Only 3 miles from the start of a Cactus Cycling club group ride, I departed from my place at 6:30. Brrr, may have been 69 at the time as the sun begins to clear the mountains. Did 30 miles and then the following morning....
....rode with Amy on another 30 mile route that included a stop to watch....
....miniature planes taking off, performing impressive maneuvers and then landing.
Aqua Caliente Park is a unique attraction in the region, having many mature palm trees, ponds, walking paths, just a beautiful location. A lightning strike a couple of days ago ignited the above so Amy and I drove....
....there this morning to check it out. It's a relatively small area affected but it's at the entrance. Interested to see if any of these palms survive.
The sun rises, illuminating Blackett's Ridge as I walk Amy's dog, Jack. Then, a few hours later, I clean out my Corolla, drive it to the Honda dealership and.....
....pick up my new CR-V. I drive to Amy's to give she and Jack a short drive in it. Jack seemed unusually comfortable so maybe he's a fan of the "Buckeye Red" color. It's quite an upgrade over the Corolla.
No one wants to see my bare feet but instead, look at the reading on the scale. I did it, lost 10 pounds and back in the 160's. Actually, at 168 today so that's enough. I returned from Moab with Covid. It finally got me and I was kind of pissed. Symptoms were very mild and gone after a couple of days (no, I did my research and decided against what most people now know is not a vaccine but a very temporary therapeutic). Anyway, my desire to lose 10 pounds, given my activity, should be easy and it was. Took about a month.
Got out for a 40 mile ride that included one of my favorite views from Saddlebrook. I'm back on track to average 500 miles a month and intend to continue. Cycling is such a low impact, highly aerobic activity, I'm enjoying it and looking forward to rejoining group rides now that I've regained some endurance.
And then, I did something I've thought of doing a long, long time. I've been frustrated that some of the hikes I'd like to do, my Corolla can't reach the trail head. So many people have also commented, it seems odd to see an outdoor active guy like me driving a car, rather than an SUV. Plus, I like sitting higher in an SUV so....
....the best friend I've ever had, Amy, did this marvelous research and I narrowed my choices to a Honda CRV, Nissan Rogue and Toyota RAV4. Amy and I visited the dealerships yesterday. I'm not a car guy. I put far more research into a new bike than a new vehicle, lol.
We test drove a few SUV's, with her asking pertinent questions I'd never think to ask, discovered a used SUV costs roughly the same as a new one and so I bought a new one. It's kind of a scarlet color (like the scarlet of my Ohio State Buckeyes!).
We meet at 9100' on top of Mount Lemmon. I had a lot of trepidation about this hike because on the day I returned from Moab, I finally got Covid. My symptoms were very mild and disappeared after a couple of days yet I was plagued by muscle fatigue (yes, that is a symptom) that really limited my outdoor activity. Now 12 days after testing positive and being largely inactive, I'm leading a group of 12 around on a 9 mile hike with significant elevation gain.
What a beautiful opening scene as we descend from the peak.
The trail is very rocky as we descend a ridge that also has....
....nice views to the northwest. Many of the standing trees are casualties of the Aspen Fire, not yet fallen.
Hiking buddy Karen K is following me and notes I lack my usual spring in my step. Great, that's what I needed to hear, the unvarnished truth, lol. Couldn't argue with her as my descending muscles were already feeling it. So, the descent of almost 5 miles continues when suddenly.....
....I hear the buzz of a rattlesnake just as I am walking by this critter. Black rattlesnakes are known to be fairly docile as rattlesnakes go and I was glad it chose not to bite. I used my hiking pole to lift it from this spot and slide it off trail so we could pass. Black rattlesnakes are found at higher elevations and I think this my 4-5th time I've encountered one.
We got onto the Mount Lemmon Trail as the descent continued with marvelous views into the Wilderness of Rocks.
Oh, wow. There's the east facing side of Table Mountain, center in the above image. I've got a hike scheduled for that in November. We took a snack break where we left Mount Lemmon trail and picked up the Wilderness of Rocks trail.
The trail went through numerous patches of slick rock where route finding could be a challenge. I thought it a good idea to hang back and make sure three of our members who had fallen back, would navigate the challenge, It was dumb of me not to alert everyone of my intent so at some point, they stopped to regroup for us and had to wait a long time. Upon reaching them, I urged them to keep going.
The trail crossed a creek a few times and finally leveled for a short while as we....
....passed through this benign scene of ponderosa pines. Then we reached a left turning Mount Lemmon Lookout trail. The next 2+ miles would be all uphill as we returned to our cars.
