I think I started to bounce around the idea of an AES type route for South Mountain (SoMo) three years ago. I picked up some really great maps from Global Bikes locally and began the fun route making process. The goal was to incorporate as many of the main park trails as possible with minimal double-tracking. Certain trails at SoMo are so much more enjoyable in a particular direction, but a few concessions had to be made.
Steve and I made an initial attempt back in May '12 during a 'cool snap'. Fail #1. Then I gave it another go, solo, the following December, but that try ended before it really got going. Fail #2.
Fast forward to this past Tuesday. I really wanted another crack at this before things heated up. I was going to take a vacation day on the 18th, but I saw the 10-day forecast calling for temps in the upper 80's!! That's nice and all, for April, not February!! I noticed the 11th was going to be around 75º & asked for that day off instead. I was given the green light, GO TIME.
4a came quickly, but I finally slid out of bed, gathered my things and made my way over to the Pima Canyon trailhead. The gate opens at 5a and I was there twenty minutes later. I was also testing out my new handlebar mounted light for the first time and it performed flawlessly. Under the cover of darkness I rolled out at 5:40a.
It was a cool, but pleasant morning. I started on the dirt access road towards Beverly Canyon, then jumped off onto the East Loop trails to the 46th St TH where the park ranger was checking on things. My pace for the day was to simply keep moving, not worrying too much about cleaning technical obstacles like my shorter mid-week rides. Energy conservation would rule the day. The first hint of daylight approached on my climb up Javelina.
|Top of Javelina, looking back towards the big city.|
|Downtown view near Buena Vista parking lot.|
|National trail gets oh-so-close to this Phoenix landmark.|
Down at Telegraph there were a few hikers coming up from Ahwatukee as I prepared for the upcoming HAB to post #33 on National. Up on the ridgeline I noticed a little bit of trail work had been done on one of the notoriously loose chute-like S-turns. A few ups & downs and I was crossing over the top of Ranger trail, I'll be back here in a few hours I thought. National trail past Ranger is again highly underrated. Spectacular ridgeline views and fast non-techy trail, uncommon to the popular east end portion.
|Nicely contoured lines up here.|
|Look closely, Alta trail climbs the middle hump.|
|The start of the west end freefall down National.|
|Bottom of the freefall.|
I really like this climb, it's long, but mostly rideable, with some tough tight switchbacks that I need to practice. Did I mention the views?
|Climbing Alta: Summit rd, Max Delta Mine & Telegraph Pass all shown.|
|Looking west along the Alta ridgeline towards Maricopa Peak.|
|Nice view on a relatively clear day.|
|Steepness rarely shows well in a photo, but I was taking no chances riding solo.|
|Looking west, Alta trail cuts into the mountainside while the San Juan lot sits far below.|
|The Switchback of Doom!! It's hard enough to walk down!!|
I tracked back on National to the mini saddle on the far west end of the park. I jumped on the social trail connecting National to Bursera/Gila trails, but it's well established and easy to find.
|Climbing Bursera, aka Bees Knees, high above the Gila trail.|
|Silly mountain biker thinks he's riding up that!!|
|Re-freshed, re-fueled and ready for some HAB!!|
Oh yeah, Pyramid is waiting. Taunting. I made it up to the first hard left step-up, then started walking. There were only a couple short-lived sections I was able to ride. I couple of hikers asked if I was going to ride back down...not today.
|A hiker approaches in this fisheye-esque view.|
|One of the few rideable sections.|
A quick repeat of National out to Ranger and I was headed downhill. Ranger passed in a blur as did the Los Lomitas trail. Next up was the 50/50 Kiwanis trail. 50% on the bike, 50% off the bike. Doesn't matter if you're going up Kiwanis or down Kiwanis, it's 50/50. At least it's relatively short. Twenty minutes later I was again back up at Telegraph Pass resting my shoulders from carrying my bike up the large stair steps to the Summit rd.
|Ahwatukee from Telegraph Pass.|
I can ride the upper 2/3 of Geronimo with a fair amount of confidence, then it gets dicey. Steep, rutted, loose, just not my kind of riding. I had stopped to walk down a sketchy drop in the trail when I heard the DH'ers coming. I moved out of the way as one by one they simply blasted by me. It was rather impressive. Big bikes, full body armor and tons of confidence, i.e. balls, will get you down Geronimo blazing fast. These guys were flyin'. Meanwhile, I walked most of the bottom third of the trail.
|Racing the sun down Geronimo.|
|Nice part of lower Geronimo.|
|Glowing Camelback Mtn.|
|A nice sunset albeit blurry.|
The coyotes were starting to stir again, it's really cool to be riding a city park to the howls of the desert dogs.
At the top of Mormon I was getting stoked to be riding down National in the dark. I rode almost everything I ride during the day, but I did skip one or two features.
I think it was about 7:30p when I rolled up to my car, only a handful of other vehicles were still in the lot. I was able to gather a consensus that the exit gate would be open all night, so I didn't move my car. Time for dinner! I downed a chilled chocolate milk first, so refreshing!! Then 1/2 the meatball sub & a Pepsi as a few riders completed their nighttime spin on Desert Classic (DC) trail. By the time I was ready to head back out, my car was the last one in the lot.
I took off onto DC around 8p and about 2 miles out my chain got sucked into my cassette...twice! Jeez, not now. I made it through all the tough stuff and this crap is going to happen now?? Instead of taking the time to mess with it, I just figured it would be easiest to not use my low gear. Problem solved.
I tried to keep a steady pace going out to the Helipad split, stopping a couple of times to listen to the coyotes howling nearby. I'm surprised I didn't see any, the first pack I heard couldn't have been more than 20 feet away!!
|Taking 5 at the DC Bus stop. Lights from the SoMo antennas up on the hill.|
Same could be said for the Helipad climb, it's a 0.7 mile 400 foot climb with a few techy bits to navigate. I wasn't having much of any of it, walking more than I thought I would. I took a few extra minutes at the top, taking in the pitch black views of the DC alley.
I left the Helipad knowing I was now on my way back to the car to finish this beast. Down the Goat trail to DC once more then a series of easy loops, Lower Corona de Loma, Warpaint & Secret led me back to the water tank. As I neared the tank a rider came up behind me to pass, it must've been 11:10p and I had only seen a few riders all day, I thought it was funny I'd see one now!
After the tank I took the flat fast track by the homes into the final push. I rolled back into Pima at 11:30p almost 18 hours after first setting out. Surprisingly, I felt pretty good, I wan't shattered just tired from the long day. What a great way to spend a vacation day. Not sure if I'll do this one again though, may move on to some other ludicrous route. Never say never.
|This map can be purchased at Global Bikes on two pages for $2 ea.|