While the sky may be dark and while the rain may be omnipresent and while (yes, I know this is a run-on sentence) the rumbling of thunder is all around and the fields are flooded..., I hear a rumbling of big news coming down the pike!!!! Yes, my few friends, I am returning to OHIO...ok, that's not what you wanted to hear so....yes, we are on the cusp of THE RETURN OF THE CYCLING CLUB'S GROUP RIDES!!! Super Duper Important Information in Anticipation of the Momentous Event for the Newbies:
There are four groups; C, B, A and the Riveters. The Riveters depart promptly at 6:00pm with the remaining groups departing in 3 minute intervals. Parking and departing is behind Veloscience/Philip Heit Center. Yes, it is exciting stuff to mingle with the greats of central Ohio cycling but try to act cool, don't ask for autographs and follow the rules described below.
Groups: Riveters: For those of you who can maintain an average of 23+mph for the duration of the route. A Group: Something less than the Riveters and populated by way too many who ought to be in the Rivet group. B Group: 18-20mph average. Sometimes there are two B groups, the 2nd one traveling at a slightly slower pace. C Group: To be clear, I have no direct knowledge of how fast these people go but hear in the 15-17mph range.
1. Shady Spots-- Never, ever park your vehicle in a shady spot, few that there are, if any. Generally, these spots are reserved for Riveters and guest celebrities to socialize prior to the ride.
2. Ride Leaders--There will usually be a ride leader for the C group but none for the other groups. When it is time for your group to depart, someone will scream, "OK, X group can go now." and if that is your group, depart the parking lot in an orderly manner. Those remaining in the parking lot after all but the C riders depart, will follow the C ride leader who will shepherd you around the route, dispensing knowledge and expertise. This is a congenial group and if you are new to cycling, this is for you. If you are not new but just not that speedy, this too is your group.
3. Regrouping--None in the Rivet group and don't even ask. The A group will regroup for a few seconds, 1-3 times depending on the difficulty of the route. The B group will pause longer and regroup 2-4 times. The C group is a no drop group.
4. Talking--There is no talking in the Rivet group. Only grunting, spitting, sharp elbows to the ribs, etc... Talking is for before and after the ride only. Talking is allowed in the A group but topics must be confined to explaining why you are slumming by riding in the A group rather than with the Riveters. You may also talk about the pro peloton, racing and diet. The B group gets its jollies by jeering those who fall back from the A group so if this happens to you, you ought to abandon the route and solo back to the parking lot, avoiding the jeering crowd. Otherwise B'ers talk about different things when breathing permits. The C group carry on lengthy conversations about wide ranging topics but never about politics. Nothing gets you shunned faster than bringing up politics.
5. Cookies & Treats--Within the group there is the Cookie Lady, Kristie B, who will occasionally provide post ride goodies from the trunk of her car.
Jack, a well trained dog. Will continue to sit while we walk away but then with the command, "break", …..
…..! A rest day so heard about petroglyphs within Honeybee Canyon. Parking off Rancho Vistoso (see illustration below for parking), we enter a wash, walk beneath the road and follow the wash for a little over a mile.
Walking in deep sand is not much fun but eventually the ground firms. In the above image, the rectangle shaped boulder on the right is what you are trying to find. But, I took this image farther up the trail, looking back so you'll look for the boulder on your left as you hike the wash.
These are all over the valley if you know where to look. The petroglyphs are on the side facing the wash and also....
….on the right side.
This is about as easy a hike as one can find, that also has a worthwhile destination.
Restaurants have been given the green light to reopen in AZ. Contigo, on the property of the Westin La Paloma, was one of the first and so just had to go and enjoy the view (and food too), looking to the southwest.
The hike leader (me) failed to perform the simplest of research such as, is the monument even open? Arriving in Wilcox after about 2 hours of driving, there was a digital sign flashing, "Hike OK. Park closed" or similar wording. We parked at the entrance and began a 2.3 mile walk to the visitor center.
Actually, the hike along Bonita Creek was pleasant and informative.
A nice meadow setting with trees having leafed.
What the....a turkey! We had planned to do the "Big Loop" which would take us on a 9.5 mile loop, visiting the park highlights. But, with the unexpected and extra 4.6 miles round trip from our vehicle, we had to cut it short.
