February 21, 2020

White Tank Regional Park

Twenty-five years...25. That's how long I've been mountain biking here in the desert and yet I had never ridden at White Tank Regional Park over on the west side of town. How did that happen?? I did hike there once...something like 20 years ago, but never on the bike.

I guess part of it was I never really heard a compelling case to drive the hour plus to check it out. I had heard one of the gnarliest trails in the Valley of the Sun, Goat Camp, was there, but that's not really my cup of tea. I'll do it eventually, but I need more rideable miles for that kind of commitment. So, I usually steer my west side rides to the Estrella Ranch area or Black Canyon Trail.

Today was different. My friend, Sara, lives near the park and she's been telling me she'd give me a grand tour if I ever made it out that way. I had a Friday workday where I'd be getting off work early in the day, so half the drive was already done!!

I made the rest of the 45 minute drive and met Sara outside the main entrance. We began the ride on contoured singletrack heading north towards the competitive loops.
A gradual climb got the legs & lungs warmed up quick.

Sara led the way out to the Maricopa Trail for a few miles of fast riding.

Back in the park, the comp loops are wide and fast.

Yes, please. Let's ride some rocks.

Sara was sure to point out all the techy sections she knew I'd enjoy.

This was a scenic, fun loop with a couple of tricky moves, but nothing crazy.

Ready for launch!!

Sara took a short break while I did a quick loop up & around this hill.

A nice switchbacked climb led to a remote backside of the loop.

Back on the fast track, we started to make our way back.

The distant towers on the high point of the White Tank Mtns.

We took a short out-n-back detour on Ford Canyon. Not far beyond this sign the trail begins to get rowdy. Good time to flip it.

We made our way over to Mesquite Canyon, one of the trails I actually knew about and wanted to ride.

Up, up, up we go. A couple of steep grades and a handful of technical moves keep things spicy.

I was finding out quick that this was a leg/lung burner.

Sara makes her way up a bench cut section of trail.

Sweeping singletrack.

Get ready for some hike-a-bike!!

Sara was about at her limit, so we decided to meet back at the bottom after I did a loop through Willow Canyon.

But first, more hiking.

The Willow Canyon exit can be seen on the far hillside.

Soon after the hikey bit, the climbing became divine.

Yeah!! That's the good stuff.

Look at it, just look at it!!

I took a peek at the Willow Canyon elevation profile and knew to take the second entrance in order to ride it mostly downhill or in a CW Loop direction with Mesquite.

I was pleased with my decision. The upper portion before here, was a bit loose, wouldn't be much fun trying to climb it.

Had an AZT feel to it.

Completing the loop with Mesquite, now time to head down the way I came up.

Sara hadn't been waiting too long, as soon we were surrounded by blooming Brittlebush.

Cruising by the horse stables on the Maricopa Trail.
It was a really fun ride and I'm glad Sara was willing to show me around as I'm not sure I would've ridden some of the trails we did. Thanks for the tour!! I'm still surprised it took me so long to get over there, it's worth the drive. I'll definitely be back to sample Goat Camp and probably walk my bike through Ford Canyon.

Thanks Google for the top notch roadside taco stop only a few miles outside the park.


February 17, 2020

Tortolitas: Honeybee & Ridgeline

One of my digital friends from Massachusetts was vacationing with his family in Tucson and reached out to go on a ride. As luck would have it, I was free on a holiday Monday and met up with Craig down in Oro Valley for a tour of the Honeybee & Tortolita trails. The main goal was to take him up on Ridgeline trail and make a loop out of it. The Honeybee trails were more of an access point, but you can ride a bunch of miles just getting to the Ridgeline goods.

We took off from the Big Wash trailhead and cruised the gentle uphill miles to the windmill signaling our split towards the Tortolita trails.
I always seem to get turned around here, missed a turn or two before figuring it out.
Next up was the rugged jeep road climb over the saddle linking the Honeybee trails to the Tortolita trails. Craig was feeling it and almost cleaned the entire thing, while I watched in hike-a-bike mode. My legs weren't firing on the steeper grades on this day.
The second windmill signaled our split towards the Ridgeline trail. Time to climb...again.

The views are spread out the higher you get, keep the pedals turning.

Craig at the main vista. What a view!!

King of the World!! At least that's what it feels like up here.

There's a bit more contoured trail before the rapid decent to Wild Burro trail.

A masterful build. For mountain bikers, by mountain bikers.

Yep, we get to ride ALL the way down there!!

Wild Burro puts the cap on a great looping option.

These trails really have that 'out there' feel. Photo by Craig.

Mt. Lemmon peeking through before we bomb back down the rugged jeep road from earlier in the day.

We had time, so I added in a loop through the Badlands. Craig, soaking up the southwest sun.

Lots of boulders on this section, makes for fun trail routing. Photo by Craig.

The morning was getting long, time to head back. The Santa Catalina Mtns. provide a towering backdrop.

I had one Pliny left in my stash, might as well share it with a fellow east coaster!!
So glad I made the trip south to show Craig around, he's a strong rider and hopefully someday can repay the tour guide duties in Massachusettes. Great riding, amigo, glad the timing worked out.


