Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sunday Brings a Change

Saturday afternoon and evening treated us with classic southern Arizona fair winter weather. The air was calm and warm but not hot. There were some high clouds, but nothing that looked threatening in the least. I wore shorts and sandals even as darkness slowly settled on the desert.

We had been watching an NWS forecast for rain showers Sunday since before we left home. But we simply could not believe that it would happen. After dinner I spoke to AdventureLee and confirmed plans to meet him along the Florence-Kelvin Highway near the Gila River around 8 AM in the morning. We all agreed that rain seemed unlikely. Gary and I set alarms and went to sleep assuming that we would get up, break camp, and go have an adventure in the remote desert way north of Tucson.

Between 4 and 5 AM rain suddenly started hammering on the roof of the tPOD. I stayed in bed until my alarm went off but didn't really sleep, it was too loud. After my alarm went off I went looking for Gary. He was up, making coffee on the tailgate of his little Toyota pickup, bustling about in a rain jacket.

I called Lee who was way out north, 30 miles down a dirt road. We agreed quickly that our large planned ride was not a good idea for that Sunday. I invited Gary into the camper and we sat drinking coffee for a while, then decided to head out to find a coffee shop, hopefully with WiFi, to get some breakfast and information.

We broke camp and headed east into Tucson. It was early, and we flailed around for a while trying to find a place to go. Finally we found a restaurant in Oro Valley, north and west of Tucson proper. Turned out it did not have WiFi (what?!?), so we ordered a hot breakfast and then made our way to a library. We did not expect to find it open, but hoped it wouldn't be long. Libraries are a great place for a traveler to hang out when there's down time. Turned out that the only Pima County libraries that would open on Sunday opened at 1 PM. We learned this by accessing the network from the parking lot. We also reviewed the most up-to-date forecast, which said that Monday should be fine but that Wednesday could be another rain day. Damn!

After a while, we started wandering around in the very light rain and saw that west of us there was a break in the clouds. Blue sky. And as time went by, it seemed to be getting closer. Maybe we would get to ride. I was thinking about where to camp when the ground is really wet. Out on State Trust Land somewhere in the remote desert seemed a bit risky, since we could have trouble with roads and could have trouble finding a spot that wasn't a mud bog. Catalina State Park seemed like a really prudent choice since you don't need to leave pavement to get to a camp site, the 50 Year Trail heads right out of the park, and there are amenities like showers. A shower sounded really good. And Catalina State Park is just a really nice place, and not expensive either.

As we discussed this, the rain stopped altogether. So we decided not to waste any time and just get on with it.

We got in there, got a nice site, and started kitting up for a ride. We looked at the map they gave us and saw the option to take the Sutherland Trail back to the park rather than a simple out-and-back on 50 Year. I had seen the option before, but never had ridden that trail. So we decided to take that option on our return if it worked out.

At the start, I looked off to the west and saw a dark cloud headed our way. The rain started again just as soon as we started climbing out of the park on 50 Year. It's pretty sandy, so the trail condition wasn't a problem for the most part, but my wool jersey was quickly getting soaked. I grumbled, than stopped to put on my jacket. When I stopped, I noticed that the landscape had been made dramatically beautiful by the rain and mixed light of a localized rain squall.

I did not take many pictures on the Arizona Trail near Colossal Cave because I have photographed it so many times before. Some of the photos I included were actually archive photos from years past. And I didn't take many in the Tucson Mountains because I was busy. But I took quite a few on this ride. Check 'em:

The Sutherland Trail option turned out to be quite a bit more interesting than I had expected. It started with a pretty long, steep climb on bowling balls. Reminded me of home ;)

When we encountered the singletrack, we found a very technical, very interesting trail. The huge sweeping views were amazing.

Even though I've ridden 50 Year quite a few times in the past, and I wanted to see new and interesting trails on this visit to AZ, I found Sunday's ride to be fresh, challenging, and quite interesting. And as Gary pointed out, it was a bonus. We woke up in the morning assuming that we would have to wait out the rain all day, but we wound up getting a really good ride in.

And then we got showers.

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