My hiking partner, Amy, leads the way. The terrain is so different from the Sonoran desert. Lots of ponderosa pines, cedars, alligator junipers, manzanitas, etc....
We climb higher but in the distance, we hear the ominous sound of thunder. Now that is a very weird sound!
We decide to keep going to where the trail splits. Really too bad to have to cut the hike short because of the road closure and thunderstorms. We decide to head back....
...and looking back it was the correct decision. Later I looked at weather radar and there had been a red/orange blob ahead of us so we did the right thing.
There is the hiking guide, proudly wearing the Ohio State hat.
As we descended, to the west the sky was clear and other then a few sprinkles, we stayed dry, finishing with 8 miles.
An artificial owl has been hung in a tree to discourage hawks from rebuilding a nest. To the right of the owl is the undiscouraged hawk's effort, a new nest. The HOA hung the owl because the hawks, last season, swooped down and whacked people walking in the vicinity of the tree.
Tuesday morning, walking to my car, I hear something and whack! A hawk got me! Didn't hurt much but did draw a small amount of blood. I keep walking, hear the same noise, turn and here is a hawk, wings extended, claws extended making a beeline towards me. I duck out of the way as it passes over. Now I begin walking backward and the hawk made 2 more passes. I was bobbing and weaving like an aged boxer. I had to laugh when I arrived at my car.
This morning, now carrying a tennis racket simply to fend off an attack but not to swing at it (the cover is still on the racket too), I thought I was out of range, drop the racket to my side and whack! Now, I will look like a dork and wear my bike helmet. It seems that in the morning the two adult hawks are most active.
Well, rode yesterday and today but nothing momentous to report. More to come, soon.
It was a rest day but the thought of doing nothing outdoor active all day was not appealing. So, I did some due diligence on the route to the Painted Cave and hoped it would be a fun and relatively easy hike (it was). I arrived at the parking area at the end of Camino de Oeste Road. The Tucson Mountains have a bewildering mix of trails in places but they also have great signage. I get going on the Yetman Trail.
I arrive at the intersection of the Bowen Trail which takes one to Starr Pass Resort but stay on Yetman. The trail is flat to slightly rolling.
At roughly mile 1.2, I see a faint trail heading to the right and maybe to the above rock formation. My research of the night before stated the trail to the Cave was at mile 1.7 so I ignored that unsigned trail option.
I pass the ruins of the Bowman House. Built back in the 1930's the Bowman's homesteaded an area that at one point claimed 2000 acres. The Bowman's left the area in 1944 and eventually the claim became part of the Tucson Mountain Park.
If you are curious about hiking to the Painted Cave, at about mile 1.6 from the parking lot, look for the above saguaros which locals describe as the "Whispering Saguaros". One is whispering to the other. There is also a fairly.....
...obvious trail leading to the right which enters....
….this canyon. The cave in on the right even though the easy to follow, unsigned trail, stays on the left slope. After about 0.2 of a mile, watch for a faint trail breaking right. It descends to a wash and then begins.....
….a short but kind of steep climb. There is more than one trail to follow as others have pioneered their own routes up the slope. You'll find a hiking pole helpful for the return as the trail is kind of sketchy. All trails lead to.....
….the cave. Kind of exciting to reach and note there is a trail that circles to the right of this that leads to other, smaller caves, higher on the slope. I checked them out but did not see any other markings inside. I could have gone higher and will on another visit just to see if there are more caves.
How cool is that? Beautifully preserved paintings of deer and sheep, dating back to the Hohokam's, roughly 300-1500AD. There is space to enter and sit but I elected to stay outside the cave, leaning in to take this image.
After some exploring, I headed back to the parking area, finishing with 4 miles and a needed, easy day of hiking. It's always good to get outside.
An early morning start for a ride up to Mount Bigelow where there is a water pump at mile 20. While the winter and spring to date has had below normal temps, that has changed as we are experiencing daily highs about 15 above average.
Although not shown in this image, the traffic may be the heaviest I have witnessed, virtually all of it going up. Bigelow is on the shoulder of Lemmon where Summerhaven is located. I can't imagine all the cars having some place to park and as I pass each parking area, the lots are full.
This is an iconic rock formation, visible at about mile 15, above Geology Point Vista.
