Upon leaving the "paved" portion of Silverbell Road, we drive about 4 miles on good dirt before making a left turn onto a very narrow road. I should have designated how far onto the road we were to park and meet because when we arrived, our group's cars were lined up, stuck. It wasn't long before we got it sorted, cars pulled to the side and were good to go.
The first mile is a mild bushwhack across the slopes of the Silverbell Mountains on our way to Ragged Top peak. There is no trail through here, just spot the north gully, which provides access to the base of the peak and wind our way through the obstacles. Then.....
....it becomes steep, really steep in places. A hiking pole is both a help and a hinderance. We are following a social trail which means it's not maintained, just enough people have hiked through to establish a faint, foot worn path. Well, where foot traffic could create a path.
We slog our way upwards and everyone seemed to enjoy surmounting the many challenges. At last, our destination comes into view. Was it worth it?.....
.....yes! Jaws drop, cameras are pulled and we all take images of what we see.
Beautiful but our work is not yet done. We make a left and climb steeply until.....
....we reach the peak. Catherine balances herself over the final pitch with Silverbell Mine in the distance. Previously, I stated the mine was no longer a working mine but it was restarted a few years ago. In addition to copper, the yields of gold, silver, zinc, lead and molybdenum, over time, is impressive.
We arrive at the barren peak, drop our packs and celebrate our accomplishment as.....
....Nancy and Peter, two new members to our hikes, arrive.
We sign the peak register, eat snacks, hydrate and....
....enjoy the magnificent views. The comfort of the break must eventually end so....
......Amy demonstrates the down climb technique, referred to as "5 Point Hiking".
There is a large population of bighorn sheep in these mountains and I frequently scanned the adjoining peaks and crags but no luck spotting any.
I was leading the way down, heard a yelp or two and watched as everyone gathers around Amy to watch or assist in the removal of cactus needles from her leg. The jumping cholla had snagged yet another victim. After a brief pause, we got going again and renew our descent, which is necessarily slow. We reach the bottom of the gully with relief and....
....march across the slopes where we find a good example of a rare, crested saguaro. Our hike ends with around 2000' of climbing and 4 miles.
Back to Marana to do the entire, 33 mile loop. Early, I passed a sign, long disrespected and only stating the obvious.
The route extends northwest of the Tortolita Mountains and is.....
.....very remote in long stretches.
The first 10 or so miles is a gradual uphill until reaching this point with a good first view of the buttes.
I passed Owl Head and.....
Other prominent points. Note the recently graded road. Very nice.
The saguaros were thick and of course the area is beautiful. There is a route up these buttes that I should check out some day.
I can't say I've ever seen street signs like this, all in white.
Then I arrive at this intersection. Not that long ago, a Titan missile was stored in a 10 story silo near here.
At the bottom of this ravine, there is a turn onto the final 2 miles of the route. The road is comprised of deep sand. My tires, too narrow for the conditions, sink. It would be a long, 2 mile walk but then I noticed....
....the raised area above the road could be ridden, like hiking cross country. A fun route which I will do again.
I drove to the bottom of Tangerine Road, just before I-10, parked and hopped on the gravel bike. The first 4 miles of the route parallels a canal.
The first 2.5 miles of the route was a road (not the above which is good) that basically was a wash with deep sand. I need wider tires for that so turned around and continued the route in the other direction which had a nice, scraped dirt road.
After confirming the start of the counterclockwise loop was on an acceptable surface, I turned around, returning to my car with only 12 miles. I'll go back tomorrow and do the entire, 30 mile loop.
I received the Golden Ticket invite from Lorna and Marc to attend a hike to Ragged Top. I've been there once, several years ago but as an out and back hike while today's would be a loop. We drove in two SUVs but the one I was in, bottomed out on the knoll to the left while Lorna's made it. We parked, gathered our gear and began trudging. Soon, Lorna came back and picked us up, delivering us to the trail head. Sadly, Amy was absent with a case of food poisoning.
We enter Ironwood National Monument and begin our hike, first via a wash.
There was some debate about which saddle was our intermediate goal and we agree on the one having the saguaros. We strike out, bushwhacking.....
....up a steep slope, really steep. Finally, we....
....reach the saddle and enjoy views to the other side. The day was a little windy, mid 50's start with some cloud cover. Now we discuss which saddle in the distance is our next goal, agree on one and shove off.
Marc and Lorna check out a nearby cave. I was going to see it too but only if they discovered a wild animal to make the climb worthwhile. I look back to the saddle from which we came and note all the Jumping Cholla plants. They would become a real pain over the course of our hike, literally.