I was in agony and had to stop many times to rest. WTF was I thinking, hanging with my commitment to lead this hike. Three years ago I ascended this section in 46 minutes, today, 1:30!!!!! 2+ miles having an average grade of 16%. I stumbled into the parking area like a zombie, could barely communicate and drove home.
The oldest, continuously operating restaurant sits high above the town with fantastic views. What a fascinating history too with the original owner looking for uranium back in the 1950's, out of money and on his last effort, he finds a motherlode and becomes an instant multi-millionaire. He built this house which in 1992 converted into a restaurant.
A nice patio in front where you can have a drink as you wait for your table. As I was seated, a gang of 7 kids sat down next to me, all from Berlin, OH. Great food.
Entry into Arches is now via a reservation system unless you are on a bike. there is a separate entrance and it is free...how bout that?
The first roughly 2 miles is via a quality climb on good pavement with a decent shoulder.
Followed by a long descent past a variety of well known monuments. Beautiful.
I pause to take a picture of my bike, proof that I actually rode through here. The bike, "BH" is a Spanish brand and I've always enjoyed riding on it especially with Di2 electric shifting.
Today was not about maintaining an average speed but about enjoying the scenery. Driving through here is one thing but extra special on a bike.
After the first descent, there are a series of long ramps, always going higher.
I paused to take some pics as two mountain bikers paused there too.
I eventually turned around and head back, reaching the final climb and enjoyed....
....a speedy descent.
I rented a condo for a few days. Way less expensive than the area hotels but with great views. The trail head is about a mile from where I am staying so.....
....I arrive just after first light and long before the sun rises above the surrounding mountains. Looks pretty steep and it was. I gear up and head....up.
Very recently, Moab experienced a "100 year rain" and subsequent flash floods have altered the landscape. I had to search for where the trail emerged from this ravine and then later, I dropped my hiking pole into a ravine so had to clamber down and retrieve it!
The trail did not ascend to the peaks but emerged at a saddle and then I entered....
....Hidden Valley. Spectacular! I would encounter only one person to today's hike and could see him in the distance (not shown above so don't look). Once we were close....
....I recognized him from hiking in a group with him a few times in the Superstitions. He asked if I knew where the petroglyphs were and I said no so he bent over and described the location to me. Said it was a panel about 500' long and very impressive.
I reached a saddle and wait, did he say bear right or left of a mountain??? I chose left and kept hiking.
Spectacular rock formations as I scanned the fronts for evidence of rock art.
There's a likely place so I bushwhacked over but no. The opportunities for rock art dwindled as I descended so turned around and hiked back.
I picked up kind of a faint trail in front of the aforementioned mountain, climbed a bit and came upon this notice. OK, I'm close. Soon, I reached.....
...an amazing array of rock art.
This dates back about 2000 years.
Spectacular! Finished with 6 miles and very much enjoyed the hike.
Long story so instead I decided to drive north to Moab. Been through there a few times, buy cycling T shirts and having lunch but I decided I'd check out the hiking and cycling.
The route was spectacular!
Practically every mile had a monument standing within visual range.
I arrived early evening and ready to go for a hike the next morning.
The amount of daylight each day is diminishing and very soon the glorious and really active season will be upon us. The forecast looks promising for next week but in the meantime, another early start for a hike.
Our group of 9 gathers at the trail head, reads the standard warning and head into the depths of the canyon.
Water is running so that adds to the experience as we descend.
I had a couple of newbies attend the hike so that is usually a good thing and it was today. Rare is the "squirrel" as I describe them.
Our destination is to reach the nude beach where there are rarely actual naked people but we pass warnings, painted on the boulders (bottom, center of boulder).
We make good time as Pete gets out front and does an excellent job of route finding. Lorna too is reasonably good at it when she is able to follow someone, lol. We reach....
....the "wall", just below the beach and everyone is able to ascend except for one of us who later found a workaround, which I may use in the future.
The nudist beach is vacant as we head....
....farther upstream. I've managed to keep my shoes dry while Jeff is indifferent and simply wades through some of the pools. Then, rounding a turn, we encounter some people, floating, naked and face down. I kept my gaze straight ahead, focused on the route but maybe I did shoot a very brief sideways glance at a woman.
Having left one of our group behind at the wall, I thought I better go back and collect her and head back while some of the others continued on for a little while. Small loss of blood, Karen from banging her ankle against her car door so that doesn't really count and Mark from banging his ankle against a rock. Otherwise, all came out safely with around 2 miles.
