I am the first car in the Madera Canyon parking lot, 5:45 with a very pleasant temperature of 63 degrees. Sharing the lot with me are two turkeys. I was surprised that no one else was yet here but other cars soon arrived.
I farted around for a little while as the sun rises from the east as it almost always does and cast a glow on the surrounding east facing hills.
The first 2 miles of my hike was entirely in the shade until I reached this spot but was soon back in the cover. I was walking the "Old Baldy" trail and dreaded the ascent as from memory it was really steep but today, the average grade of 14% to the peak didn't feel that bad. Didn't feel good either!
I reach the Josephine Saddle, take a short break, think about taking the longer (4 miles) and not so steep Super trail to Baldy saddle but go for the shorter (1.8) and steeper continuation of Old Baldy.
Some beautiful pink and elsewhere, white flowers. The coolness of the morning hung with me as I ascended.
Reaching Baldy saddle, I did a self check. Not good you out of shape fatty patty! OK, that's a bit of a stretch but we are our own worse critic and that's what my self examination revealed. I thought of turning around as I.....
….peered at the final ascent of .9 miles to Mount Wrightson.
At this point, with 3000' of elevation gain, I was no longer walking, more like a shuffling of the feet unless a protruding rock forced me to lift a foot. Hey! Mount Hopkins in the distance. Next month will be the 1 year anniversary from getting lost and finding the remains of a dead hiker. Maybe I should reprise my role and do the route again but not get lost this time.
Lot of evidence of a past fire as I look back at the Baldy saddle.
The ascent get a little narrow in a few places but nothing that should cause anyone a problem. Actually, I was aware of my fatigued condition and careful not to trip and go pinwheeling down the slope.
After 5.5 miles and 4000' of climbing, I reach the peak where there is a foundation of a fire watch building. I find the registry in an ammo box and sign in.
The views are awesome as usual although to the north, the smoke from the Bighorn fire obscures quite a bit. That fire is now at 7000 acres and only 10% contained. Fortunately, where I live is on the edge of the limited containment line so I am good.
There are billions of ladybugs and a few hundred thousand flies so the stay at the peak is rather unpleasant and I descend. In the distance, a small grove of trees that survived the last fire.
Lots of new trees growing on the hill sides.
I take a last look, long into my descent, at the peak. Finished with 11 miles and a good calorie burn.
I park in a development that is just south of the closed Catalina State Park. A few years ago someone was going to develop the hills above and put in a graded dirt road. Then the project went into bankruptcy and so hikers have a nice access to the wilderness. My intended route today would not approach the above section, instead the origination of the fire on Bighorn Mountain which appeared quiet.
The trail/road rises steeply and I get a good view of the Tortilitas where there was another large fire. I see no smoke so maybe it is contained. I take a well worn trail off the road and see....
….a lookout. I leave the trail and approach him, noticing there are a total of 3 of them. He asks if I am out for a hike and I confirm that I came out to check out the burn area. Hearing not a discouraging word, I thank him, regain the trail which takes a serpentine route toward the pink swaths of retardant.
From Oro Valley, it appears the pink line is very close but takes 2+ miles of hiking to reach.
Crossing the retardant area, I begin to see spotty burn areas. I hear some voices ahead and.....
…..how about that! A team of 9 fire fighters, headed toward a distant ridge, their work done here.
As they had been working, they had ample supplies which have been repacked and waiting helicopter pickup.
Too bad. A large water tank is filled by this pipe but large sections have melted. Will be interesting to see when/if it is replaced.
In this area, the fire stopped at the edge of the trail. Will also be interested to see how many of the plants will survive having their feet burned. The trail was not previously so obvious but the foot traffic in the last 3 days has significantly enhanced it.
I heard a chainsaw off to my left so still some activity going on and to my right I heard, "Sir". The above guy approached me and I knew my hike was done. He didn't try to stop me but said it may not be a good idea to go any higher. With a helicopter due to pick up the supplies, the effect of the downwash on all the loose material would be significant. We had a nice conversation about the fire and that his crew has created a new trail on a nearby ridge so that's good to know. Wish I had thought to ask about wildlife encounters and what they had observed.
As I descended, I saw plenty of evidence of ongoing fire fighting efforts over the ridge in Pima Canyon. I'll give it another couple of days and then come back if efforts on this side of the ridge are finished. There are access routes between Bighorn and Table Mountains that are choked with brush but perhaps they are open now.
I check out the water tank. A month ago, it was filled to the brim with water overflowing from the pipe. I assume the efforts to put out the fire drew water from the tank.
The fire continues in Pima Canyon. There is a glow to the underside of the smoke. Finished with 5 miles.
