October 29, 2021

Mt. Lemmon: Incineration

 We camped out in the Rincon Valley to set up the day's ride up on Mt. Lemmon. Scott, Mike and I would go play around up top in the pines and cool temps. This was Scott's old stomping grounds when he lived in Tucson. It had been a while since I rode up there, same with Mike. We both were anxious to ride some new-to-us trails with Scott as our guide.

We staged at the upper Green Mtn. trailhead and began with a steady climb up the Catalina Hwy.

The views over the San Pedro Valley appeared quickly.

Stamp it out, up we go.

We diverted on Mt. Bigelow road for...more climbing and this long forgotten connection. Sweet!!

Found a nice log rollover to play on.

Mike takes a stab.

I'm fairly certain I looked as cool as Scott & Mike, but Mike's itchy shutter finger....

A splash of fall color.

We were bummed we couldn't ride 1918 trail, it's been closed to bikes. Hopefully at some point it'll re-open since it's a great connector trail with stunning scenery.

A short bit more of paved climbing brought us here: Sunset trail.

We had to see how the trail rode these days as it's now part of the AZTR route.

Seems legit. Race Director approved!! Photo by Scott.

It does offer some unique views not seen from the Catalina Hwy.

There's some high quality techy fun.

The trail drops down and across the headwaters of Sabino Creek. Photo by Scott.

A short climb brings you to Marshall Gulch trailhead near Summerhaven.

Back on the AZT, only for a minute.

We rolled through Summerhaven, too early for lunch. So we opted for more climbing, up over 9,000' for a loop down Aspen Draw. Then cookies.

The yellow was poppin' near the ski resort.

Looking down on Oracle Ridge. Doesn't look so bad from here...

One of these days I'm going to ski here. It's the southernmost ski area in the lower 48.

At the top we're treated to sprawling views of Mt. Wrightson.

Short connection to the top of Aspen Draw.
I was very excited to ride this trail on my SSP and dropper post. It didn't disappoint as I easily rode drops that gave me pause on my other times up here.

We were greeted by a carpet of gold too. Photo by Scott.

Perfect timing to be up here!!

Riding the wave of leaves. Photo by Scott.

Good call on Aspen Draw, we almost skipped it.

Even Mike's blurry smile approves!!

What a fun rip.

I got a little too close to the tree and hung up!! Photo by Mike.

All the Autumn colors. Photo by Mike.

I love seeing the aspen trees turn yellow, but it's nice to get variety here. Photo by Mike.

The mad dash for cookies was ON!!

Yes!!! And pizza. Perfecto.

All fueled up, more climbing ensued.

Making our way up Mt. Bigelow.

Now on the opposite side of Oracle Ridge.

The enormity of Mt. Lemmon can be felt up here.

Mt. Bigelow towers. Photo by Mike.

We get things started on Kellogg Mtn. trail. Super fun and some tech.

This would be my first time down Incinerator Ridge.

Amazing vistas most of the way.

Scott rolling through a sequence of shots...

Yeehaw!! Photo by Mike.

Gotta stay focused.

Giant monoliths were a nice surprise.

I walked some, but rode a few sections I know I wouldn't have in the past.
My confidence on the chunk was soaring in spite of a slow-motion crash. It was more of a balance check that I couldn't hold, didn't think much of it. I caught up to the fellas at a rare flat spot. I knew my phone battery was getting low and the next pic was my last.

It almost felt like a different mountain, but it's all Mt. Lemmon.

One final test dropping into the parking area. Photo by Mike.

Incinerator Ridge, what a rush!! Photo by Mike.
That ride had it all: Climbing, flowy trail, technical riding, hike-a-bike, views for days, cool temps, fantastic mid-ride resupply and friends!! Exactly what I was looking for. Note: Lights not needed!!

Back at the van, I plugged in my phone to charge while we grabbed some dinner. Later, I noticed the phone wouldn't power on. Hmmm. Upon further inspection, I saw a crack on the screen, but not my screen protector. Odd. I could tell the phone was working, just couldn't see anything. The brightness control wasn't the issue. It was dead. Dammit. It was the only downer on the entire day.

