April 13, 2019

96 Ranch

I've been meaning to get some training rides in with Jason & Jennifer Hanson since they live in an area ripe with remote dirt roads. Today was the day. Our schedules finally aligned and I left the routing up to them. My only stipulation was I needed to be back by 6:00p or a 3 1/2 hour ride. They suggested we take a spin out to the withering 96 Ranch. Sounded cool, let's go!!

We started heading south on Barkersville Rd., a nicely graded dirt road angled slightly uphill to necessitate pedaling.
Heading west on Smoke Rd. New-to-me dirt.

Smoke Rd. was in surprisingly good condition considering it must see far less traffic than Barkersville Rd.

Arriving at the remnants of 96 Ranch tucked in a valley of the Ninetysix Hills.

Relics of a place withering to time.

This adobe structure was the best preserved of the bunch.

The compound was spread out, I wonder what life was like in its heyday.

Saguaros lining the road, creating a stately fenceline.

The pillaged insides of the adobe structure, bees buzzing nearby.

A sunken storage room taking advantage of the natural cooling effects.
Another car arrived with some would-be explorers, so we began plotting our return ride. It had only taken a little over an hour to reach 96 Ranch and we really didn't want to go back the way we came. A quick delve into the area topo maps revealed a possible loop continuing west on Smoke Rd., then south on some random dirt road to link into Freeman Rd. This would then bring us back to Barkersville Rd. Sounded good, so we pedaled west.

Oh, snap!!

A splash of color at the top of the pass.

We found our turnoff and to our surprise, it was very rideable!! Lots of lupines too.

I think this is near Gato Tank, things began to get interesting here.
Our beautiful 2-track morphed into well defined game trail singletrack. It continued in the direction we wanted to go and matched the topo map. We were golden for a mile or so. Then the game trail began to split and slowly fade to nothing. We were now in full bushwhack mode. The topo map was showing a perpendicular road approaching, one we wanted to be on. Our wandering wasn't getting us any closer to it due to heavy vegetation surrounding a wash we needed to cross. Eventually, we found a decent place to cross and soon arrived at the road...with a barbed wire fence separating us.

No trail here, but sacrifices were made.

Jason displays the fine art of hoisting your bike over barbed wire.
The road was very promising and things began looking up.

Then we hit unrideable sand!! This went on & off for a while.

A tale of two halves: Sand to the right, packed dirt to the left.
Jason and I were riding near each other when he noticed a Gila Monster on the side of the road camouflaged by a shadow.

He was trying to get away before I snapped a shot!! Making a dash for the bushes.

By far the coolest desert animal out there. I've lost count of my sightings, somewhere between 16-20 all within the past 6 years.
 We finally made our connection to Freeman Rd. and I was a bit disheartened to see we were near mile marker 3. I took a peek at the time...uh oh. It was 5:30p and I knew we wouldn't be finished in 30 minutes. Quick calculation had us still 25 miles away!!

I made the call home to apologize early for being late!! We had dinner plans. Gah! Jennifer put a call out to Shelby to come get us, but had to leave a message. So we continued on.

A short bit later we received confirmation that Shelbly was on her way. I was still going to be late, but hopefully, not too late.
Freeman Rd. was lined with purple.

Golden hour hues take over.

Our bailout arrives after about 8 more miles of riding. Thanks, Shelby!!
I ended up being an hour late. The route was very neat, but I'd do a bit more research on the connection between Gato Tank and Freeman Rd. It's definitely a loop I'd do again. Thanks for the tour of sorts Jennifer & Jason. Let's do it again soon.


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