The 2nd saddle was so much higher than where we were. That looks steep!!! It was. I had downloaded a GPX track and was checking it occasionally to make sure we were on the correct route. Since doing so drains my battery at an alarming rate. I'd turn it on, check and then turn it off.
Lorna must swerve when she walks as she was frequently bumping into the Cholla. I had one encounter with a clump that attached itself to my left calf. Lorna had a pair of pliers, counted down from three and gave it a hard pull, OUCH! I think she gave it an unnecessary twist while extracting, to add to the pain.
Marc discovered a recently stripped leg bone of either a deer or bighorn sheep. Mountain lions are around, watching us but never to be seen.
The climb to the saddle had an average grade of 41% so mostly it was 4-point hiking/climbing. Checking GPX, we were right where we needed to be and concluded, the above chute was what next needed to be climbed. Lorna led the way and I was surprised it was not as nasty an experience as it appeared. There is a distinct, social trail that was pretty easy to follow.
We passed these small caves but saw no evidence of any animal activity. No sane animal would make a den in such close proximity to a trail.
Our route continues to be steep and over loose rocks. I dreaded the down climb.
While we regrouped momentarily, I scouted around, found a faint trail and began climbing. Such a rugged landscape. At last....
....we scramble a bit of a wall that had some serious exposure (meaning a fall would be injurious to your health or death) and reach....
....a small and barren peak. We had a good view of the Silverbell Mine which is now closed, as well as....
....the Catalinas and many other mountain ranges. What a thrill for us all to reach this seldom visited peak. We eat, drink and gear up for the down climb.
Ugh, all hands and feet are required and an occasional butt slide.
Lorna takes the above image of me as we descend to a saddle from where we make a right, to continue our clockwise loop. The ravine that we follow is very steep but there is a social trail that is usually easy to follow. I took few images because my hands were constantly in use and grateful that Marc had loaned me a pair of durable gloves.
Upon leaving the ravine, we begin a long walk across the desert to the trail head. Looking back, I can see why the name "Ragged Top" was given to this portion of the Silverbell Mountains. We finished with 4.8 miles (actually, if you can start from the trail head rather than farther out where our vehicle parked, it's about 3.3 miles) and a healthy 1975' of climbing. We celebrated with a beer or water.
Amy decided to try the gravel riding experience so rented a bike from a local bike shop and off we went to Patagonia. After 3 miles of pavement, we reached Harshaw Creek Road and began riding on dirt.
The ranchers mostly don't bother with lining the roads with fencing to keep the cows from wandering. The cows seem to stay close to their food source although you do see an occasional cow pie on the road.
After climbing for 13.5 miles, we reach American Peak. Rather than continue on a loop route that would take us over some nasty wash boarding, we turned around and enjoyed a long coast.
We passed an active mine, likely copper. I could hear the movement of machinery but they've done a good job of keeping it largely invisible.
We reached an intersection where we had the option of continuing on a dirt road or take the paved option. I chose paved as I didn't want Amy to get too beaten up from the vibrations during her first ride. Mount Wrightson in the distance.
We finished with 25 miles which, after yesterday's hike, was enough.
A couple of weeks ago, local station KGUN, an ABC affiliate, contacted me about doing a story on group hiking in our region. I have no idea how they found me but over time, an arrangement was made for a station rep to visit us at the start of our hike to Tanque Verde Falls. I think each of our 11 member group got some time on camera and here is a link to the short video that aired on Wednesday morning: https://www.kgun9.com/news/local-news/strength-in-numbers-group-hikes-gain-popularity-in-southern-arizona?fbclid=IwAR1FzOTpkBsgXK0AydyWLOAoyZil7jUxL-zHEh6UiiqieBTIxFJ58CTJB0A
We descend to the canyon floor. To the west, the canyon broadens as it becomes a wash to move excess rain or snow melt through Tucson. But to the east....
....oh what a wondrous boulder hopping, canyon crawling, slick rock walking experience it becomes. This is my 5th visit to the segment of the canyon that leads to the falls (another segment starts above the falls and leads to an honest to gosh, nude beach). Yet, it's such a jumble of boulders, turns and bewildering obstacles, prior experience doesn't count for much.
The first of many stream crossings is reached and How Bout That!?! Someone has left a couple of pieces of plywood to assist our crossing. Hiking buddy, Lorna, leads the way.
I think one of the reasons it appears somewhat unfamiliar to me is I've hiked it when the canyon is dry and one can walk straight up the middle with no problem. Other times. like today, the water flow is healthy and alternative route finding is required. Whatever, it's a very fun hike with wondrous views.
The sun begins to peak over a nearby ridge.
This is a full body workout rather than a typical hike as we reach and cross the stream, many times.
Amy decided to pioneer a new route and hoisted a boot as her reward.