The views, beautiful. The Cookie Cabin and Sawmill Restaurant, both open but for carry-out only are sure to be way busy so I decide not to enter Summerhaven. I pass the time of the ride to count cyclists who are descending. I stopped counting at 100 as they too are swarming the road.
My cell phone is impacted by the humidity of being stored in my back jersey so the images are not so clear.
The pump has been turned on and is the only source of water from the climb's base to Summerhaven, again at mile 20. It's only another mile to where the road finally bends down for about 1.5 miles, then rises about the same and rolls into the town but no reason to go there so I turn around and finish with 45 miles and 5000' of climbing. Next day....
I go out for an easy spin to loosen my legs. While returning the last mile via the bike path, I come out of an underpass and there laying across the path is a medium sized rattlesnake. Nothing I could do but roll over it. I stop, turn around and it is curled as shown above but appears ok. Probably a bad idea to leave it there as a walker could get snagged so I get off the bike, scoot my rear tire under the snake and escort it down a ravine where it had been headed. Sensing I was doing a good deed, it did not strike at me:)
Each of the mountain ranges that surround our area seem to have a different look and feel to them. What I like about the Tortolitas is the climbs are not knee buckling like Wrightson, Rincon, Pusch, Finger Rock, etc... The peaks of course are lower with the top being around 5400' of elevation. So, parking at the Wild Burrow parking lot at Dove Mountain, we are good to go, headed toward the Ritz Carlton before making a left and ascending the Hotel Spur trail.
It's a good climb up to the Upper Javelina trail which is followed for a bit before getting on the Wild Mustang trail. The trail drops some before a final ascent to....
….a nice overlook. Amy examines the boards that illustrate distant peaks and mountain ranges. I just rest on a bench. The climb to this point is about 1.4 miles, having an average grade of 10% and gaining almost 800'.
Check out this lizard that paused so Amy could take its picture. The lizards/chameleons were darting every which way in today's sun and heat. OK, the only downside to hiking in this area is you never really get high enough to escape the desert heat. With the high today forecast to be in the upper 90's, the back end of our hike was rather hot.
Great views of the Santa Ritas with Mount Wrightson and Hopkins visible. The climbing moderates but still mostly a climb.
I had intended to reach a left branching trail marked by a cairn at about mile 3 so we could visit Capstone Peak but mid hike I changed my mind. Not sure why I changed my mind as a visit to the peak is worth the effort
I think partly, I prefer loop hikes over out and back hikes. Considering we had fluids for about 9 miles, I eschewed the Peak route and continued on the Wild Mustang trail. Looking back, I like this image of the trail falling away and it's about at this point that a long descent begins.
The cactus is blooming with some spectacular white flowers atop the saguaros.
We eventually drop into the above, sandy wash via the Wild Burrow trail and then follow it down one level then another. The final 1 mile is kind of boring though, just walking the wash. Along the way we.....
….spot this plant. Something, presumably a bird, is building a nest in what is not a very stable base. We finished with.....
….8 miles and 1500' of climbing. Seemed like a lot more climbing then that.
I rarely post images from my bike rides cause, you know, the camera weight! OK, I have a smart phone but it takes crummy images that are usually out of focus. I rode from Oro Valley, through Catalina, beyond Saddlebrook to the Biosphere 2. Would have liked to go on to Oracle and maybe down Webb Road to San Manual but the road condition of #79 from the Biosphere on is really bad. Cyclists used to ride up and down that road every day but not too many do now. Anyway, reaching the Biosphere, I turned around and finished with 36 miles and 1300' of climbing, The next day, Wednesday I.....
….drove to the east side, rode up Catalina Highway to the Molino Basin at roughly mile 7, turned around, enjoyed the coast down, rode around the east side for a bit and finished with only 32 miles and 2200' of climbing. My riding this season has been unsatisfactory but since I plan to mix it up with the Ohio boys in late May, I really need to ramp things up, and will. Welp, got a hike tomorrow and will have lots of pics from that.
Madera Canyon, where our group of 13 gathers and waits for late comers. This Meetup hiking group accommodates and enables late arrivers far more then any other hiking group so we grumble a bit but there are worse places to pass the time as other hikers come and go. At 8:20, we shove off, briefly on the Old Baldy Trail, then quickly on the Vault Mine Trail and where it breaks right on a punishing up hill climb, we stay straight on the Carrie Nation Trail which is slightly less strenuous.
