September 29, 2023

Tucson: Fantasy Island

 The Fantasy Island trails in Tucson have long been on my list to ride. For one reason or another I hadn't made it there. Not entirely sure why, I've always heard they were fun, but maybe not worth a 2 hour drive south as a destination. Perhaps. The locals often hold fun events there and the trails have a lot of bunny themes.

I finished up my Rincon Valley Loop, had lunch at the Rockin K market and figured I had a couple hours to check out what the Fantasy Island trails had to offer. I should add it was early afternoon and hovering around 100ยบ.

I parked at the southern end and I believe you need a State Trust Land Recreation Permit to ride here. I have one, so I was good.

Pay attention to where you park.

I immediately was greeted by a bunny...and a cholla ball to my ankle while taking this photo!! Ouch.

Good signage and one-way trails, a recipe for speed!!

Passing through the junkyard.

The area has seen recent urban development, nice to see some trail access remain. This cut through the Southeast Haughton Area Recharge Project.

Water fountains too, not chilled. I checked.

Cool!! My kind of trails!! I have a side hobby collecting license plates.

This would be the Christmas Tree Loop. Duh.

The trail goes over then loops around and can go under, if you're small enough. I am not.
I was getting warm and starting to feel the accumulation of doing two rides in the warm weather on the same day. There were more ups and downs than I expected too. Fun stuff. 

Since these trails are one-way there aren't a whole lot of short cuts available. These trails pack a lot of miles in a small area, like a bowl of spaghetti. Everything is well documented on the Trailforks app, so I tried to find a short way back, but I was in a bit of no-man's land. It was Friday and hot, so I figured there wouldn't be anyone else out on the trails. I made a short connection back to the Bunny trail going the 'wrong' way. Didn't see a soul, so it worked out just fine, not recommended on a popular ride day though.

Back near the start.

The signs are marked Wrong Way near the trailhead.
I was able to ride a good portion of the trails, but still need to check out the main loop in the NW corner. I'll definitely be back, it was much more fun than I thought it would be and it wasn't all boring flat trail with no character. You can tell a lot of love has been put into this trail system by the locals. They lost a section of the trails a few year ago when a housing development was put in. Hopefully the remaining trails are here to stay. It's a great system right in the east side of Tucson. Check 'em out.


Rincon Valley Loop

 Things were moving along this year as the AZTR Grand Depart approached. Then I received an email from Saguaro Nat'l Park asking if the route used the Hope Camp trail? Why yes, it does and has done so for 8 years or so. I went back and forth a couple of times via email to figure out why they were now requesting a Special Use Permit. Long story short, I wasn't getting one. So, barely three weeks before riders from all over the globe come to challenge themselves on the route, I have to make another last minute change. Ugh.

The thing is, the Hope Camp 'trail' in Saguaro Nat'l Park isn't much of a trail, it's a rocky jeep road. The good trail is outside the park leading to it. I was really bummed about the possibility of having to remove that section from the route in favor of using X-9 Ranch Rd as we had done in the past before Hope Camp was opened to bikes.

I began poking around on some maps and ride apps for the area. I turned on the heatmap layer and zoomed in. Wait, what is this?? I could see a faint line leaving the AZT right before the park boundary, zigzagging along the outside of the boundary out to a dirt road. I toggled over to satellite view. Sure enough, this trail was visible!! The running joke here is: it looks rideable via satellite!! To my surprise Google streetview had the entire area mapped out almost all the way to where this singletrack trail met the dirt road. I couldn't see any private property signs on Google streetview, only gated communities on all the side streets within the paved community. It was looking good. Time to drive to Tucson (again) to find out.

I staged off Pistol Hill Rd. aiming to ride a few miles of sweet AZT over to this unknown trail. I had carefully mapped out the mileage so I'd pay attention when I got close.

Buffed out AZT below the Rincon Mtns.

Crossing X-9 Ranch Rd.

There it is!!
The social trail was fairly obvious, but I figured it would be a wise decision to build up a larger cairn at the turnoff and trim back the leading bush. I had my handy bungee cord / lopper setup on my bike for quick access.

The trail immediately dumps into this sandy wash, but it was rideable and you only had to get around the far tree on the left.

The trail then ascended out of the wash and was easy to follow. Only needed minor trimming.