So, so atypical of what we normally encounter during our hikes.
And then we reached this spot. The rock extended too far out to allow passage as Marcia gives it a good try. I stuck a foot into the water and crawling out, as did Marcia and Amy. Meantime, Marc and Lorna did some alternative exploring behind and above us and found a much better route. OK, I've filed that for next time!
Our 3, having waded through the water, were committed now to climbing this wall, on the right, where we would be reunited with the others who wisely took the workaround. The problem though, since our shoes are now wet, the rock surface becomes very slippery. Being the first one up, I benefited from dry rocks but of course my passing left behind wet rock. Amy....
....was next and began to have a problem as both her hands and feet were sliding. Having an obligation to this report, I took a couple of pics before leaping into action and saving her. And then....
...after 2 hours of hiking but having covered only 1.5 miles, we reach the falls. An amazing place to spend some time, soaking it all in. After awhile, we geared up and began the hike down canyon.
As we continued our descent, we observed an awesome sun halo!!! Note the rainbow around the perimeter of the sun.
At some point we became too spread out and had three different groups, looking for a different way down canyon. Lorna led one group on the opposite bank where she made it through. The others too made it but not before one, Marianne, slid about 15' but managed to catch herself before tumbling into the water. Ummm, did I already say that the majority of rescue missions and deaths in our region are sourced in this canyon?
It wasn't all walking over, under and around boulders, ha, ha. We all made it out and then, Amy invited the group for pizza and drinks.....
All but one of our group made the short drive where we ate, drank a little and enjoyed the company.
I enter Wild Borrow Canyon in Dove Mountain. Recently, the wash had flowing rain runoff and I enjoyed following the wash up canyon, watching the pattern change.
Surely all the rain we had during the last week will produce bountiful wild flowers this spring. This plant was already blooming with pink and yellow flowers.
The Wild Burrow trail follows the wash then bypasses a boulder filled ravine to a 2nd level of sandy wash, then bypasses another obstacle laden ravine before reaching....
....this beautiful spot where there is a bench if one wants to take a break. After 3 miles, I depart WB trail for the Wild Mustang trail. What caused me to do this hike is eventually, surrounding hills fall away to.....
....see grand views of Mount Lemmon, recipient of 20" of snow from the weekend.
Beautiful views on a beautiful day for any outdoor activity.
The trail reaches a well known location above the Ritz Carlton resort where signage illustrates the region's mountain ranges. Reaching the Upper Javelina trail I take that and soon find the Hotel Spur trail and a return to the parking lot. Fun hike, not too challenging, finishing with 7.8 miles and 1500' of climbing. Now, get this, a local TV station, KGUN contacted me a few weeks ago. After an exchange of emails, they are sending a reporter and camera crew to where we are starting our Wednesday hike, off Reddington Pass Road. They're doing a story on hiking in Tucson and hiking groups. I have no idea how they found me but hope to get some of my hiking buddies some camera time.
Wow, Friday night and early Saturday and the rain came as forecast. Higher up, so too did the snow. Blackett's Ridge on the left and Thimble Peak to its right with snow covered Mount Lemmon in the distance.
Aqua Caliente wash had a healthy flow while Tanque Verde wash did not. I saw Reddington Pass received almost 2" of rain so maybe that feeds into the former rather than the latter wash. Anyway, I have a hike organized up Tanque Verde Canyon on Wednesday so there certainly will be a healthy flow of water either from rain run-off or from snow melt. Should be spectacular.
Amy and I hooked up with hikers and friends Lorna and Katheryn and had a very fun time playing pickle ball. There are 16 courts where we usually play, all full and lots of people waiting for their turn to play. I'm surprised at how many young people play. I always assumed it was a game for the oldsters.
It's been an unusual weather pattern for our region with cool temperatures and daily chances for rain. The arrival and departure of a system produces some dramatic and beautiful views.
A small amount of snow has accumulated on the top of the mountains but on this day, it was too cloudy to get a visual. I got in a short hike on one day and on another, Amy and I played pickle ball. There are a lot of beginning players and where we play has 16 courts so no shortage of other beginners with whom to arrange a match.
With two more days of rain forecast for Friday and Saturday, I made sure I got out on a dry but cloudy day on Thursday. The sun is barely visible between the arms of a saguaro as I depart on the Sandero Esperanza trail off Golden Gate Road on my way to Wasson Peak.
I much prefer this trail over the alternative approaches, especially Kings Canyon trail. That trail has an abundance of loose rock while the trail on which I am hiking is smooth.
I'm zig-zagging up to Hugh Norris trail while enjoying the view of Panther Peak on the left and Sombrero Peak on the right.
