Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Final Ride: Tucson Mountain Park

For the final ride of our trip last Saturday, Isaac and I hit Tucson Mountain Park (TMP) and the adjacent Robles Trails. Local's do variants of a big loop connecting these places called the TMP Big Loop. Our ride doesn't quite tip the scale as big, but it was non-trivial no less, especially after climbing Kitt Peak on dirt first thing in the morning.

We fueled up on gas station food heading back from Kitt Peak to TMP. Yes, the Fat Doug that still lurks in the Hill Junkie managed to corrupt Isaac, who is usually much more careful with his diet than I am. This ultimately became my own undoing, as I didn't eat enough and didn't pick up enough calories for the next four hours of rugged riding.

The loop I planned would head south, cross Ajo Rd in the 4ft culvert, hit much of Robles including sections I haven't ridden before, then cross back under Ajo Rd in the 6ft culvert into TMP. The Robles trail system is much newer than TMP, so the trails are relatively buff and designed with mountain biking in mind. In other words, they are wicked pleasurable to ride. I was feeling pretty ragged though, having ridden longer than Isaac the day before and already had 2+ hours in my legs from Kitt Peak.

After crossing back into TMP, we climbed the Cat Mtn trail. I had ridden this once before with Dave, James and Mike. Even though I was on a 29er this time, it wasn't any easier. I suffered mightily with several forced dismounts. This is one of the more techy trails in TMP. It is an important connector in creating a nice loop with Robles. Otherwise I'd probably avoid it. Isaac had far less difficulty than me, and for a bit I wondered if he was going to leave me for coyote bait.

After linking up a few classic trails, we hit some of the west side cruiser trails that I've never been on. I was a little concerned on two fronts. a) bonking spectacularly and b) running out of daylight. Actually, I was worried about a) happening first and that causing b) to happen. I completely lack judgement in these matters. And cajoling from Isaac didn't help. He had a less than optimal day the day before and wanted to see where the Hill Junkie's breaking point was. It was our last ride of the trip after all. So we headed all the way out on Ironwood trail, which was more miles than I estimated. Of course, from the far point it was a better part of 1000ft of climbing back to the high point of the ride.

To speed things up a bit, we took paved Gates Pass Rd up to the Yetman trail instead of one of the trails. I was completely destroyed by this point, out of food, nursing the last two ounces of water for the last hour. Yetman was way more hike-a-bike than I remember. This was one of the first trails I rode here in 1999 during my first visit to Tucson on business. The trails I hit back then were good enough for me to fall in love with the place and to keep me coming back most years since. But time has not been kind to this trail, which may go back many decades and not designed with today's knowledge.

It was mostly downhill back to the car from the top. I was seeing cross-eyed in my glycogen depleted state and just had to avoid crashing on the insanely risky descent. Isaac cleaned the whole thing like it was nothing. I hesitated on one set of big granite stairs and dismounted. Soiled my chamois in several other sections.

I had heard much of the Yetman wash was rerouted, an undertaking that took years to get approved. The trail used to follow and chris-cross the wash, often in 6" deep lose stones and sand. The new reroute, which took the trail up out of the wash, was fabulous.  Nice flow and likely very sustainable.

Due to my poor map reading skills in a bonked state, I made a navigation blunder in finding the easiest way back to the car. I took us back up a couple hundred foot wall of chunder that sucked to descend at the beginning of the ride. Of course, Isaac scooted right up it. I capitulated and sobbed instead.  Don't think I ever reached that level of wrecked-ness on a trip.  This ride bumped us up to six hours for the day.

For the trip, I logged 31.5hrs in the six full riding days. That is a new all-time record for me. I've ridden 25+ hours several times on previous trips, but never came close to breaking 30 hours. Factor in how rugged much of the terrain is around Tucson and how little riding I did leading up to this trip, I rightfully ought to be wrecked.  We had perfect weather the whole time. New trails were explored almost every day.  We never got to ride the 100k AZT loop north of Tucson, but that can wait for another time. We hit everything else and then some. One of my best trips yet to the desert.

This might be 36th Street trail in TMP

Casabel loop in Robles

Isaac at top of Cat Mountain trail in TMP

View of Mt Lemmon and part of Tucson from Cat Mtn trail

On Cat Mtn trail, photo by Isaac

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