than we liked as we rounded the last few miles back to our parked van. There was still a lot of climbing left to reach our final destination.

The Kona Adventure Team Diaries - The Whiskey 50 Circle Trail
A quick pit-stop to load up our camping gear, top off our water supplies, and cram down as much food as we could handle, and we were onto the next challenge. 2,000ft of elevation gain in four miles. Ouch.

The Kona Adventure Team Diaries - The Whiskey 50 Circle Trail
Quick calculations were made, with a two-minute leeway for our increased altitude, the sunset terminus would be ours if we could maintain 4mph. It wasn’t very easy.

The Kona Adventure Team Diaries - The Whiskey 50 Circle Trail
With literally a minute to spare, we rounded the final turn and the summit came into view.

The Kona Adventure Team Diaries - The Whiskey 50 Circle Trail
The young XC whippets Paxson and Verner had left us veterans in the dust on the climb, and were perplexed by our jubilation upon reaching the summit before the sun snuck behind the distant mountains. They had been hanging out for quite some time.

The Kona Adventure Team Diaries - The Whiskey 50 Circle Trail
As the sun finally dropped beyond the horizon, layers were donned, and prime camp spots were scouted.

The Kona Adventure Team Diaries - The Whiskey 50 Circle Trail
Sleep time descends quickly after two full days of single track. Tucked snuggly into tents, the stars shone brightly as dreams drifted in and out of endless, perfectly arced turns.

The Kona Adventure Team Diaries - The Whiskey 50 Circle Trail
Brightness comes early on the mountaintop.

The Kona Adventure Team Diaries - The Whiskey 50 Circle Trail
#tentlife is a thing. A great thing.

The Kona Adventure Team Diaries - The Whiskey 50 Circle Trail
Camp was struck, bikes were loaded, and the preparations were made for the final 2,000ft single track sunrise descent to end the epic journey.

The Kona Adventure Team Diaries - The Whiskey 50 Circle Trail
Loaded up in the van, the hot ride back into the real world and sunny Phoenix had us all thinking of cold beer and burritos, but also nostalgic for the seclusion we had enjoyed just hours earlier on the cool crisp mountain as the sun rose.

The Kona Adventure Team Diaries - The Whiskey 50 Circle Trail
In the rocky metaphor of life, its always way more fun, worthwhile and interesting when you have your friends by your side. What will your next adventure lead to?

To check in on the Kona Adventure Team diaries and misadventures, have a look at individual team members:
Spencer Paxson, @slaxsonMTB
Barry Wicks, @wicknasty
Cory Wallace, @wallacesworld
Kris Sneddon, @krissneddon
Rhys Verner, @rhys_verner
Patrick Means, @patrick_means


MENTIONS: @konaworld




21 Comments

  • + 35
 I know it was a Kona marketing submission, but it sure was well-written and the photos weren't pure fluff. THAT was worth my time to read. Thank you.
  • + 9
 Please never put another picture of sneddon with his shirt off on the internet
  • + 7
 In Arizona, 4 liters of water, and you still won't need to pee after the ride.
  • + 7
 Looks like an awesome ride guy!. Nice write-up. Definitely not making my current injury time-out easy.
  • + 6
 It's been call to watch Barry change from a long-time cross/XC speed demon to adventure riding party-dude, good stuff!
  • + 3
 Ive had both the steel (2014) and aluminum (2016) Honzo love them both would try the carbon Honzo if I had an extra four grand lying around
I love the geometry and those big wheels
  • + 2
 Same here! Steel '13 and alu '16. Excellent bikes!
  • + 3
 Love me some Prescott, by golly it's my home town!
  • + 1
 Good article. Nice to read about something challenging but accessible--that you could do with your own friends.
  • + 1
 On hot days sometimes I barley pack enough too, and have to mooch beer off others.
  • + 2
 A bit off topic here but please bring us a long travel 29er.
  • + 1
 You mean, bring back the Satori? 2014.konaworld.com/satori.cfm
  • + 1
 @gdharries: Wow didn't realized Kona is really a head of the game for so long... I thought the process 111 was the first of its kind... Hopes they'll make one that would have around 160 in travel.
  • + 1
 Glad you enjoyed our Circle Trail! Always good to see you guys roll into town for the Whiskey party I mean race!
  • + 1
 Barry was rocking dual purpose with the gloves...
  • + 1
 that was a very enjoyable read, thank you
  • + 1
 what saddles are you guys using? volt or silverado?
  • + 1
 Silverado Carbons
  • + 1
 Honzo finatics hate the carbon Honzo
  • + 1
 Incorrect drop-outs and frame material.
  • - 1
 Hate whiskey, I mean what is it? ????

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