It doesn't get a lot of use, but enough to follow.

It rode quite well too, which was an added bonus.

The barbed wire fence marks the Saguaro Nat'l Park boundary. Staying on the correct side now.

Houses getting near, almost to the end of the trail.

The trail leads to a dirt road after 0.9 miles. Perfecto!!

Same view as above, looking west.

Still looking west from the top of the hill in the previous photo. The road was in great condition. I assume it gets regular maintenance since there are quite a few homes out here.

Looking back north towards the Rincon Mtns. No shortage of views here.

The dirt roads even have street names.

Another short climb...

...followed by a long fast straightaway.

Turning south, the dirt road gets more mainstream.
I encountered an SUV approaching from the opposite direction, or at least I thought it was. As I got closer, I realized it was backing up. Well, not exactly backing up, rather driving backwards about the same speed I was riding. Odd. The dirt turned to pavement and I pulled over to grab a quick snack. The SUV had backed onto the divided pavement and was now attempting to turn around, quite unsuccessfully I might add. Actually, I'm not entirely sure what they were trying to do as they drove over the median curb. Eventually, they gave in, drove straight and then turned into one of the side gated communities. Good grief. Perhaps if you're lacking sufficient driving skills, you shouldn't drive a Suburban. Dunno. Meanwhile, I sat on the side of the road watching the entertainment.

Now in the high end community.

Easy spinning out to Old Spanish Trail.
While poking around on satellite view earlier in the week, I noticed a dirt pathway running parallel to the Old Spanish Trail, but it was a deadend. I wondered if it in fact went through now since I had no idea how old the satellite imagery was. One way to find out.

The sculpted dirt path was a nice find instead of riding along the busy Old Spanish Trail.

The dirt pathway did punch through, then became paved.

The pathway brought me all the way to the old routing along Camino Loma Alta.
I love it when scouting rides turn out better than anticipated. In fact, this was such a success, it's a better route than the routing through Hope Camp. Plus, it gets riders to the Rocking K market quicker.

For the back half of my ride I wanted to link a few trails in the Vail Vortex system over to the AZT. The Vail Vortex is a series of social trails on State Trust Land on the opposite side of the Old Spanish Trail. I backtracked along the OST to where Trailforks showed an entrance, but it was aggressively signed 'Private Property, No Trespassing'. However, there was a note on the sign indicating where the new access point was located only a few hundred yards down the road. *Note: After the ride, I updated Trailforks to reflect this change

It was wide open, fast desert to begin with.

Lots of Prickly Pear out there.

Huge mountain views all around.

Narrow singletrack, twists, turns and heavy dose of vegetation keep you focused.

Trail junction, time to make a loop.

The Vail Vortex trails tie directly into the AZT just south of Pistol Hill Rd.

Post ride lunch at the Rockin K market.

It's a very popular resupply point during the AZTR.

This shows the change in the AZTR routing: Blue is old route, red is new. Vail Vortex trails are down in the empty space at the bottom, center of the map.
This was a really fun route and would be easy to add more looping options if you want more mileage. You can also connect to the AZT via La Posta Quemada Ranch where you can find water at the La Selvilla CG.


September 24, 2023

Prescott Circle Trail: DNF

 The Prescott Circle Trail has been on my list for, well forever, it seems. I rode it a bunch of years ago, but it wasn't officially finished back then. Last year I tried it and made it about halfway through before I decided I wasn't feeling it and was getting short on time.

The forecast was looking decent, low 80's for a high, and I was feeling good. This isn't an easy ride, plus I was going to do it AES style by starting at the east Ranch Trail parking area. That meant a 4 mile climb just to reach the Circle trail. It would also mean a nice 4 mile descent to finish. Total distance was about 68 miles with a boatload of climbing.

Cool logo too.

Steady grade the entire way. Now at the Circle Trail junction along the Badger Trail.

View to the west as the trail contours the hillside.

Thumb Butte and Granite Mtn. overlook Prescott.

Such a fun way to start the ride.

WTH?? Anyone?

The contouring seems to go on forever.

Nice long descent to SR69.

Sundog Trail approaching Watson Lake.

Thick canopy in the wetlands.

Change in scenery cometh.

The massive Granite Dells.

There are some extremely technical trails here.

Cool connector trail over the rocks.

Bypassed the festival activities.

