Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Two years ago when Dave and I visited Tucson, we had this big loop planned in and around Tucson Mountain Park (TMP). It included a foray into the Robles parcel south of the Ajo Hwy and north all the way to Brown Mtn. and Sweetwater trails. It was really hot that day, and it was the last day of our trip. The ride got truncated, and we never got to Robles. Monday, the last riding day of our 2012 trip would be our only chance to swing through Robles to check out some of the newest singletrack built west of town.
It was a raw day. The Pacific storm still hadn't cleared out. There was a winter storm warning down to 3000ft. Tucson sits around 2600ft. There was 40% chance of rain, and looking around the horizon, it was obviously raining in many places. The Catalina Hwy up Mt Lemmon was even closed. The previous day was a complete wash. Dave didn't ride at all. We visited the air museum midday. It rained hard nearly all day in town and snowed in the mountains above town. I did get out for a road ride late in the day. Trails were not rideable. We hoped things dried out a bit for Monday's ride. Back home in NH, it was in the 70's. It was 30F cooler with snow visible just above Tucson.
East coast riders James Harmon and Mike Montalbano were also in town and were interested in hooking up for a 3+ hour ride. Would have been nice to hit some of the higher elevation stuff, but more weather was hitting those areas and we'd hit snow almost right away. A TMP loop would fit the bill.
We headed south to hit Robles first. Crossing under the Ajo Highway through a four foot high culvert, sand at the far end reduced the inside clearance. My overly stuffed Camelbak started rubbing until I was wedged. Later I learned it rubbed holes through my Camelbak.
The riding in Robles was good. A single big loop gave us a good sampling. Coming around the back side, it got dark and began sleeting. If it all-out rained, we'd be at risk of hypothermia. At least the sleet bounced off us.
We crossed back under the Ajo Hwy via a different, 6ft high culvert. A questionable GPS track forced us to take a trail going who knows where. It went up. A lot. A bonus climb. James said he hadn't gotten in much climbing while out here. Perhaps this trail would help fill the void. James bolted at an impressive rate up this techy climb. The trail dropped almost as precipitously as it went up, terminating at Starr Pass.
We climbed up Yetman Trail to Gates Pass Rd. It's been maybe 13 or 14 years since I've ridden up this rutted out piece of work. Time hasn't exactly improved conditions. A bit of hike-a-biking ensued. There were bits of sleet accumulation up there at about 3100ft elevation. The descent down about a hundred granite erosion control steps tested my limits. I cleanly rode it all, but not without some adrenaline shakies.
Bombing down from Gates Pass entailed some risk, as precip squalls were visible in nearly every direction. We pushed on anyway, towards Brown Mtn. The switchbacks up and down Brown Mtn are more than I can handle. Not sure why I wanted to go back. I do likes me a good ridge trail though, and Brown Mtn, although not very high, does give you a sense of riding at the top of the world. James killed the climb on his singlespeed, and even with my 22x34 granny gear, I felt utterly impotent heading up. I caved and hike part of it.
Near the high point of Brown Mtn, the entire horizon filled with dark strands of precip reaching the ground. We weren't avoiding this one. Outer shells went back on. Stinging sleet started before we got off the ridge. I reaffirmed how much I still utterly suck on switchbacks. I cleaned less than half of the descent. I bet the others were hypothermic by the time I got down. We rode into a campground area where there was an office building. We ducked inside to wait the worst of the rain cell out. It poured and sleeted pretty hard for about 15 minutes. Very lucky to have shelter at that moment.
We pretty much hit what we wanted to and started heading back towards the car. I was fading by the minute and wasn't going to get back before total implosion. The trails were now moist and spongy. This sucked the life out of me climbing back up to the Yetman Trail. The riding down "The Wash" was not a problem. There was a punchy little climb climb just before getting back to the car that drove the last nail in my coffin though. I chuckled to see somebody in Strava named this climb the "F-You Hill." Yes, I think a couple of us felt that way about it.
We finished with 34.4mi in 3:50hrs moving time and about 4000ft of climbing. Turned out to be a great ride to cap off a trip. Nice to hook up with James and Mike too. Dave and I thought about a millisecond on driving over to Sweetwater for a little more riding but risk of muddy trails and more sleet/rain were too high and body too weak. Definitely need a break now. Overloading has reached a toxic level. Anymore would be squarely in overtraining territory. Later this week I'll have to catch up on Friday's ride near Phoenix (a complete disaster with tire woes) and Saturday's double feature with nearly 70 miles of trail riding. We head back to New England on Tuesday. Resuming the daily grind on Wednesday is going to suck.