The above artifacts indicate we are about to reach the end of the trail and just beyond, it is a good idea to....
….check out the mine entrance but probably not a good idea to be too inquisitive. No telling what creature lurks in the shadows, prepared to pull you in for a meal. Actually, I got there a little ahead of the group and looked for animal tracks but saw none. It's a beautiful spot with plenty of shade and running water.
The official end of the Carrie Nation trail begets a well worn social trail that leads us higher with an occasional break in the foliage. From the trail head, the average grade to the end of the official trail is 13% but now it becomes steeper.
The granite slopes leading to Mount Wrightson can be seen as we continue.
The trail intersects with the Aqua Caliente Trail as part of my group arrives and we are given a very brief break from the unrelenting climb. Actually, only about 0.2 of a mile until we reach a left breaking, unnamed trail that leads us to Mount Hopkins Road.
We encounter an awesome alligator juniper tree that dwarfs us as we pass. This well worn trail is easy to follow and the occasional view....
….is easy on the eyes!
We reach the road but still have another 1.5 miles until we reach the peak and observatory.
The final ramp from the trail is really steep as we wait to regroup.
Compared to what we have experienced thus far, this final hike is relatively easy with an average grade of 8%. When I reach the top, looking down I see mountain bikers descending as some of our group ascend. I talked to one of the cyclists and he confirmed that while staff will intercept you during the week, on weekends one can go around the gate and finish the ride so that will be next weekend's project.
The serpentine, Mount Hopkins Road. For a dirt road, it's in great shape.
There are a few final ramps that are just killer. The last has to have an average grade of at least 25% and after what we have endured, the crest can't come soon enough.
In the shade, it is a very nice, 62 degrees as some of us sit on the deck of the observatory. Our hike leader, Bill, on the left. Bill is a well known and respected reservoir of hiking knowledge and experience. You go into the wilderness with that guy and you just know you are going to come out. Yes, maybe on a stretcher but you will come out:)
For the first arrivers at the peak, we ate our snacks, waited for the others to join, eat their snacks and then some of us plotted to get the group going. We decided if we put on our packs and act as if we were ready to go, the signal would be sent and it worked. A big but though. Rather than retrace our route, we would take a different route off the mountain.
Rather than descend the 1.5 miles down the road and exit as we had arrived, we strode maybe 200 yards, hopped a fence and descended a ravine. A bad omen at the start....Bill slipped and cracked his elbow on a rock. Fortunately, it was only a flesh wound so after applying a bandage, he was good to go....whew!
And so, the real reason why I joined this group hike. We were bushwhacking, entirely off trail, toward Aqua Caliente Saddle. Last July, I had ascended this ridge from the Saddle, reached the peak, lost cell phone power, decided I could find my way back down, became lost, found the remains of a lost hiker, etc... It has always bothered me that I became lost so when I saw Bill was going to lead the group down the route, I had to sign up.
Sooooo, now I know I had gotten off the main ridge to another ridge known as the "Wrong Ridge", ha, ha but of course. But, good things occurred because I had become lost (not the least of which is I became unlost, of course) and now the mystery of how I got off route was solved so happy about that. During our descent of today, the slope was very slippery with a thick bed of pine needles so many of us fell but all survived.
We reached the aforementioned saddle where we got onto the Aqua Caliente Trail. The group decided to take a break but I was good to go so politely excused myself and soloed back to the parking lot. During the descent of the brutally steep, Vault Mine trail I passed by a mine having an ominous warning sign. Finished with 7.8 miles and 3300' of elevation gain. Good workout with some good people.
Our route was clockwise.
A good day for an easier hike as my legs need a break from cycling. Group hike options are few these days but I spotted one with "Hiking Tucson" that would be a distance of 5 miles with not much climbing....perfect. I drove to the Sarasota trail head in the Tucson Mountains, southwest of Oro Valley so about a 40 minute drive.
The hedgehogs are blooming as is most of the plant life in the Sonoran Desert. Our group had a couple of mini consultations as we tried to figure out how to access a social trail that would take us to the peak. My trail expertise is kind of limited in these mountains so I wasn't able to offer much help. Eventually, we got it figured out and.....