February 15, 2020

Goldfield Mtns. - Sixteen Stone

Open invite rides. Gotta love 'em. You know the drill, post a ride, 20 people say 'Heck yeah!', a few days later the list sits at 11, a few days before the ride it's 5 and on ride morning maybe one other person shows up. Then you post the pics and 55 people say: That looks awesome!! I'm going on the next one!!

Sound familiar right? Right. So, when I posted an open invite to ride the rugged Goldfield Mtns I was sure to fatten up the ride disclaimer: 'Looking for adventurous riders to join in some exploratory riding, no drop ride, there will be hike-a-bike, slow riding, route finding, conditions unknown in some areas, prepare for a backcountry ride, blah, blah, blah'. I figured I'd get at most one or two suckers...I mean, riding pals to join.

What happened that Saturday morning in February still shocks me: 15 riders showed up, all eager to put tires on unfamiliar terrain even if it meant some walking. It was a mountain biking miracle. Now don't get me wrong, I loved the turnout, but now the pressure was on!! I needed a good enough route to not only keep everyone interested in the ride, but wanting them to come back for more!! Plus, the added mystery of the unknown 1.4 mile trail I had 'kinda' seen on satellite imagery. What could possibly go wrong??

Riders started gathering shortly after 8a for an 8:30 rollout. The goal was to be finished by 12:30. I even had a couple of buddies from San Diego show up with another fella from Cali. Let's do this!!
Eric gets the first shot since he was the first to commit to the ride!!
The first mile or two is nice double track into singletrack. That gets you back into the thick of the Goldfields. We bounced down the initial chunky decent to our first unknown piece of trail. This one was mapped, but I hadn't been on it. Let the hike-a-bike commence!! A short push led us up & over a small saddle and I was immediately on the lookout for my satellite imagery find...

I found the unmapped trail and waited for everyone to regroup here.

The trail dropped into this drainage and provided some technically challenging riding, but most of it was rideable.
The early consensus was approval. I knew there were two climbs on this trail, but were they rideable?

The first one was short and everyone gave it a crack, but we ended up pushing to the saddle.

Good place for a bike pose.

Looking down the other side of the saddle. This looks promising.

The last few of the group make their way up.

Counting myself, that's 16 stoked Goldfield riders!! I'm sure we set an all-time high for the most mtb riders in the Goldfields on a single day. No question.
It got me thinking, this trail needs a name. It came to me on the next downhill navigating over & around some rocks. Remember the band, Bush? Their debut album was titled Sixteen Stone. Kinda seemed fitting that 16 mountain bikers were digging this rocky trail. Just like that, Sixteen Stone was born.

The second uphill was similar to the first, a short attempt at climbing it, then hike-a-bike to the saddle. The ensuing downhill to Willow Springs Tank was an absolute hoot, rugged, narrow singletrack and just steep enough to keep me on edge, but rideable.

Plenty of water too. Always nice to see in the desert.
We were now back on the mapped trails and gave Sixteen Stone the stamp of approval. It's not for everyone, it's rugged, there's plenty of hike-a-bike, but the general vibe was favorable.

I knew the group would like the next trail, Slice-O-Heaven, as it's probably the premiere backcountry trail in the Goldfields. We'd ride the first half of it, then peel off for another short loop on mapped trails that I had yet to ride.

Break in the action.

One by one, riders pop over the saddle.

Entering the 'Sweet spot' of the Goldfields on Slice-O-Heaven.

This would be our second diversion of the day: Anniversary Arch Loop.

Everyone gave this tricky step-up a crack, Steve came close!!

Chad almost pulled it off!!

The approach didn't allow for a lot of momentum.

Evan couldn't quite squeeze through. This move stumped everyone, granted everyone only took one crack at it.

Some hike-a-bike led to this, fine singletrack up top.

Views weren't sucking.

A few of the fellas took the optional rock roll in the distance for extra credit.

Happened to turn around and found Anniversary Arch!! It's not big, but it's cool.
The trail took a couple of splits near here. Some went left, I went right and discovered a nicely routed trail. Jeff ended up on some other trail one ridge over. It looked promising, but it wasn't mapped and looked like it may take more of an effort to figure it out. More on that one on a future post. Stay tuned...

This slightly chunky downhill only took out one tire, not shown.
The Anniversary Arch Loop was really cool, so glad we did it and the reward for the hike-a-bike was worth it IMO. I'll be adding that one to the regular rotation.

Slice-O-Heaven money shot.

Exiting the previous photo on an extended section of slickrock.

Mark and his fatbike are definitely Arizona proud!! Check out some AZ theme ridewear at Crank Style
Amazingly enough we arrived back at the staging area a few minutes early!! Say whaa??? From what I could gather, everyone enjoyed the ride. It helps going in a group setting for something like this or at least having one person that knows the area well. We rolled the dice on a couple sections and were rewarded, doesn't always work out that way, but today was a great day. Thanks to everyone for coming out and having a great attitude. I'd be happy to host another one.

Full photo album: