January 9, 2016

AZT Jamboree: Tucson Mtn. Park Edition

Early January means it's time for the annual AZT Jamboree charity ride. This year Mother Nature had other plans for us as the desert took in 4+ days of steady rain right up to the day prior to the event. The powers that be made a last minute call to change the venue from the Arizona Trail southeast of Tucson (high probability of encountering death mud!) to Tucson Mountain Park (TMP). The trails on the west side of town are mostly rocky and drain very well after a storm.

Everything was packed...sort of...and I rolled down to the new meeting point next to Snyder Hill where a bunch of RVs were scattered about.  As I readied myself for the day's ride I realized I forgot one item - bratwurst!! I had everything but the main item, gah!! I left them sitting in my fridge. Thankfully, Rob had my back with a few extras for the post-ride chow down.

Jeff & Nancy arrived and along with Rob, the four of us headed out for the day. The ride began on a stretch of pavement, but soon turned to dirt. The dirt gave way to a washed out drainage channel that was fun to ride. Next up was a technical masterpiece, challenging both your line choice and lungs. It didn't take long for my sunglasses to fog up and the layers to come off.
Leapfrogged with Emanuela early on.
Catching my breath at the saddle before heading down.
One thing I really like about TMP is although the trails tend to be rocky, there isn't a whole bunch of loose rock. It has more of a South Mountain feel to it. I recognized some of the trails from my one other ride here, but most of those were ridden the opposite direction. That didn't seem to matter much, both ways are fun.

We looped around towards the eastern side of TMP where we were greeted by views of the city.
Downtown Tucson, snow up on Mt. Lemmon shrouded by clouds.
Rob giving chase to Jeff & Nancy.
Low head clearance under the Ajo Hwy.
We emerged from the hunched over culvert crossing to find Matt Nelson, Director of the AZT, doling out hand pressed espressos and empanadas!! Score. Not only were we getting a caffeine fix, we also parted with sweet AZT espresso cups. Love some good AZT swag.
Unexpected SAG stop.
The route continued generally NW along a real nice stretch of singletrack. The climbing began on the Yetman Wash trail, but it was contoured so good I almost forgot we were going uphill.

The ensuing push up to Gates Pass was a quick reminder that the trails do indeed kick up in a hurry.
From where we came.
Gates Pass per the signage.
Time for a white knuckle techy descent.
I really enjoyed the run down Golden Gate. Just enough chunk to raise my heartrate, but mostly rideable for this ledge drop challenged rider. We were all smiles by the time we bottomed out near Gates Pass rd.
No carnage!!
Our next destination: Brown Mountain.
But first, Jeff wanted some playtime.
It was mostly fast riding over to Brown Mtn, lots of short ups & downs crossing drainage channels along the way. Near the end the others got a bit ahead of me when I noticed the track switchbacking down into a wash. I yelled for them to stop, but they were gone. So I decided to see what the wash was all about. Sandy. Duh. But it was rideable after the recent rains and I soon caught back up to Rob on the flanks of Brown.
This wash almost looks like a jeep road.
The lower portion of Brown Mtn. climbs very well, in fact the upper part is a blast too just be prepared for the gut punch of techy bursts on the way up. There was a bit of HAB, but nothing what I expected based on stories I heard in the past. Did I mention the views?
The rain cleansed air provided crisp images on the horizon.
Expansive valley floor to the west.
Meanwhile, up on Brown Mountain.
High above the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
Superb trail between the upper summits.
We stopped for a rum toast at the first summit, dual purposing our new AZT espresso cups. So far, I was really enjoying Brown Mountain.
Brown Mountain crest.
Soaking up the panorama of Gates Pass.
Nancy super excited about the upcoming chunkalicious descent.
Nancy took off ahead, then the rest of us bounced our way down the south side of the mountain. There were a few dicey switchbacks that I didn't clean, but all-in-all it was a fun challenging drop down.

The trails almost immediately opened up to fast buffed out singletrack. It was a nice change of tempo and a great way to wind down the final miles.

We popped out into a trailhead area where we found Emanuela standing next to her bike. Front tire deflated, we asked if she needed anything to get going again. Unfortunately she made a close acquaintance with a cactus on the descent from Brown Mountain. Her friends spent 30 minutes plucking needles from her before heading off to fetch a vehicle. She was still in good spirits and looking forward to the post-ride festivities. We wished her well and rode on.
Odd sight as we pedaled by.
We found more chairs scattered in the desert as we approached a campground. I guess the residents were staking their claims for sunset views.
 A few miles of fast twisting singletrack dumped us out onto a stretch of pavement leading us back to Snyder Hill. Another AZT Jamboree in the books. Not a bad Plan B at all!! Nice work Scott & Chad for all the last minute reorganization. We couldn't have asked for a nicer day.

The campfire was stoked, meat cooked, beers downed and stories shared among friends. Always a great way to wind down after a day on the trails. Until next year.

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