….reached the trail and began the climb. Upon reaching the peak.....
...the always awesome 360 views are part of the reward.
Looking to the east are the Catalina Mountains, including Mount Lemmon. Been a couple of weeks since I rode up that so plan to in the next few days. The Cookie Cabin and General Store in Summerhaven are open on weekends so that is the time to ride.
The climb spread the group over a broad range but all made it to the peak so they too soaked in the views, sun and warmth. By the time the last of the group arrived, I was ready to go so politely excused myself and....
...began the solo hike down to complete a loop. In the distance, Kitt Peak. Wish they would open the climb to cyclists. A friend told me that on Strava, which has record of the activity among Strava users, I was the last person to ride up. The barbed wire fence at the bottom would discourage access, ha, ha.
The red flowers on this plant were abundant in the area as I finished the 4.6 mile hike. Well, back to the bike but also a hike coming soon.
The sunsets are awesome, every evening. The more the clouds, the more spectacular. I had 180 bike miles this week so still not putting in as many as I typically would when in AZ or OH but....
….Friday I hopped on the gravel bike to ride around an area golf course that has been closed for a couple of years. It doesn't take long for a course to lose the pristine look.
Surprised the saguaro died but maybe the daily watering kept the root ball small. Once it was returned to a typical Sonoran desert climate it could not survive? Finished with only 18 miles and missed a rattlesnake sighting. Had been told one was laying on the cart path on hole #4 but it was gone when I arrived.
Saturday I joined a small group that I knew was going to be really slow and they did not disappoint. I did not anticipate many stops for breaks, map checks and more breaks. Note to self: Don't do that again.
Then Sunday led the "Sisters" (Amy & Tracy) around a tour of Oro Valley which included a visit to the "Bat Cave" aka "The Tunnel of Death".
Area gas stations of course have numerous warnings posted to inform no refills, no access to public restrooms, maintain distance, etc... We entered and had no problem filling a water bottle so maybe they are allowing that. On our return....
…..Amy had her first flat. I was eager to help but Tracy insisted that she do it herself. The technique of sitting while reinstalling the tire was new to me. Finished with 48 miles of more fun in the sun. Monitoring the virus situation in Ohio so unsure when I will visit but hopefully mid to late May.
My 3rd attempt at finding the 70' water fall within Tanque Verde Canyon. On this Wednesday, there were quite a few others who were enjoying the beaches, flowing water, pools and scenery.
Two of us head up canyon where we enjoy seeing several, less notable falls.
This combination of hiking, boulder hopping, wall climbing is always different as rather than follow a defined trail, it's just a series of probes as we seek a way forward. At about 1.5 miles, we reach a platform that appears to be a dead end but as I scanned a hill side above I spotted a trail so we climb and find.....
….the big falls. A spectacular setting with a nice beach, rock walls soaring above us and in the water I spotted.....
….a turtle! Also some fish. The pool appears to be about 6' deep so I wondered what it looked like in June, before the monsoon arrives and after a month or two of no rain. Have to come back and find out.
I did some climbing of the surrounding cliffs as my friend soaks up some rays.
The granite walls were a mix of colors as I....
….climb higher but soon reach a wall that appears to be a doable climb but then above it is nothing. Not wanting to be yet another statistic in this canyon, I climb down and soon....
….we are on our way back as other begin their way in. Finished with 3 miles and 600' of climbing. Very fun time and it was good to finally reach the big falls.
How about this!? The 2.5 mile climb, having an average grade of 4% but with some steep pitches toward the top, has been repaved. Honest? I didn't think this road would see the machines for many, many years. It's condition was somewhere between unridable on a road bike and awful but not now.
Check out that smooth surface. OK, not much of a berm but whose to quibble when the climb has been put back in the rotation. Did a 45 mile ride that of course included Gates Pass.
Been awhile since I did a really difficult hike so I arrive at the trail head at Ventana Canyon to ascend to the Window, somewhere up there in the jagged distance.
I'm not a fan of the trail, too many boulders jutting out of the trail, similar to Pima Canyon trail. But there is no denying the reward of climbing out of the canyon.
The ocotillo are in bloom as I look at the trail below me. Not many fellow hikers as I passed only 6-8 on my way up to.....
...the Maiden Pools at mile 2.5. Still a long way to go and so I don't stop for a visit.
I continue the climb as the trail meanders back and forth across the bottom of the ravine that still has water flowing through it. There are some beautiful settings and ideal camping areas. including one with a large slab of rock containing several grinding holes.
And there above me is the Window, a huge opening in the granite. To reach it, I must first climb out of the canyon to a narrow saddle,
From past visits, I know that once I climb above the rock spire, I'll be close and.....
….arriving at the saddle, I can see the remaining climb to where the Window is housed. For a short while....
….the hiking is flat to rolling with spectacular views both north and south.
Mount Lemmon in the distance. The trail is easy to follow but it is also easy to walk right by my destination because of the angle of the Window and the brush covering the entrance.
At mile 6.7, I finish the ascent with a climb into the opening.
Stepping inside, but not too far inside because of the several hundred foot drop, I look back and through the arch. Not too far is Window Peak but having visited that once and knowing the way up is kind of sketchy and difficult to follow, I decide to content myself with where I am.
It's a hulking mass of granite around me. The high today in the valley was only in the low 70's so up here, it's quite chilly so I do not linger.
The hike down is steep in places but sometimes I am rewarded with flat areas bordered by an abundance of wildflowers.
A recently build bird's nest. I once took too close a look and almost got speared by a fleeing bird so I keep my distance. Finished with 13.4 miles and a whopping 4500' of climbing. Well, back to the bike.
I drove south, got on White House Canyon Road and then where Madera Canyon Road branches to the right, I parked in a small, dirt area. In the distance, the Santa Ritas with Elephant Head on the right.
I left White Canyon for Box Canyon Road and mostly enjoyed a 1-2% grade although the wash boarding was pretty bad.
The road stayed straight for a couple of miles then bent to the left, crossed a dry creek bed and then an 11% section that it too had wash boarding. That was difficult, bouncing along while maintaining momentum. I rounded a corner and saw the road coursing upwards through the canyon. It was a neat view.
The first 9 miles is a climb having an average grade of 3% but there are several extended section having a 6-7% grade. I came to a hairpin curve that had a neat looking wall. Note the man standing, bottom left, which gives some perspective of the size.
The road continues its ascent but just when I'd had enough of the bouncing, Greaterville Road.....
….came in from the left and it was paved! Thank goodness. I rode it for 4 miles to St. Rt. 83 where I turned around and....
...retraced the route. Later, I checked the area map and all the southwest bearing roads eventually dead end against the slopes of Mt. Wrightson or Hopkins. At times...
….I could take my eyes off the road to enjoy the view but the wash board really took a toll and I was glad when I again reached pavement. Don't think I'd do this route again unless a road grader went through. Finished with 30 miles and 2200' of climbing.
A recovery day so I drove about a mile north on Oracle Road, pulled into the Ram's Field Pass subdivision, parked in front of a community park, walked through it and found a trail leading to a bladed road.
The road had many piles of gravel and farther up.....
….piles of large boulders. An entity went bankrupt several years ago so other than the road, no other development has yet taken place. Higher I found.....
….this screen. Apparently they would dump loads of ground, separate the boulders that would later be used for landscaping. The real reason for today's hike was to scout for a future hike. A few days ago I had.....
…..parked at Catalina SP and hoofed it close to the base of Table Mountain but as I was hiking, I eyed the bladed road and figured there had to be a more direct way for a reexploring of the Mountain.
After completing the ascent of the road, a trail led to the south and I followed it for awhile. I could see it continued on toward where I could intersect the trail I had followed last week and would be a much shorter route to revisit the mountain.
I returned to the dirt road, made a left and visited an adjoining development that had 30+ home sites that were available. Nice location for a home and unsure why it has taken so long for the available lots to fill. Have to check out the price and therein may lay the answer. Finished with 3" miles and ready for another gravel ride down at Madera Canyon.
I've been having fun with finding gravel routes. There doesn't seem to be much of a list on any site I have found. There are a few on an AZ Gravel FB page and some on a gravel web site so I will create a list and begin posting somewhere on this site. Anyway, I drove out #79 toward Florence and parked at 96 Ranch Road.