I can see the Kings Canyon trail and its serpentine course in the distance. Actually, that is a social trail that parallels Kings Canyon and most people are unaware it exists.
At last, I reach a deserted peak save for a guy who is visiting from MD. I always enjoy meeting visitors from the east or midwest. They just marvel at the views this region offers. I was surprised there were not more people up here. Typically, the week between Christmas and New Years draws scads of people to the trails and with Wasson being one of the more accessible peak, scads more up here.
Gates Pass Road winds between Golden Gate and Bern Mountains. I use the Strava app so it keeps track of my hiking time. I reached the peak in 1:10:22 and last year, also on December 30th, my time was 1:10:22. What are the odds of that????
Another aspect of the Hugh Norris trail that I like is the effort and workmanship that went into the trail construction. I finished with just under 8 miles and 1700' of climbing.
Mount Lemmon in the distance and forecast to receive up to 24" of snow this weekend!
An organization that promotes gravel grinding, "Dirty Freehub" organized a group ride out of the small town of Patagonia. The town has become a destination for gravel bike riders as between it and the border, there are many miles of relatively smooth, dirt roads. Gravel bikes differ from a road bike mostly with much wider tires. Thirty-five of us rolled out at 11:00am, with a cool temp of "only" 54 degrees.
We had two routes from which to choose, 30 and 50 miles. Gravel riding miles are more difficult than road riding miles due to the rolling resistance. I chose the 30 mile route but ended up on the tail end of the 50 mile group and never saw the 30 mile group again. Above, we pause to remove a layer of clothing.
For much of the route, the roads were well paved with a few rockier sections. I'm a real novice at gravel riding and so am nervous about rocky sections or stream crossings, of which there were two. The first 13 miles was a steady but not steep climb to "American Peak".
Reaching the peak, we finally had nice views to the southeast. Not spectacular, just nice on this mostly cloudy day.
I hooked up with a couple who decided to abandon the 50 mile route for the 30 miler. We descended into a valley of wide ranging grassland. Patagonia is only an 1:15 drive from home yet at an elevation of around 4000', no cactus and a much different look.
There is a lot of ranching going on in the region. The descent from the peak yielded many miles of coasting but one road had lots of wash boarding. Ugh, that was brutal. I really don't like that aspect of gravel riding but otherwise, the absence of vehicles, the change of scenery, new roads, etc.... is good. Finished with 30 miles, 1300' elevation gain and a modest 13.3 average.
Future weather radar indicated it would begin to rain Saturday morning so unfortunately, I had to cancel a group hike. The hike was a short one, to Tanque Verde Falls but within a canyon over, around and under huge boulders. Couple that with the smooth slick rock surfaces on which we would be hiking and, well, a wet surface would be dangerous. The rain did arrive as predicted as I take Jack the Dob out for a walk and get a good view of Thimble Peak through the clouds.
I'm excited to do my first gravel bike ride from Patagonia on Sunday so I took my gravel bike out for a spin to make sure it was good to go.
Oh wow, lot of good firewood. If only I had access and a chainsaw. The latter is easily solved, the former, not at all as I ride through a nature sanctuary.
The route passes by a lake and check out that view!!!
Merry Christmas everyone!
I, probably like most hikers, enjoy viewing the mountains and noting which peaks I have visited. I'm glad that I can now add Table Tooth, the prominent feature, slightly left of center in the above image. Just left of Table Mountain. Just so you don't think all I do is hike and bike.....
....here I am, finishing the construction of a masterpiece! Amy has an odd collection of plumbing protruding from a wall in her portico. So I built this table thingy to hide the plumbing and on which she can place some decorative item. Welp, enough of that, back to the trails and roads.
Ten of us gather at the Pima Canyon Trail head, 8:00am, 40 degrees for the start of an epic hike. Our destination, Table Tooth (also known as Table Tower) is a 390' prominence that sits just apart from Table Mountain with the Wolf's Teeth spires a little more distant.
Our hike would follow Pima Canyon Trail for 4 miles. The rising sun illuminates one of the Wolf's Spires. Our destination is left of that and not yet visible.
Pima Canyon is very rocky so our focus is mostly on the trail but you must remind yourself to pause and look up. The colors and views always change. None of us have visited the Peak so we were very fortunate that a fellow hiker, Paul, who had already done the hike last week, volunteered to hike ahead. At about mile 4.....
....we encountered a note that Paul had left for us, indicating this is where we depart the trail and head up the canyon, for .3 miles.
The .3 mile off trail hike up Pima Canyon was fun as we worked our way around and over various bouldery obstructions. There was a trickle of water, a result of snow melt higher up the mountain. Soon we found another note left behind by Paul, informing us that is where we break out of the canyon bottom.