The "Oro Valley Outdoor Fun" group came up with a good hike, led by organizers John and Marianne. It's odd, I have been all over the top of Mount Lemmon but for some reason, never hiked the mid mountain hiking trails....that's a mistake. We arrive at the Middle Bear parking area, carpool a few miles up to the Green Mountain parking area and off we hike.
After a brief ascent, we reach a saddle. Here, half our group of 14 hang a right and ascend toward Green Mountain while the other group continues on to Bear Saddle where we will reunite later. Meantime, the fire rages along Pusch Ridge but we are largely oblivious other then an occasional sound of a helicopter.
The route up Green Mountain is usually obvious but not always. Pretty steep with the added bonus of pine needles and gravel, sure to make the descent an adventure. About midpoint of the ascent we reach this beautiful spot. This is another of those, "Good to Be Alive Moments."
We continue up and arrive at the peak where there is a nice camping spot with plenty of wood around. Since this is not an established trail, I doubt many people make it up here.
After a round of picture taking, we descend, again, steeply most of the time.
Reaching the saddle once again, we descend through several switchbacks, off the mountain. Above is the peak. We are now hiking on the eastern side of the Catalinas and so.....
….have wonderful views of the San Pedro river valley and Galiuro Mountains. The trail is easy to follow and mostly descending. I had planned to turn around at some point and hike back up. Frankly, after 2 weeks in Ohio with little cardio experience, I wasn't feeling all that springy so need the miles and uphill effort.
As we neared Bear Saddle, we encountered these monoliths. Yep, that's me, looking kind of paunchy. We rejoined the group and now most of us would ascend Guthrie Mountain.
We ascended an easy to follow but not easy to hike, trail. There was one section of steep granite with pink accents.
Not much room at the top where we were distracted by the sound and sight of a helicopter, once again dumping water on the distant fire. After a short break and mindful that some of us were waiting at Bear Saddle, we descended and....
...passed a tree having an unusual opening. Long dead from a fire that hit this area in 2002.
Usually, images don't capture the steepness of an ascent/descent but this one does. Lot of fun picking a route down while utilizing ridges and concave places for traction.
We rejoined the group at the saddle and they descended to the Middle Bear parking area where they would shuttle to the start of the hike at Green Mountain. Meantime, I retraced our route back to my car at Green Mountain, finishing with 7.3 miles and 2200' of elevation gain. Legs and cardio need a lot of work:(
I arrived Saturday afternoon to this sight. A couple of friends had already warned me so it wasn't a surprise. Friday night, a bolt of lightning struck the ground somewhere in the above image, igniting the fire.
Saturday afternoon, the fire appeared to have been contained and then, boom, it exploded. Tankers came in and dropped fire retardant on the bottom of the slopes to prevent the spread into our community.
Saturday evening, the helicopters and planes had retired but still the fire burned. If it reached the ridge and spread over the top, nothing over there but acres of grass.
Sunday morning, the smell of creosote was heavy as smoke lingered but the fire appeared to have died down overnight. I attended a group hike so going south on Oracle Road and rounding the mountain on Ina Road....
….nooooo, the fire had gone over the ridge and was now burning into Pima Canyon.
Sunday afternoon, after the hike, I was curious so climbed a nearby trail and caught this image of the tanker releasing the retardant.
Meantime, on this side of Pusch Ridge, helicopters were dumping water on hot spots and trying to prevent the fire's spread into Catalina State Park, just north of me. That is a Chinook doing water carrying duty.
Many people express sadness over this but it has been many years since there was a fire in the area and it was overdue for nature's cleansing. I talked to a ranger who voiced this opinion. The fire will remove hiding places for predators of the Bighorn sheep although the predators have to eat too so not sure that is a good thing.
As I descended the trail, I saw a family feeding brush into a wood chipper, probably clearing as much as they can in case the fire moved west, toward them. At the time, strong southwest winds moved the fire away from this and my area. The Pusch Peak area at the far south side of this side of the mountain range was spared.
Monday morning now. Catalina State Park is closed as it has become a staging ground for the fire fighting efforts. I rode in and had a nice talk with the sheriff deputy sitting in the SUV seen above.
The fire is now reduced to a smolder on this side of the mountains. Tomorrow, I plan to hike up there and check it out, assuming I don't get in the way of any efforts. While the Park is closed, there are a few use trails that one can access to go way up there.
I intended to ride more frequently while in Ohio but once I get in my woods, I don't want to leave. There is something about planting 500+ seedlings, 20+ years ago and seeing how the land was transformed from a field into dense woods. The ash trees, which I never planted but emerged over time, continue to die from the Emerald Ash Borer and therefore, make for great fire wood. I got the above tranche cut and split and will do more when I return later this year.