I knew there were only 2 Strava segments on the 40 mile route, one on the opening, 13 mile climb so when I saw a rattlesnake, crossing the road in the first mile I had to keep going rather than pause but then saw another and stopped to take this pic. It's weird but on a gravel bike on an uneven surface, I gave the snake a wide berth. Hitting something and being thrown onto that....yikes.
Actually, in addition to that 13 mile Strava segment climb, there is a fairly continuous climb of about 19 miles but the average grade is only 2%. Of course, 2% on sand/dirt is quite a bit harder than on pavement. I saw numerous serpentine tracks through the sand so lots of snakes had been crossing the road. I merged with Barkerville Road and then reached Freeman where I made....
….a right while having a decent view of the Superstition Wilderness. It's odd not to see multiple group hike options every day for hiking in that awesome area. Friggin virus! While the first two aforementioned roads were in great condition, Freeman was less so but still ridable for a newbie like me. Just prior to reaching #79 after a long descent....
….a power line road gives the option for a return to my car rather than #79 so I take it. After about a mile, I hike a sandy wash, climb through a barb wire fence and get on #79. Back on pavement, I cruised with a tail wind the 7 miles to 96 Ranch Road, finishing with 49 miles and 1900' of climbing. I'd do that route again.
I ascend General Hitchcock Highway but take a short break at the 9 mile point where the "7 Cataracts" parking area is. Great views as always but I noticed this long dead, grey tree so took a pic of that instead.
I paused at mile 14 at the "Windy Point Vista" parking area then resumed the plodding effort. I long ago concluded this climb is not a good fit for me. I know what you're thinking, "Is there any climb that is a good fit?" Well no but I do have respectable times going up the 12 mile Kitt Peak climb where I can sustain a decent effort for the duration. This beast though.....not good.
I pass the Palisades gift shop and know I am closing and finally at about mile 21, reach where the road bends down. The road drops about 1.5 miles, climbs about the same and then rolls to Summerhaven but no point visiting since the restaurant is closed, the general store so resupply is uncertain. Coast down and finish with 47 miles, 5500' of climbing and so the next day I.....
….went golfing. Golf courses too have changed, no removing the flagstick from the holes, rakes for smoothing the sand have been removed so if you enter a sand trap you are expected to foot smooth the sand, etc... Played with a couple of guys who like to play fast, as do I so we got around 9 holes in an hour. The course, "Rolling Hills" is kind of a dog track but it was good to play. Had 2 birdies!!!
I've ridden up Mount Lemmon a couple of times in last few days but not all the way, once to San Pedro Vista at mile 18 and once to 7 Cataracts at mile 9. I talked to a couple of cyclists who were telling me about an 80+ year old guy who rides up it 4 times a week and is stronger than 80% of those who climb the mountain. Wow. Anyway, ….
….drove north of the town of Catalina and got on Willow Springs Road, passed beneath the ranch gate, past the 24 Hour at the Old Pueblo course and was exploring new territory.
Looking to the east there is still snow on the mountains.
There is a long climb which passes by Black Mountain. The average grade is only 2% and 4.5 miles but there was a section that had to be close to 20%. A guy had started up it and fallen over and was sitting in the grass, waiting for a friend to ride back and retrieve a car. He told me he was ok and to keep going.
The roads were in great shape and traffic is very light but when a vehicle or motorcycle passed, I was glad the wind blew the dust away from me.
There are a variety of dirt roads northwest of Oro Valley going all the way to Florence and Phoenix. Dang, southern AZ is beautiful if you like the mountains. Finished with 31 miles and 1600' of climbing.
This unusual March weather pattern continues as yet another cold front moved through, bringing a day of clouds with a high of 70 followed by this day of partly cloudy skies and a high of 59. Actually, some rain moved through this morning but it appeared to be over so I headed to Catalina SP where I began a hike I have wanted to do for awhile.
The hike should take me to the base of Table Mountain if what a guy I ran into during a hike gave me accurate info. I head toward Pusch Ridge, cross a couple of dry washes and hike on a social trail parallel to the above ridge. A short climb brings me to the top of that, followed by another short climb and I.....
….am following a rolling trail parallel with the mountains to my left. Lots of plants are blooming.