I join Liane and Sandra to stretch my legs on the Linda Vista trail, which is around the corner from me. I've hiked this loop dozens of times and only once saw a rattlesnake, a common Diamondback.
We're going clockwise as the sun rises over the Catalinas. The surrounding are very overgrown and green from all the rain. Plant growth is hard up against the narrow trail. Soon....
....I hear the distinct and scary buzz of a snake. Having just crossed the trail and now curled between the cactus and trail is a black tail rattlesnake. Wow! Sandra is kind of a newbie to the area and to have seen this on her first visit to the trail is strange. I had to coax the snake down hill so we could pass.
We reach a high point and lots of dust in the air so the views are muted. We begin our descent and....
.....another buzzing sound and this time a tiger rattlesnake! I've never seen one and now our second snake sighting. We go a little farther and.....
....another buzz and this time, another black tail rattlesnake. I was dumbfounded that all the times I've hiked this loop and only once seen a snake and today, three! Again though, these are ambush predators and all the trailside brush provides good concealment. Volunteers maintain the trail and they need to get out here before someone gets tagged. Finished with 2.5 miles.
Arriving at the Marshal Gulch trailhead, there was a team of SAR personnel who were gearing up for a training mission.
A friend and I headed up and enjoyed several crossings of a trail side stream. A beautiful setting and when emerging from the shade....
...the surrounding hills were covered with wildflowers.
We hung a left on the Aspen Trail, a first for me. Some spectacular views and evidence of the Bighorn fire from 2 years ago.
Wow, Cathedral Rock in the distance.
In the distance, the Santa Rita Mountains with Wrightson on the left as the high point then Hopkins and far right, Elephant Head. Nearer range is Thimble Peak on the left and Blackett's Ridge to the right of that.
We were trying to figure out why the trail had the name "Aspen" but finally, we encountered a grove of them. Finished with 4 miles and enjoyed the cooler temps.
I'm monitoring weather forecasts but pretty sure, after watching The Ohio State Buckeyes crush Notre Dame on Saturday, I'll drive Sunday morning to CO and climb a 14er, likely Wilson Peak...just because. Oxygen deprivation is a concern so I'll take a canister to two of the above. I was fine at 12,600' on Humphreys Peak but, we'll see. More to come.
With my cycling miles now trending in the 500+ a month range, the awful feeling of having lethargic, sluggish legs is gone. I no longer feel like a slug and I'm pretty happy about that. I've lost weight, confirmed by the scale of course but also by how my clothing now fits. I'm really happy about that. I've lost 5 pounds and have another 5 to go to arrive in the land of the 160's. I'm so glad I finally became motivated. Lighter and more cycling miles of course means riding faster and that has shown in my average speeds. Happy about that too. Actually, I'm in a good place and it's getting better. Sorry, these words just spilled out.
I rode from home in Oro Valley into and around Marana. The pavement in these two towns is awesome. The available routes are somewhat limited. That's the one down side to being surrounded by mountain ranges but the beauty of my surroundings makes it all worthwhile. I'll be headed to Ohio soon but am looking at stopping in CO to climb a 14er. I'd like to have that on my outdoor resume. Oxygen deprivation is a concern. I'm fine at 12,000' but 14,000+ is a different animal.
Joined a small group of 6 people for a 46 mile ride. Unfortunately, one of us had a flat and it took at least 30 minutes to fix as the tire was super tight on the rim, then a pinch flat with the replacement tube, etc... All fine though as we had cloud cover and relatively cool temps.
The evening of the ride, I played pickle ball with some really nice people and then the following morning, went for a short ride to loosen my legs that included a visit to Catalina SP. The washes continue to flow and lots of people continue to visit.
A beautiful setting.
After standing for approximately 200 years, this saguaro on the Tortolita Preserve, a short distance from me, toppled last week. It's the largest I have seen and a real shame. Fortunately, when it fell, no one was caught beneath it.
One of my favorite views, sitting at the Westin LaPaloma, looking at the front range of the Catalinas. So many great hiking destinations visible and with the approaching fall, winter and spring, becoming very accessible.