So, off we go but return via the northern route which takes us through Kansas. 400 miles of the above scenery.
Eastern CO is no better but things improve once we turn south. Clouds forming in NM.
How bout that! Didn't know these Sinclair branded gas stations were still around
Rain in the distance. Eventually, we enter.....
….Taos, NM. Place is really run down, from what I saw of it. Lot of interesting characters around including a guy on a beat up bicycle, long beard flowing in the wind, who yelled "You are part of the problem" as we were walking.
We cross the Rio Grande and enter......
….the town of Hatch, NM.
We tried to calculate the quantity of smashed bugs on the windshield. At least 1000 so every stop for gas required a vigorous clean of the windshield. At last.....
….we arrive in southern AZ where I am greeted by a fire, above my place. It was caused by a lightning strike and appeared contained by this point but later, it exploded and grew to 1000+ acres. More to come on that.
I doubt there is another group ride at which a member brings the above or something similar, to every ride. As in year's past it is.....
….Kristie Boltz. It helps to have a kitchen with 5 ovens and she uses nothing but the finest ingredients. Kristie also uses the treats to sometimes fund raise for CAF (Challenged Athletes Foundation).
This being the first, official Tuesday group ride organized by "The Cycling Club" I was curious how many would attend. Including Scott Billman in the yellow, Audi jersey, there were 30. Several new cyclists too, which is a good thing.
Don gives information about the route and other items to the group and then there are off toward Granville prior to a return.
Given 30 and some Covid concerns, 3 groups of 10 are sent out, each with cyclists of similar fitness level. The groups....
….depart. Terrible news coming out of the other prominent Tuesday group ride which originates south, in Canal Winchester. A cyclist, Shin Lisaka, was 3rd in a line that had small gaps between each cyclist due to a small climb. Shin was struck by a car, dying at the scene. I have disturbing details of the event but at the request of a witness, as well as common sense, I can not share here. Gruesome and so very sad.
While I have more posts for my OH visit, I could not resist to post this. I arrived in Oro Valley on Saturday. I had read about a lightening inspired fire in the mountains above my place so when I arrived, it all appeared muted but....
...30 minutes later it had exploded. Large planes flew in with supporting helicopters as they battled the blaze. It appears residential areas will be spared but above that...yikes.
If you follow this blog, you saw Jack running through a sandy wash a couple of weeks ago but today, it is through firm ground with lots of grass. He doesn't care as long as he can run. Yes, Jack accompanied us on our drive to Ohio.
The Bio Reserve has several places where the trail dips and flowing water can be found so Jack has opportunities to tank up.
It's odd to hike in almost constant shade. Saguaros don't throw off much shade. lol.
We spook deer so Jack runs to watch them run.
The trails or up and down but one constant is the fallen trees and....
...more yet to fall of the many ash trees taken out by the Ash Borer, a pest from China.
One tree was completely uprooted. Anyone visiting the area, the Bioreserve is a worthy destination as we hiked 5 miles and how other trails we could have hiked.
I had not been to the new shop since it moved last year. Geoff has a much larger space and he was hard at work as we entered.
Of course, who could have predicted what has transpired in the last couple of months so some of Geoff's history based assumptions about bike demand for this year have been off. Lots of demand for bikes but more in the "lower" end range.
A retooled inventory is meeting most of the demand as new cyclists visit.
An open repair area. It too has seen an uptick in demand.
William checked us out with our new purchases of gloves and socks. No bikes for today, for us.
Hey, sorry for the lack of posts. Drove from Tucson through NM and have no idea why that state is the "Land of Enchantment". Boring but maybe Albuquerque and west is deserving but the eastern end...yikes. Driving through TX the winds were in the 40mph range and a modest sand storm kicked up. Eerie but a beautiful sunset that we could watch through the mirrors.
The 2nd day was still very windy driving through OK and I looked for a tumbleweed so I could get a pic but no luck. Enter MO, the sky looked rather ominous and soon....
….was an hour+ of driving in this stuff. A wind storm yesterday and a thunder storm today. Being in a Range Rover rather than my usual Corolla made a big difference.
On day 3, at last, we enter Ohio. A few days ago the forecast was no rain for 10+ days but of course, that has changed.
Passengers are always happy when they can veg out while the driver is less so. Well, got more coming soon.
Hey Gang! Been riding a bunch so not many hiking images to post but on a rest day, ventured into the Tucson Mountains to check out a new, for me, trail. More to come along with a drive to Ohio where I will spend a couple of weeks on some acreage I own that is covered with red oaks and other trees.
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.