The clouds briefly clear and the surrounding area is awash in sun light. Note the lone saguaro above.
I reach a massive water tank, shown above, center right. I had been this far before but now am in unexplored territory.
The trail meanders around as it rises toward the mountain now. As I climb, I reach an area of granite and see where the pipe that feeds the tank originates. Nice spot.
Just prior to reaching the granite, there is a cairn and a much fainter trail branches to the left. Usually there now......
…..is no trail but someone has put a lot of effort into building dozens of cairns that are easy to follow.
The climbing steepens as I see my destination, a saddle to the left of the base of the granite wall. I've started my hike at 11am so need to be mindful of the time. As I hike, I am curious how the route will evolve. I nervously eye a cliffy section with lots of giant boulders to my left and hope the route does not take me into that but of course....
….it does. Seems like there are some nice, sheltered areas that could make for a good animal den up there. I pull out my Smith & Wesson, chamber a round and proceed.
Yes, I am super careful while carrying and no, won't shoot myself and no, don't carry when with other hikers. It gets creepy some times when I hike alone and there are examples of hikers surprising a sleeping lion. I forgot my hiking pole so don't have that to bang around and make noise so I carry on a loud conversation with myself.
Way cool! A band of rock that is distinctive from the valley is now at eye level. It appears I could bush whack over, hike over the top and down but no time for that today.
I continue to climb and finally reach a saddle where I find a fire ring and a flat area for a tent. Probably the route builder stayed here for a night. The cairns end at the saddle. I search but cannot find any ahead of me and this kind of is a logical end but there is a last, prominent hill that prevents a view of the entire granite face. The final hill looks climbable and then as I start back down, I find more cairns leading from the south facing slope of the saddle which is kind of counterintuitive. I've also been looking....
….to the west and can see several rain shadows approaching. Yeah, getting wet up here would not be good so I start the down climb. Soon, it begins....SNOWING! Lightly to be sure and not for long. At a lower elevation, it begins to rain and the wind is howling. The trail now is runnable so I begin to run.
Beautiful as a harder rain is falling exactly where I was standing about an hour ago. Glad I am down here. Finished the hike with 8 miles and 2000' of climbing. A very fun day.
Three of us begin our hike to Picketpost Mountain but a guy walking our way warned us of a rattlesnake and sure enough. There it is, coiled and to be avoided.
The route to the peak is a wonderful mix of an easy to follow trail then a series of walls and route finding challenges.
And then there are other things like a Barrel Cactus growing into the route, it too to be avoided. The parking and camping area had a "site host" who had stayed there all winter. She stated the weekend (we hiked on Monday) had been a zoo with swarms of people behaving badly and to not be surprised if access to the area would be denied in the future. In fact, the next day the area was closed. The same with other popular trailheads in the vicinity.
More walls met and climbed and after one particularly nasty section.....
….Amy had to celebrate both the successful climb and the view.
The end is not near as the above gives false hope that the hike is finished. It's not but....
….it's not but the hiking does become much easier as we approach the peak.
The end of 2.5 miles and 2000' of climbing. Another of those short but hard hikes with awesome views. So many dirt roads going off into the distance and now with a gravel bike, I can explore them. For a long time, a mailbox had been present at the peak but someone store or pitched it over the side. An organization....
….installed a new one. Yes, that's me with my OSU hat. The hat causes many fellow Buckeyes to acknowledge they too are fans. A lot of them out here.
Yet another low pressure system swooped through bringing rain and mountain snow.
Flowers are abundant as I walked around the Linda Vista Loop on a 2.5 mile trek. Then, warmth returned so I....
Drove up Mount Lemmon to see where the snow level was as I was planning to ride the dirt road up Mount Hopkins the following day. So, at 6500' the snow began. Too low as the dirt would be mud so I'll give it a couple of days.
Just above the Pallisades gift shop where the road finally bends downward, I stopped. Beautiful setting. At lower elevations, water is cascading down the rock faces. With a high of 50 degrees for this elevation (around 9000') the snow won't last long. I plan to ride up this on Sunday but....
….need to confirm if I can get water in the village of Summerhaven. Unsure of the store openings/access. Well, while it was beautiful, it was good to be, 30 minutes later, back in the valley with temps in the 70's. Hopped on my bike and got in a 52 mile ride.