June 25, 2016

Sky Island Fun

It's a natural reaction here in the Valley to head north when simmer is in full swing, as it is now. I like to do my rides a little different than most I would say. Shannon proposed a day cruising around the Mt. Lemmon summit trails and then threw this gem on top of it: 'We could ride Oracle Ridge as an out-n-back (OnB)'. Yes! Yes, we could. The caveat being we both knew when the shitshow on Oracle Ridge began, so we'd just turn around beforehand.

We met up and took off for the cool temps of Summerhaven. There was already cloud cover and a few sprinkles hit the windshield on the way up the Catalina Highway. The AZ monsoon season is starting to rev it's engine, we'd need to be wary of our surroundings all day as the storms up top can be wicked.

We really didn't have a set route or goals for the day, no GPS track to follow, just pick a trail and ride. Old school style. 'Wanna go ride Aspen Draw?' she asked, yep, let's go.
It was 66ยบ, a little humid, 1 1/2 miles into the ride and I was sweating like crazy!!
A 3 mile road grunt got things going in a hurry.
We reached the dropoff area for the DHers and I arrived first, waiting on the opposite side of the parking lot for Shannon to round the bend. At first she wasn't too keen on riding all the way to the top as the trail up there takes a roundabout way back to where we were. I think Shannon knew what I wanted to do when she arrived. Up we went.
That turkey is riding on air!!
Ye shall not pass.
Meadow trail.
This would make a cool spot for camp.
A bit hazy down below, but still tremendous views.
Took a short OnB towards Sammie Ridge, grunting our way back up to the trees.
Hopefully the guy in the lookout tower has a relaxing season.
Top of the ski runs.
The payoff!! Cruising down Aspen Draw. Photo by Shannon.
Roots, rocks & ruts create different riding challenges than what we're normally used to.
Focused on the line.
Did I get transported back east? Photo by Shannon.
We had been messin' around on the upper part of the mountain for over two hours!! Time for a lunch break. A pulled pork BBQ sandwich hit the spot as we watched the interesting crowd come & go at Sawmill Run.

It was now time for the main event: Oracle Ridge!! Oh, the stories abound about this trail. You'll hear tales of the Traverse-O-Death, miles of HAB, exposure, steep rubbly jeep roads, catclaw, etc. Most of these come from riders taking on the AZT300/750 race in April. Both Shannon and I have done the full Oracle Ridge descent. No doubt, it's tough and some of those descriptors are accurate, but not on this ride. Much to our friends' surprise, we're smarter than that!! We were only planning on riding out about 2 miles, then turning around before the trail completely goes to shit. Believe it or not, those first two miles are really good!! Only a few short HAB's here and there to mix it up.
We were both surprised to see this section of ferns, practically hid the trail.
The lone down tree.
Oof!! Photo by Shannon.
Plenty of non-thorny vegetation for a change.
Most of the trail up top contours nicely.
Way too much fun being had!!
Surveying the land. Photo by Shannon.
Down the knife edge!!
This made for a nice photo op after I went OTB negotiating a step-down turn!!
Our turnaround spot near Dan Saddle.
This was a great location to toast our route choice of the day. Cheers to you Shannon!! 
Ahh, yes. There's the HAB. Oracle Ridge will always get it's pound of salt. I was stabbed by a pointy succulent in my finger, bleeding like a stuck pig for a few minutes.
Plenty of time for a tech session!! Cleaned it.
High above Biosphere 2 on Biosphere 1.
Alpine flowers beginning to pop while the desert blooms are but a distant memory. Photo by Shannon.
We wrapped up our super rad epic ride of massive proportions back near Sawmill Run. We neglected our final climb sprint challenge though, a little end-of-ride competition we started last year on our Temporal Gulch ride. We'll need a make-up climb!! I doubt our legs were too tired, we blistered the pacing all day averaging a staggering 2.8 mph!! Those are the best kind of rides.

What's better than a post-ride dinner plate sized fresh baked chocolate chip cookie? Not much. Unfortunately, everyone else in Summerhaven had the same idea and the line wrapped around the deck at the Cookie Cabin. Drat. Next time!!

We managed to stay dry the entire day, but on the way down the mountain the rumbles turned into a deluge. Typical this time of year during the monsoon flow. It was raining so heavy we had to yell at each other in the car. WHAT!?! The rain dropped the temps in Tucson down to a pleasant low-70's. By the time I got home in Queen Creek it was 105. Bleh.
Yeah, we drove through that.
Thanks for the great ride Shannon, so much fun!! Isn't that what it's all about?

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