Wednesday, March 26, 2014

La Milagrosa

A trail on Tucson's east side I've always had a morbid curiosity to check out is La Milagrosa, or The Miracle. It starts high above the city and descends initially on a ridge line, then later along the lip of Milagrosa Canyon. I've seen the photos and GoPro videos. I had no business riding it. But it can be used to close a nice loop and I felt compelled to at least check out a Tucson riding reference standard.

The day's loop started out up dirt Reddington Rd. About 15 miles in and 1700ft up, the Arizona Trail is picked up near where it comes out of the Rincon Wilderness. I rode this once before with Dave, and I remembered it as buff. Parts were not - pretty chunky, with punchy climbing sections. Guess I remembered only the easy parts.  The AZT crosses over Reddington Rd much further in and climbs some more. There were periodic skill checks along the way, and I failed several of the tests. Great riding though. It was cooler up there, and the trail had a seriously remote vibe to it. No body around and miles from town.  It seemed this section of the AZT doesn't get ridden much.

After many miles of contouring trail (term used loosely, frequent VOmax efforts were required), I got to the Milagrosa trail junction. After not seeing a soul for 2+ hours, a backpacker headed down Milagrosa just as I got there. I took a break to eat. The hiker told me to give a good yell out when I caught up to him. His hearing was that good anymore.

The trail started innocuous enough. A couple dismounts here and there. Then I caught the hiker on a section that forced a dismount. He commented "this is really nice here, wait until you get a little further down." Hmmm, I thought I was already getting into trouble.

Then I hit the section referred to a "The Gauntlet." Yeah. Guys (and gals) actually ride this? I was pretty sure I was going to break a leg hike-a-biking down it. My progression was more like a semi-controlled slide down loose rocks. It took a good while to get past that section.

There was more somewhat leveled off ridge riding with amazing views into canyons on either side of the trail. No fear of death stuff, just brutally rugged terrain. This was clearly a hiking trail that hard core riders test their mettle on. In between frequent dismounts, I managed to scare myself good on sections I went for. I even dropped my seat, a foreign concept to Hill Junky. Whacked, riding this alone.

I made it to the bottom with no crashes but several oh-f's! A couple miles of pavement closed the loop. I was surprised to finish the 36mi, 4hr ride with close to 9mph avg. Milagrosa took me an hour, something like 3mph average down hill! I can check that one of my list and not have to do it again.

Relatively short riding day. Headed up to Sedona in the afternoon. Looking forward to hitting more new terrain in and nearby Sedona over the rest of the week.

Looking down Reddington Rd with Tucson in distance

AZT grasslands at around 4500ft

A hotter, more deserty looking part of the AZT

AZT heading toward Milagrosa. Cathy was checking out the sights in the Santa
Catalinas in the distance.

More AZT contour

La Milagrosa Trail

A snippet of "The Gauntlet." Way steeper than it looks. Folks ride this stuff.

I think this is Agua Caliente Canyon

Riding along lip of La Milagrosa Canyon

Many sections of extremely steep granite

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