Saturday morning, into the car and drive 2 hours to Mount Graham. At 10,720', it is Arizona's highest peak and home to an observatory area that houses telescopes from various organizations. There is no water available anywhere on the mountain, although there are numerous streams that have 4 different species of trout. So, I drove 12 miles up the mountain, parked, got everything ready and.....
.....a dog trotted towards me followed by a truck. A couple asked if the dog was mine. They said it had been following them for several miles as they drove down the mountain. The dog had a CO license and phone number so they called but the number was out of service. Not wanting to abandon it or risk it continuing to follow them, they decided to take it to the market at the bottom of the mountain and see what they could do to hook it up to the owner. I shoved off and coasted down.
Reached the bottom, turned around and headed up. As comparison, this is steeper then Mount Lemmon. Lemmon is fairly constant between 4-6% grades with a few at 7% and a couple at 8% but that's it. Graham is fairly constant between 5-8%, lots of 9% and up to 12%. In the 12 miles to my car, there is but one spot, for about 100 yards, that dips slightly.
The temperature at my car when I left it oh so many hours previously was 55 so I expected it to rise by the time I arrived, so many hours later. Strangely, it was 54 when I got back up there which I attributed to the east facing location. I switched out sun sleeves for arm warmers and kept going.
The scenery changed dramatically as the pine trees closed in thickly around the road and there were few views beyond the dense trees. I passed through an area of summer homes but they were all plywood painted kind of crummy structures. Everyone was gone as gates will soon close the road. I saw no other cyclists and only 10-12 vehicles. I guy passed me in a truck and yelled something about bears. I reached this point at mile 15 and thought about turning around. I began imagining a bear jumping from one of these bluffs and having me for a meal. In fact, this area is home to one of the densest bear populations in North America. Then, finally, the slope relented and I picked up speed and kept going. I was above the 8000' elevation point. It was kind of cold, in the shade.
At mile 17, suddenly round a corner the trees fell away and opened up vast views to the south. The warmth of the sun felt terrific.
Here too the slope relented to 4-6%. I had gained around 5900'. The paved portion of the road ends around mile 28 but with only another 1000' of climbing in the next 10 miles so I knew from here forward it was more rolling then the grind. This was good enough for now. I coasted back to the car and changed clothes outside (remember, it's remote and not a sole around). Just then, a guy emerged from the woods and asked if I had his dog. Something about a strange dude coming out of the woods just as I was changing made me recall a scene from the movie, "Deliverance". I told him what had happened. He had driven from CO, camping by himself and his dog had run off. He was very upset that his dog had been taken and drove down to the market at the bottom of the mountain to inquire about it. The couple had stopped but had not left their cell #, instead saying they would put flyers up. Anyway, I called the market a couple of days later and was told the dog and owner had been reunited. Well, group ride on Sunday that included a truck making a sudden stop in front of us. More to come.
Mark is a long-time cyclist who enjoys poking fun at himself but most especially at his friends. No nicknames or comments are intended to offend, accept them in the humor they are intended.