Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tortolitas, Baby!

Hit a new riding destination today, the Tortolita Mountains northwest of Tucson. The trail network has been growing steadily for over 10 years now. Some of the new trails are getting rave reviews. Even though many of the trails in the Tortolitas are extremely technical, it was time I checked this area out.

I had a modest 34mi loop planned. I didn't want to go bigger than this, fearing even 34mi could go over four hours moving time. I also avoided some of the trails whose Strava segments have typical average speeds of 4-5mph. These are trails that guys and gals like to hone their skills on. The only thing I would hone would be my bones against the rocks.

A new trail that is just about done is the Ridgeline Trail. There is an unofficial connection that lets riders integrate this trail into a loop high in the Tortolitas. Ridgeline is so new, I couldn't find much info on it. Would I be hike-a-biking most of it? Was there fear of death exposure? The scenery was sure to please.

I started out on a trail called Como. It starts as jeep track and eventually narrows down to tight, moderately technical singletrack, fairly steep at times. It was warm out. I was sweating before the climbing even got down to business.

After cresting a pass and dropping a ways on the other side, another jeep track is taken, called Edwin Rd I think. It became a serious grind near the top, about 1300ft net gain from where I parked. After bombing down the other side, some newer singletrack is picked up, Wild Burro Trail. This was very tightly constructed through often rugged terrain. You couldn't be looking around riding this trail. A few minutes in, an object in the trail triggered my moving target indicator. It was a Gila Monster! Fortunately he was crawling away from me and didn't know I was there, so I had time to get the camera out. Quite pretty and quite creepy looking. It was almost as big as my forearm.

After dropping down and crossing the wash, the new Ridgeline Trail is taken to form a height-of-the-land loop. Ridgeline was a pretty serious grunt to start, with many steep switchbacks. I was impressed with the workmanship. Was this trail machine built, I wondered? So much benching and armoring in brutally rugged terrain.  There was near continuous moderate exposure. No instant death if you screw up stuff, but potentially not getting back out on your own in a few places. Great views of Tucson and the Catalinas opened up in several places.

Once reaching the high point, the trail contoured through amazing scenery. Whoever laid the trail out was a genius to see a line through that terrain. It flowed sweetly. Coming around to the part I wondered was finished, I saw fresh shovel marks with no bike tracks over them. The trail crew was out. I got to thank the guys in person for the fine work they were doing. The tortolitas were quickly moving up my list of top rides in Arizona.

Taking an interim route back down to the wash, I had to climb back over the Edwin Rd pass again. This side seemed even steeper and it was hotter out. But I knew from the summit, it was 15 miles near monotonic downhill back to the car.

A different route than Como was taken. Don't know the name of the trail, but it was miles and miles of interstate-buff singletrack. And the whole time you're staring at the Santa Catalina Mountains. That's the way all long rides should end. A couple miles of pavement closed the loop back to my car. The 34mi, 3.5hr ride went smoother than I thought. I checked with Cathy to see if she had more things to do. I wanted to hit Fantasy Island on the east side of town closer to our hotel.

Fantasy Island is a 20+ mile amusement park for mountain bikes. Gravity cavities, high-speed berms, table-tops and many air opportunities, and all-out speed sections galore. Fantasy Island has the highest fun-factor to energy expenditure ratio of any place I ride. There is very little elevation change there. I figured I was digging a deep whole early in the trip, but I had to hit it.

As best I can tell, I hit everything, and then some, in 24mi/2hrs riding time.That made 58.6mi of trail riding for the day. Not a huge amount of climbing though. That will come later.

Heading up to the Edwin Rd pass

Gila Monster on Wild Burro Trail

Wild Burro Trail

More Wild Burro Trail

Sprawling Tucson metropolis in distance from Ridgeline Trail

Looking down Edwin Rd towards the Catalinas

Mt Lemmon

Finishing singletrack

"Bunny Trail" at Fantasy Island with the Ricons in the background

1 comment:

Michael Scott Long said...

It's hard to tell, but at the end you might have biked something that some people call "Maus Trail." I don't think it's an official trail, but I know it's in the vicinity of the stuff you biked.