Monday, March 22, 2010

Tucson vs. Durango

I have some time to kill on the flight back from Phoenix. Yesterday, I sent an email out to a contact for the observatory on Mt Hopkins. I figured it was a long shot, as I was quite sure I left my camera on the car when we drove away from our starting point in the village of Amado. While waiting to board our plane in Phoenix, I got a call from this person. She reported a summit worker indeed found a camera at the summit. I need to close the loop with the worker to establish that it is mine by uniquely identifying the fanny pack contents. They will then ship it out to me. There certainly is hope for humanity.


I think this trip was my best yet to Arizona, and I’ve come here many times now. Other than losing my camera and some issues with Dave’s bike, the trip exceeded our expectations. The weather was as good as it gets in Tucson. In another month, it will be getting too hot. Earlier this winter, it was unusually wet. We scored a perfect four days. Our bodies held up well too. Averaging nearly five hours per day of rigorous off-road riding this early in the season is a solid confirmation of base fitness. How many Americans can do any type of physical activity like this at 47 years old? I definitely felt like a kid again these past four days. Play all day, eat all night.

Tucson riding ranks right up there with the best spots this country has to offer. Strangely, in most mountain biker’s minds, Tucson does not make the list. I think riders just don’t know. There is as much riding here as there is in Durango, Sedona or Moab.

So can one say Tucson is better than Durango? That is like saying Chardonnay is better than Merlot, or Starbucks is better than Dunkin Donuts (ok, this last one is true). There are distinct differences between Tucson and Durango. You have air to breath most places in Tucson, although not as clean as high country air in Durango. You ride Tucson in winter/early spring, which is typically dry. Durango is ridden in late summer when monsoon thunderstorms are daily deals. Both offer unique scenery, the stuff glossy calendars are made of. Both cities have vibrant mountain biking communities that build and maintain trail systems for our sport. The city of Durango does have much more charm than the sprawling metropolis of Tucson. You can spend a week at either city and do daily epic rides and not repeat anything. In my opinion, the two compliment each other very well since they are best ridden at different times of the year.

Two trails stand out from this trip. The Bug Spring Trail (Bugs) on the flanks of Mt Lemmon offered some challenging terrain and mix of great scenery. I’d definitely work this five mile trail into an epic loop again. The other stand out was the Brown Mountain Trail just north of the Tucson Mountain Park. Again, this loop offered some extremely challenging terrain that was just doable enough for Dave and I for it to not be a slog fest. I love ridge riding. Even though this ridgeline was only 400-500ft above the valley floor, you could see in all directions from the peaks, affording fantastic views of TMP and the Santa Catalina’s. I’d work this trail into another ride again someday too.

Brown Mountain Loop

As long as I can turn pedals over rocks and dirt, I plan to keep going back to Tucson every year or two. It is a perfect place to hit as ski season winds down in New England and weather is still on the messy side for epic road or off-road riding. I rationalize this trip as “spring training,” but the fact of the matter is, it's just plain fun to break away with mountain bikes once in a while. Other’s pay exorbitant fees to join organized spring training camps in the south western part of the country. I’d rather go with free-form structure and plan rides that no doubt provide similar training value. It is like getting the training value for free. We had way too much fun to even realize our bodies were being pushed beyond the normal envelope several days in a row. We saw hundreds of roadies over the four days, many with Power Taps, no doubt fixated on achieving “numbers.” Our numbers were measured in smiles per mile.

6 comments:

Jonny Bold said...

Wow, great trip Dougy. I'm so glad you were able to track down your camera. See ya Sunday...

Anonymous said...

Glad you got the camera back, though I'm not sure you deserved to after the insensitive "illegals" comment.

Anonymous said...

ironic if it was an decent & honest mexican worker who found your camera...great coverage of your trip - as usual.

Hill Junkie said...

Poor choice of words I suppose. I grew up in Holland, MI, where a very large number of Hispanics have settled. I believe the area was one of the more prosperous in Michigan due largely to the work ethic of Hispanics.

solobreak said...

"We finished up with 43.5 miles in 4.5hrs riding time. The vast majority of it was technical singletrack. Beats you up pretty good. For the four days, we rode 192 miles in 19.3 hours with over 20,000ft of climbing."

Looks like numbers to me...

obie119 said...

Was just in Tucson last week and totally agree. We were at Sweetwater (pure fun) and in the 50-year-trail area. Fantastic riding, great scenery, friendly locals, and great flora and fauna on the trail. We had to swerve to miss a Gila Monster.
We got lost on every ride but with no trees, it's easy to figure out where you need to go.