Humphrey's Peak, highest point in Arizona, makes an appearance on the right.

I was about to begin my least favorite part of the route, the approach to Granite Mtn. The trail is just loose and steep enough to not favor riding. I made it through that section and as I was getting back into the groove of pedaling I felt that unwelcomed hint of an impending leg cramp. Dang it. Sure enough a few pedal strokes later, I came to a screeching halt. I had been drinking well so far, even stopped at the convenience store on route a few miles earlier for a mid-ride chocolate milk and frozen Snickers bar. That never lets me down!!

Well, this day was different. I continued on, battling twinges of cramps in both quads for a few miles. Ugh. I was about at the halfway point of the ride, similar location to where I had bailed on my last attempt due to time. Hmmm, what to do. I really wanted to finish the ride, but I also wanted to RIDE the route, not be forced to walk a ton of it due to cramps. My pace had slowed considerably over the last hour and I didn't have lights. Say what?? Yeah, I know, I should know better by now. I hadn't hooked up my new dynamo light yet and for some reason I left my helmet light at home because, you know, I won't need it.

So, my lack of preparation was kind of biting me in the ass at the moment. My legs still hadn't really come around yet, so I made the call to cut the route short by heading back through town. Not the optimal routing, but I needed to get back to the car. I texted K to let her know of my plans, but as I made my way to my escape plan, my legs came around. I thought to myself, let's continue on route a bit farther, and bail near Thumb Butte. I did just that.
Break time, contemplating the rest of my day.

Making my way to the road exit, my legs began to feel good. Yay!!

Back in the tall trees, the good stuff.

Blazin' fast dirt road section.

In the heart of the P-Town trails.

Happy Halloween!!

Contoured climbing.

Thumb Butte comes into view along my exit trail.

Now, the paved portion of my day.

Cruising through downtown on a gorgeous day.
I had settled back in to the ride and it was still mid-afternoon. I really wasn't jazzed about finishing my day on the tarmac. Plan C was hatched as I made my way through town. I'd turn right and climb the Senator Hwy and rejoin singletrack at my earliest convenience. That way I could tie back into the Circle Trail near the Ranch Trail staging area. From there it would be about 9 miles back to the car with the final 6 or so mostly downhill. That was something to get stoked about.

Just your typical east coast scene right here in AZ.

Leaving the neighborhoods and bike lanes behind, the climbing continues.

Back on singletrack, Upper Feldmeir trail.
I crossed back over the Senator Hwy and began the Ranch Trail. It was 5:30p on the dot. Remember earlier when I said I didn't have lights? I wasn't too concerned even though Ranch Trail has some climbing to start. I figured I wouldn't make it back to the car before sunset, but it would still be plenty light out.
What I didn't account for were the return of leg cramps. Those blindsided me barely half a mile into the Ranch Trail climb. Ouch.
Quick cramp break over Goldwater Lake.

Ugh, it's barely uphill and I'm walking. Progress was agonizingly slow. Tick tock, tick tock.
What made these cramps so difficult to deal with was it wasn't just one muscle, both quads, both hamstrings. Completely locking down. Sometimes I could continue if I walked, other times I had to stand there and wait it out. It was beyond frustrating. I knew pretty quick I was going to get epic'd out here. The sun set around 6:20p and I was still over 6 1/2 miles from the car, still climbing. Grrrrrr.

I finally topped out in the waning light.
I could at least get on the bike and coast. My legs were slowly cooperating, but it was now dark. My only saving grace out there was the 3/4 full moon that had just lit up the night sky. It's amazing how well your eyes can adjust. I could see enough to point the tire in the unobstructed path, only becoming extremely difficult when I'd cross through a large shadow.

The views didn't suck.
I was shocked that I didn't crash at all, only had to stop and walk a few sections due to darkness. Let's just say it was a very memorable descent!! I think I spooked a few trailside campers who were sitting around their campfire when I rolled by. I'm positive they couldn't see me, only heard my freewheel whirring. I said 'Hello' while laughing and could hear them mumble something along the lines of 'How can he see where he's going??'

Done & dusted. Another in a long line of getting epic'd on the trail. It was now 7:40p.
One of these rides I'm going to complete this damn route. Maybe I'll try again in spring or perhaps soon before the snow flies, but I'll have my lights next time.

Strava link.