Friday, March 13, 2015

More AZT Goodness

With too many hours in too few days in our legs, I drafted an impromptu route in Strava's Route Builder for today's ride. Neither of us had a 100k-er in us, a loop I had hoped to hit on this trip that entails 8000ft of climbing on one of the most remote sections of the Arizona Trail (AZT). So instead, we hit a portion of the AZT just east of town that I've ridden twice and is good stuff.

Heading out on Redington Rd, Isaac spotted a Gila monster on the edge of the road. Maybe good thing we spotted it and spooked it back into the desert. Would have ended up a very dead Gila monster. Lot of interesting critters out here.

Heading up dirt Redington Rd, Isaac drifted back. Hmmm, I wasn't feeling particularly spunky, but I wasn't feeling as awful as the day before either. Maybe it was Isaac's day to finally hit the wall. I was totally cool with an easy day after the big mountain days this week.

I hadn't ridden out to Chiva Falls in a long time, so our route peeled off Redington Rd after gaining 1500ft to head through "The Chute." I vaguely remember this from maybe 10 years ago. I think I walked a bunch of it back then. Some white knuckle skidding down bare rock and chunder for sure. We both rode all of it. Much gnarly climbing and descending ensued on jeep track out to Chiva Falls. Was cleaning all of it, sometimes just barely. High pucker factor on some of the downs.

The baseline track I laid out visited Chiva Falls and then looped up around above it. This entailed a hike-a-bike, and Isaac was ok not doing that, being on the cusp of provoking susceptible injuries. The falls were nice, with recent rain there was fair amount of water flowing (often dry this time of year).

Isaac was confident the entire planned ride was not in his interest today, so after hitting the first portion of the AZT, he'd head back on Redington Rd where the AZT crosses it. He was cool with me continuing, having an e-book to read at the car.

The next section of the AZT, called the Bellota Trail, is some of the finest rideable trail in the greater Tucson area. It offers technically challenging terrain but excellent flow all the while high up with panoramic views of the Santa Catalina and Rincon mountains. There were huge areas ablaze with blue-violet flowers as far as you could see. Aromatic too.

All good things come to an end. The planned route followed the AZT up and over the pass to the Mt Lemmon Hwy. I had done this once with Dave. It involves extensive hike-a-bike. I forgot just how much.  Fortunately, I was not feeling tired. The one pitch alone gained almost 700ft, about 90% of which I had to push/carry my bike. I need to note here, once and for all, that I don't need to do that hike again. There is a bailout to Redington Rd before reaching this climb, which means you don't have to do the full Bellota Trail to hit all of the best part of it. Still though, the descent on the other side of the pass to the Mt Lemmon Hwy is mostly rideable for me. The remaining 2000ft plummet back to the car on pavement is a great way to end a ride.

We never saw another person while off-road. There is so much open space in this area chocked full of Jeep and ATV trails that are fun to MTB. Challenging terrain with great scenery. Plus at 4000-5000ft elevation, it is about 10 degrees cooler up there than in town too. It was a windy day with perfect temps. I finished with 44mi in 4.8hrs with almost a vertical mile of climbing.

Gila Monster. About the size of my forearm.

Isaac rounding one of many switchbacks on Redington Rd.

About 1200ft up Redington Rd looking across the city to Tucson Mtn Park

Jeep track en route to Chiva Falls. "Way steeper than it looks."

Chiva Falls. Is this really in Tucson?!

Bellota Trail #15

Lots of contouring on the Bellota/AZT trail

Wildflowers as far as you can see

Selfie on Bellota/AZT

One of at least 20 switchbacks on the Bellota hike-a-bike

Looking down on the Bellota trail from near the top of the hike-a-bike with what
I think is Mica Mtn in background

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