I set up my tent in my living room. I rolled out the air mattress and placed it inside. I checked it out, looking at the ceiling of the tent. It brought back some great memories. The last time I laid in this, I was at the bottom of the Grand Canyon after an arduous hike. I and a friend had departed the Bill Hall trail off the north rim, descended through Surprise Valley, made it to Thunder River, kept descending via Tapeat's Creek, reached the Colorado River, decided we had daylight to continue on to Deer Creek Narrows. The problem was both soles of my boots had come off. We bound then, loosely with tape. The fatigue set in as each step forward brought debris from the trail. It became dark, taking a step forward, a snake slithered between my legs but I was so tired, it didn't bother me. At some point, it began to rain which it rarely reaches the bottom of the canyon. We plodded on, reached a ridge and below us was Deer Creek Narrows. We set up our tents. I don't remember what I ate but I distinctly remember going into my tent, without a rain fly, laying there with rain dripping through and quickly falling asleep. Yeah, a great memory and maybe more to come in my tent,
Friday morning. Clouds are forming over the mountains and rain will arrive by around noon so I got out for a 35 mile ride before it started.
I love this view, just south of the small town of Catalina.
Friday afternoon, it's been raining but pauses for awhile as I drive east, passing the front range of the Catalinas with Finger Rock in view. I played indoor pickle ball for the first time. Kind of whacky but I got used to it and met some nice people.
Saturday morning and lots of overnight rain but it abated somewhat so I went to the Linda Vista trail. Surprised so many others were hiking in the light rain.
Prickly Pear cactus in bloom.
Weather radar showed an orange colored mass approaching from the north so I picked up the pace.
It's like a jungle out here. I finished with about 2 miles as the rain began falling harder.
It's weird to not have an image to accompany a report so while about to enjoy a post ride pickle, I took an image of it. Kind of a sad looking pickle. Did a group ride this morning. It went a little better than expected. My solo rides lack the intensity of a group ride so that was the usual shock to adjust.
I've become super motivated to get back into cycling shape. How I allowed the deterioration to happen is self imposed idiocy. I rode north to Saddlebrook and wow, look at the view.
I've been itching to get back to organizing group hikes and so scheduled the first for October. Finger Rock Guard is an awesome destination and worthy of the first hike which begins from the valley.
It is amazing to me that large saguaros can be pulled out of the ground with nary a rootball and yet they can be replanted and survive.
Wow, what an active monsoon that has transformed the landscape.
The road into the park was closed and for good reason. There are two washes that cross the road so the flow of water brings lots of sand. Note the sand banks on the left and the perspective of their size given by the two people. The sand needs cleared and water drained before open the road to vehicles.
So green but of course in time, that will become brown and dry and fodder for a fire.
Many of these flowering vines are present.
This has been installed recently, giving a good account of the Bighorn Fire of two summers ago.
With the washes flowing, lots of people bring their dogs and walk up or down stream. Then this occurred....
...a woman and her husband had been trapped in an RV on the other side of the flooded wash. A sister wanted to play golf so the woman walked about a mile with her golf clubs to reach the entrance. That brought a lot of stares.
While machinery was in operation to clear the road, a path had been created as a workaround. It crossed a muddy wash and the above woman fell into the mud. She was a good sport and had momentarily become lost so I showed her the way out.
I've returned from a month away and am glad I am back in beautiful southern AZ. We have an active monsoon season and the washes are running. The official rain gauge is at the Tucson International Airport but that concrete desert impacts the movement of storms so the totals are low but elsewhere, we are booming with rain! On a personal note, I'm probably in the worse cycling and hiking fitness since 1997 when I first threw my leg over a heavy steel framed bike. That will change but it won't be easy.
Departed Colorado Springs, certainly an area deserving of another visit and headed to a small town in NM, Gallup. Fortunate that in driving 3000+ miles during the vacation, there were few traffic slowdowns but the same could not be said for the northern bound lane on this part of the drive.
Always enjoy dining at an independently owned restaurant and there was a good one at the El Rancho. Lot of movie memorabilia adorned the walls as old westerns had been filmed in the region. I was told about a parade through down town so decided to check it out.
Oddly, cars and people were streaming away from the parade route. Some people approached and warned that I not proceed. Stories of a drive by shooting, shots being fired, a driver entering the parade route causing a mass casualty event but hey, I've got a blog to feed so kept walking toward the Main Street.
Few people were on the parade route. There were a lot of police and emergency vehicles present. Not much to see so headed back. A guy and friends in an SUV had been observed drinking. Police approached the vehicle, drunk driver took off, no shots fired, driver strikes a couple of vehicles parked alongside the road. Fifteen light injuries. Driver taken into custody.
Purposefully selected a route that avoided Phoenix so enjoyed driving through many small town America type settings.
Enter the Show Low, AZ region. Beautiful.
Home at last. The Catalinas and surrounding mountains are not the Rocky Mountains but beautiful and majestic in their own right. So much monsoonal induced rain has tuned the mountain slopes green. The trip had some majestic sights but late and poor planning by me, ahhh, it could have been better. Live and learn folks.