October 28, 2021

AZT: New Temporal Gulch

 The Arizona Trail Race kicked off on Oct. 28th at 7a. The 800 milers left the Mexican border and then a bunch of us gathered at Parker Canyon Lake to watch the field of 300 & 800 riders roll through. It took a few hours for all the participants to clear the area, but it was fantastic seeing everyone focused, smiling, settling into their adventure.

Afterwards, Mike and I made our way over to Patagonia to grab some lunch at the Ovens of Patagonia. Did I mention they also have fudge? Yes, please.

All fueled, we made our way up SR82 to where the AZT crosses underneath at Big Casa Blanca Canyon. This is where the riders hop off the newly constructed trail of the Canelo Hills West to begin a short stint on pavement. The ATA is busy constructing the next section of singletrack along Temporal Gulch. When complete it'll be a singletrack connection all the way to Gardner Canyon.

We knew a bunch of miles had been finished and wanted to see firsthand how it rode, even if it may be overgrown as reports came out of the Canelo Hills.

There were a couple of vehicles wedged in the small parking area, we found just enough room for ours and made our way over to the trail. Almost immediately the lead 800 rider passed through, Nate Ginzton.

Nate passes under SR82.
We were then greeted by a local from Patagonia, Tomas Jonsson, who was out taking photographs of the riders while also doing much needed trail trimming. Thank you, Tomas!! It was great chatting with him and he is a true AZTR superfan. He also mentioned the Railroad trail leading back to Patagonia had been cleared recently. He warned us of overgrowth about 3 miles up the trail. We thanked him for the info and began our ride on the new singletrack.
Surprise, surprise!! A welcoming gate along the AZT.

Mike takes off into the parched landscape.

The well graded climbing began almost immediately.

My turn on the same turn. Photo by Mike.

Gaining a bit of higher ground, the view back towards Patagonia.

The first of many stunning views of Mt. Wrightson.

We were surprised to see so much water in this stock tank.

We are but a speck in this landscape.

The grass was mighty, yet the trail corridor was relatively clear.

The trail crossed over the bottom of Little Casa Blanca Canyon, then began a series of meandering contoured climbing.

What is this??

A rocket? There HAS to be an interesting story here. Photo by Mike.

The goodness just didn't let up, neither did the burrs & stickers!!

Boom!! I can't wait to add this to the AZTR!! Probably not until fall 2023 though.

The closer we rode to Mt. Wrightson, the more it unveiled.

Almost 8 miles up and we reached the end-of-trail.

Golden hour begins to take hold as we make our way down.

Mike leapfrogged ahead of me when I accidentally followed a well trampled cow path, not pictured.

The ride down flowed as good as we anticipated. Photo by Mike.

Sure is some beautiful countryside around Patagonia.

I swear, there is a trail!! It was there and easy to follow. Photo by Mike.

Returning to the trailside rocket.

Mike bringing it home on the final turns.

Grasshoppers were out in force today.
We debated taking the Railroad trail into Patagonia before nightfall settled in, but we noticed a few riders approaching on Trackleaders and decided to hang around while they rolled through.
Dan was first through.

Steven was next, a local bud from the Phoenix area.

The always upbeat Alexandera, sprained ankle and all!!

Niko was enjoying himself out here.

Shawn was about ready to call it a day.

Brie rounded out the gang as the sun sank low.
It was cool to see the riders pass through, most seemed to be enjoying the ride so far, the Canelo Hills are tough on a good day and the added overgrowth this year only upped the challenge.

This new trail at Temporal Gulch is going to be a real highlight of the route when complete. A huge thanks to the ATA and those involved with building this masterpiece. In the meantime, check out what's been built if you're in the area, it'll put a smile on your face. Please consider becoming an ATA Member as membership funds and donations go a long way in bringing these projects to completion.
In the future, probably 2023, the AZTR will replace the paved riding on SR82 & Hog Canyon with the new singletrack: Green & dark blue on the map. This will make a direct connection to the trail in Gardner Canyon. This also will put the bike route on the AZT from Sunnyside Canyon all the way to Hope Camp near Saguaro Nat'l Park by Tucson!!