It's about a mile to a saddle that is just right of Table Tooth Peak, during which we would gain 1600'. From this perspective, it's impossible to know where along the ridge line we should emerge so again, it was invaluable to have Paul's help.
What a great view, Kitt Peak in the distance.
Did I state it was steep? Pics usually don't convey the steepness but this one does.
Now that I completed the ascent, had I to do it again, not sure I could find my way without the aid of a GPX route. It was oddly bewildering to me probably because was so steep, I rarely could get a visual on our destination.
High up the slope, I could see Table Mountain, a notch below it and then the base of our peak. We needed to be at a saddle right of the Tooth. Long ago, there was not a notch but a continuous wall between Table and the Tooth.
I assumed that upon reaching the saddle, we would be rewarded with amazing views and I was not disappointed. It almost causes my jaw to drop.
One of our group, Lindsey, stands in front of an adjoining spire and glad we did not have to climb it.
On a bushwhacking climb like this, it's important that you not lose sight of the hiker ahead of you or else you have no clue how to proceed. I should have mentioned the importance of this to the group at the start of the climb. Anyway, eventually, we all made it to the saddle.
What a view with Leviathan and Wilderness domes a big part of the above image. We all hiked to the base of the first rated wall. I climbed a portion of the wall and decided the exposure was too much for me so retreated while.....
....Paul was the first to ascend, followed by Lorna. She's a great climber and comfortable with exposure. I watched....
....Marc, easily ascend, then Lindsey. Paul tied a rope around the base of a tree, dropped it so I climbed the "Z" in the rock face (shown above) as before, grabbed the rope and made it. So glad that I did. Immediately, there was another wall, maybe 20" but around a corner to the right, there were some good handholds but with exposure. I took this route and then we....
....carefully navigated a knife edge. This was not as difficult as I thought it may be. Sure, a slip and down you go a couple hundred feet but there were plenty of things to grab. I was very careful here as we approached the peak, with Table Mountain in the distance.
And then we reach the peak! On his prior climb, Paul had left a can, under a rock with a sign-in sheet, past and present.
Oh the views! the Santa Ritas in the distance. Mt. Wrightson, Hopkins and Elephant Head are so insignificant.
Knowing that our friends, who had decided not to try the climb, were waiting for us we headed back. The walls were quickly passed with Paul removing his purple rope and heaving the white rope back atop, where it had been placed by a local hiker, last year. I understand that is climbers protocol. Several of our group....
...had already begun their descent, wanting to get a head start. I was concerned they would not be able to stay on track so plunged down hill too. I needn't have worried as their devices had their ascent so they could follow that.
The Wolf's Teeth are plainly visible as we descend. That destination too has been on my list but not sure I want to repeat a nearly identical hike. Of course, thoughts change over time.
While steep (an average grade of around 40%) we mostly were stepping down into dirt rather than rocks so the impact was reduced, thank goodness. In the distance, Pima Canyon.
At last, we got on the Pima Canyon Trail and began the 4 mile return. Finished with 10 miles and 3700' of climbing.
Saturday's hike down Pusch delivered a pounding to my lower joints. So, I did a short, 20 mile ride just to get "things" reoriented. Cycling seems quite therapeutic for recovery from hiking. Some of the homes around Oro Valley CC have nice Christmas displays. I'll have to come back at night to see them lighted.
I was driving somewhere and saw this unusual sight, a sidecar having two dogs in it.
Two systems passed through with only a small amount of rain but the cloud formations were......
...very nice and reminded me of one of the reasons I love this region.
Last couple of days have been too windy to ride so I drove to the Tucson Mountains to hike a loop that included Brown Mountain.
The first half is gently rolling but then you ascend and hike a ridge line. Nothing too steep just something on which I can push myself and get a good workout.
The clouds begin their exit of our skies.
I'm on the final portion of the ridge line trail and see Goldengate Mountain on the right, Bren on the left. Both enjoyable hikes. Finished with 4.25 miles and 700' elevation gain. Really epic hike coming Saturday.
Saturday morning, 8am, 40 degrees and what appears to be an innocuous climb to the top of Pusch Peak......instead, it is the hardest, short hike in the region. Total distance, only 4 miles but we will gain 2600' of elevation, in 2 miles..
The first .7 miles is on an established trail having an average grade of 9.5% but the remaining distance, on an easy to follow social trail, averages 30%...just a brute of a climb. Most of the climb would be done so in the shade as the sun illuminates the Tortolitas and surroundings to our west. Joining me today were 15, hardy hikers. A larger group than normal but I wanted to give as many people as is reasonable, the opportunity to make it to the peak.
We reach a "wall" but everyone clambers up.
Hiking most of our area trails requires that you keep your focus on the trail but during a regroup, Marc G spotted a big horn sheep, a rare sighting.
My goal was to get everyone to the peak and so I paused frequently to allow any stragglers to catch up. Eventually, we decided to split into a fast and somewhat less than fast group, which worked out well.
Our route would take us in front of a group of emerging, Stegosaurus shaped, rock features.
Gaining elevation provided awesome, early morning views of our surroundings.
The Stegosaurus shaped features line up nicely. After about 2 hours of hiking....
....we reach the peak. The Cleaver, than Bighorn than Table Mountain in the distance. Unseen and just beyond Table is Table Tooth, next week's destination. Most in our party were giddy with excitement and some.....
...hiked to a nearby smaller peak and posed (left to right, Amy, Marcia and Lorna).
To our north, what a great view.
I pointed out a few peaks while others.....
.....posed, lol. Marc G on the left, Jenn and Catherine.
All enjoyed the peak experience but of course, the descent must begin and what a knee buckling experience it is. Post hike, a few of us.....
....met at a local eatery and had healthy meals and than shared unhealthy, carrot cake! Seven of us split the cake fairly evenly even though it appears Amy is intent on carving out a bigger one. Note the intensity with which she eyes the prize. Great hike with fun people.
Ventana Canyon, a gateway to The Window and Window Peak but well short of those wonderful destinations is Maiden Pools. With a difficult hike coming on Saturday, Amy and I picked the Pools for an easier hike.
A weather system passing to our north brought in some thin clouds to our region. Clouds seem to add drama to the long range vistas.
The trail crosses the canyon floor multiple times with no a bunch of climbing until.....
....we encounter the canyon wall. Now the climbing begins in earnest and once again, the monsoon inspired grass growth is impressive. We had passed a couple of signs warning we were entering a burn area but we saw nothing to suggest a fire had passed any place where we walked.
After about 2 miles, we begin a descent to the broad, slick rock area that houses the pools.
There was a trickle of water moving through the canyon, keeping the pools full. It's a beautiful area and we enjoyed relaxing for a bit before we began the short climb back to the Ventana Canyon trail.
Reaching the high point of the trail, we spotted a cairn and took this awesome picture.
After descending to the canyon floor, I noticed movement and saw this good example of a centipede. Eventually, we finished our hike with 5.4 miles and 1300' of climbing.
The Cyclefit gang gathered in Sahuarita for a group ride to Madera Canyon. A surprise visitor, Eros Poli, arrived too. I know, you're thinking, "Who's this guy?" Well, he won an Olympic gold medal at the '84 games in Los Angeles but more interesting, he was Mario Cipollini's lead out man on sprint stages at the Tour de France and other races. This is....
....Mario, winning one of many sprint stages. Eros is a very gracious, humble man with 0 ego and you probably had to have that in order to ride with Mario. Anyway, Eros is a large man, 6'4" tall and understandably, not a strong climber. However, in 1994, Stage 15 at the TDF, Eros attacked the peloton, soloing from the group and arrived at the base of the fabled Mont Ventoux with a 20 minute head start. He was almost caught at the summit but then stayed ahead on the descent, finishing first!
Nice bike! We split into two groups, one for 8:30 and one at 9am. Eros went with the late group and I went with the early group. I assumed I would get dropped and would not have had the opportunity to hear his stories anyway if I waited for the late (and faster) group, lol.
Passing one of the area's pecan farms. The leaves are turning so it must be southern Arizona's fall season on this beautiful day with a high of 78.
On Monday I got out for a very short ride to stretch my legs which were kind of fatigued after the combination of Saturday's hike and Sunday's ride. Funky looking saguaro and then....
....our pickle ball paddles arrived! I ordered lightweight, Engage brand. The quality of the paddle far exceeds my skill but maybe I can "grow" into it. Will be interesting to see how much I play as I won't cut back on cycling or hiking so not a whole bunch of extra time in which to play. We'll see.
My Christmas tree is up!!!! I still find it a little weird with the temps in the 70's that we are celebrating Christmas season but I can handle it. The next morning, Saturday was a hike day for which I was kind of unprepared.
Our group of 10, gathered at a school parking lot in the small town of Catalina to consolidate info high clearance vehicles for a short drive to the trail head. Only then did I discover I had forgotten to bring a hat or sunscreen. Fellow hiker Emily had extra sunscreen but I had to stop at a Safeway to shop for a hat. The first display had goofy straw hats but behind that, a display of baseball style caps so I was good to go. I was the subject of good natured derision and rightly so.
The 5 mile drive from Oracle Road could be navigated without a HCV but there were a couple of sandy areas that may be problematic in a car. Upon reaching the trail head, I then spent several minutes walking down one jeep road, then another before orienting myself to a gpx track I was attempting to follow. Finally we were on the right track and headed up a broad wash which soon narrowed.
We passed a sign for the "Indian Town Trail", an intriguing name but subsequently I was unable to find any information about it. The wash narrowed and....
....became boulder filled. Lorna, one of our favs on the right. I was concerned that around each turn we'd be faced with an insurmountable obstacle but we encountered nothing that we could not navigate.and soon.....
....broke right from the ravine and began a climb in earnest. Our destination, Jeffords Peak, is the high point in the Tortolita Mountains. Few people are aware of the peak, named after Tom Jeffords who held many important positions, mostly in the 1800s. Actor Jimmy Stewart played Jeffords in the movie "Broken Arrow" but the plot had nothing to do with Jeffords actual work.
Our hike was 100% an off trail, bushwhack. However, it wasn't nasty, just walking through upper desert/grasslands. There was nothing to distinguish Jeffords Peak from any surrounding peak and it was kind of late in the hike before it came into view. Confirmation of the peak occurred about when I lost power on my phone, losing the gpx track. Got to do something about that.
We had been following a loop route which I always prefer to an in and out route. However.....
....after following the bottom segment and returning via the top segment, I would never travel the bottom segment again. Too much hiking across steep slopes that we did not encounter on the return.
The views were awesome, as with any climb in our region. An unusual haze partially obscured the usual clarity. At last we.....
......we reached the peak!
We had passed the edge of a closed chalk mine and now had a good look at it.
Note how obscured are the Santa Rita mountains in the distance, barely able to make out Elephant Head on the right of the range. Waiting for us at the peak was "Paul" a fellow hiker who mostly enjoys solo hiking. This was his third visit to Jeffords and he kindly offered to guide us.....
....on a much more enjoyable route. Of course it was steep in a few spots as evidenced in the above image but we returned to our vehicles.....
....where coolers were opened (I forgot that too!) and beverages shared. Amy and I usually have to quickly depart after hikes but the hike was only 4.5 miles, 1100' of climbing and since Jack the Dog had not been alone for as long as most hikes, we could linger. Oh, also....
....Paul has hiked to "Table Tooth" the finger of rock next to Table Mountain (which is in the distance). Working on a date for that.
I decided to take my anxiety filled stomach on a short hike, prior to the Buckeye game. Was not feeling good about the outcome for reasons I will not bore you with, here. The Linda Vista trail is around the corner from me so here I am, looking at Pusch Peak, Bighorn in the distance.
Looking west, the sun illuminates the Tortolitas.
I pass a tangled network of saguaro limbs.
It being a holiday weekend, there are many families with members from out of town, being shown our beautiful area. Twin Peaks (Sombrero and Panther) in the distance.
The Tucson Mountains with the high point, Wasson Peak on the right. It was great to get out, it was agonizing to watch the game. But, the sun did come up on Sunday so.....
....I joined a group of eleven for a ride around Oro Valley. I've decided to ride more because if I'm in good cycling shape then I'm in good hiking shape but the reverse is not true. Plus, I'm enjoying group riding, hanging on barely with the groups.
Amy and I joined her sister Tracey for a mellow paced ride with ror Fitness group. I liked that the start time was 9:30am but unfortunately, an overnight front came through with a little rain and behind it, ferocious winds. The wind was already 17mph at the start and would become stronger.
We regrouped several times and at one stop, a member of ror happened to be driving by, stopped and passed out cookies. We rode through the 49er neighborhood and emerged on Tanque Verde Road. I noticed the building wind was directly behind us and assumed there would be a Strava segment available so I....
....put in a good effort and zoomed up the standings for a mile segment. If only I always had a tailwind like that whenever I rode, ha, ha. And now, it's Saturday morning and I am an anxiety filled Buckeye fan. Although we are 15-1 in our last 16 games against the team up north (who shall remained unnamed) and have a distinct talent advantage.....
....ours is a very young team, the game is in Ann Arbor, the temp is in the low 30's with some snow. I'm not all that confident. Maybe I should go for a hike.
I organize hikes on behalf of a group that numbers almost 3900 members. My hikes tend to be on the difficult/adventurous side of the ledger so only about 1% of the members sign up which is really too bad. For the one percenters who participate, we have had some awesome hiking experiences. Today was not an exception as we gathered at the trail head and looked at Superstition Peak, the high point in the distance.
The first 1.5 miles has an average grade of only 7% and brings us to prominent hieroglyphics etched into the canyon walls. While way interesting, after viewing them most of us swiveled our heads to look at our destination, the peak.
We had a good look at the Balancing Rock as we made our way, up canyon. The average grade from where we paused to view the rock art to Superstition Ridge would be 21%. It seemed much steeper.
There were several "walls" that were climbed and throughout....
....amazing views. One was the jagged edge of the formations to our east. It's just a surreal landscape and so beautiful.
As we close to the ridge, we pass through another steep section that had a lot of loose, shale-like pieces that made the footing treacherous. It was worth the effort as once we gained the ridge.....
....we had views into the interior of the Superstitions, including the magnificent, Weaver's Needle. Looking just a little to the left...
....we saw a narrow, yellow band of rock, Battleship Mountain. It looks so insignificant from this distance. Above it to the right is Geronimo Head and farther to the right is Malapais Mountain than farther in the distance is the Four Peaks Wilderness. Dang what a great region in which to live and hike!
Surprisingly, we discovered we had cell service so there was some checking of emails, lol. Mostly my fellow hikers admired the views. After a break to refuel, we now had to follow the ridge to Superstition Peak. Hardly a straightforward walk though.
There were several obstacles that had to be climbed or....
A large gap had developed in our line. Marc G, a very generous and giving member of our group who looks after those at the back of the line, notified us that a new hiker, Marcia, had been stuck by a spine and was bleeding profusely. Fortunately, a bandage was applied and she was good to go.
We had been following the Ridgeline Trail until we reached a cairn that indicated it was time to break from the trail for the final ascent to the peak. In the above image, to the right is part of the rock formation known as the "Three Sisters". The hoodoos were numerous and fabulous.
One last wall to navigate and.....
....we made it!!! All were in high spirits but unfortunately, one member of the group had a problem with one of the walls because of the exposure so had to stop and wait for our return. Not the first time that has happened but I was sorry that he was denied this exhilarating experience.
Soon, we began the descent.
While pausing for a regroup, I asked to have my picture taken, hugging a hoodoo. This was one of the smaller ones as others soar well above us.
During the descent, many of us fell. Not doing cart wheels into an abyss but losing our footing and then encountering cactus or rocks to break our fall. I'm sure I've never had so many people fall during any previous hike. Even....
....Amy slipped and had to bend over to have a couple of spines removed from her rear, ha, ha. Tweezers came in very handy today. We all made it back to the parking lot having hiked 8 miles with 3000' elevation gain. A very difficult but enjoyable hike.
Jack, a Wheaten Terrier, is the unusual case of a dog who really dislikes a drive in the car. He seems fine when the car is at rest but once moving, he'll stare into the seat rather than look outside. Oh well, he has so many fine attributes otherwise.
The Cyclefit group planned a 76 mile ride but my cycling endurance wasn't up for that so I drove to Saguaro East NP and waited for them at the top of Freeman Road. Great view from here. We did the long climb up Spanish Trail Rd, made a right onto Pistol Hill Rd.....
....and regrouped at the top. I managed to hang with the group to the regroup point my lack of cycling fitness was telling so I spit the bit at the 20 mile mark and soloed back, finishing with 37 miles and a 17.2 avg. Really need more saddle time. Big, big hike coming later this week.
I'm in Apache Junction and driving to the Hieroglyphics trail parking lot. I've read about an alternative "route" to Superstition Peak (high point in the distance) and want to check it out.
At the trail head, there is good information about some of the early prospectors and the story behind the "Lost Dutchman Golf Mine". There are many cars in the parking lot but 99.9% of the hikers are making their way to the fabulous Hieroglyphics Canyon and along the way.....
....we get a good look at the Flat Iron and higher peaks. After 1.5 miles and a 600' elevation gain, the artwork.....
....appears and is plentiful. I managed to walk by the departure point for the "route" so backtracked and activated the GPS route on my cell phone.
Looking down canyon, just beautiful.
I reached the point on the trail where I should have departed. The sun was rising above a nearby ridge. I had read two hike reports, both of which stated that the route had plenty of cairns and easy to follow in most places. Ahhhhhh......
......no! I found 0 cairns and so, at some point, someone came through and swept them away. I could see the balanced rock (upper right in image). Assuming there were cliff-outs or other obstacles, I checked my phone frequently to see if I was on the route. That of course, drained the battery and soon I was down to 30%. I reached another ridge and....
....saw, ok, the route parallels the above wall and ends up around the balanced rock which is just left of the above image. Upon reaching that, maybe the cairns pop up but if I have to use the GPS route, I'd be out of power. It's not unusual for me to attempt a route a time or two before finishing it and now I know how to reach the balanced rock, I'll be back and finish it. I turned and....
....looked at the Hiero trail to which I eventually returned. Lot of people traveling the trail and I ......
....enjoyed the views to the southeast which included Picketpost Mt, center right with the prominent peak. Finished with 3.6 miles and 1000'+ of climbing.