Friday, January 26, 2007

Tucson Mountain Park

I have been jonesing for a field trip down to Tucson Mountain Park after talking to some riders on the Old Pueblo race course about the riding there. I had a long list of stuff that needed to be done in town including a critical Full Shower not a dribbly little trailer shower, which hits the poop tank pretty hard even when you barely get wet. So I headed to town.

As usual, I got going too late and hit Tucson just as the lunchtime rush was in full swing. Also I had a map deficit, so I was pretty much going from memory on how to get to Tucson Mountain Park. I had spent more time than I should have online looking for beta about Tucson Mountain Park riding. Surprisingly, there wasn’t much. I considered stopping at Oro Valley Cycles to ask them. In hindsight, I think I should have done that.

When I got into the park I expected to find trailheads and maps. I did not really find that. It really seemed to be a kind of drive-thru attraction. I finally parked at a scenic view parking lot near Gates Pass and asked a stranger for any info. He told me that the Golden Gate Trail, which had sounded like the best in the park from what I could find on the net, was just over the other side of the pass. Good enough for me, it was already after 1:00 PM so I took off looking for any trail that headed off to the south.

A wide but steep and ledgy trail headed off from another scenic view parking area over there, and I rode up that. After climbing hard for about a quarter mile, I came to a trail junction with actual signage! Golden Gate Trail took off to the south. Yes!

Right away it got boy-howdy technical; a descent down a series of stairs, steep and windey. I had visions of a broken wrist and a back full of cactus spines. I rode much of it, but every once in a while I took a humble weenie walk respecting the fact that I was alone and that I really do not want to screw up my goal to do the 24 Hours in less than a month. Soon the wild technical drop leveled off, and it got to be a nice picturesque desert trail. 

There were unmarked trail junctions happening all over. I took one of them up when I missed the line of stones that marked the real route and got up into a nest of brush, rock and cactus. When I decided to turn around and go back, I briefly found myself lost not even able to find the way I had come. It was kind of a surreal experience. Like me and my bike had just been dropped into the desert on a steep slope full of thorny obstacles.

When I found my way back to the trail, it quickly became a very fun, flowy experience for a couple of sweet miles. Then it ended at the road I had driven in on. WTF? I found a trail on the other side, actually labeled Prospectors trail, so I took that. It was really nice, a little more rubbly than Golden Gate had been, but very rideable. Then it ended at a fence with a motorized vehicle barrier. On the other side was a hodge-podge of four-wheeler routes. Ick.

I turned around and rode back. At the same trail junction where I got off the trail on the way out, I got turned around and headed the wrong way. Hrumpf! Then I got back on track and soon started climbing the technical part. It was mostly hike-a-bike, but every once in a while I could do a completely anaerobic effort and make a small series of climbing stairs. When I got back to the marked junction, I saw one marked “Gates Pass” which was roughly where I was parked. I took that trail, which started out 4 feet wide, quickly narrowed to singletrack, then just sort of became impossible to follow. I wound up climbing back up the road.

So, it was a mixed bag; some wonderful terrain, some wonderful trail, great to be back in the Saguaro forest again, but really uncivilized in terms of trail markings and information. By the time I got back to the vehicle it was 3:30 and I had gone less than 10 miles. There was a trail that headed north from my parking lot, so I decided to spend half an hour checking it out. Again, at first it seemed pretty much bonafide, then it started to braid. The option I took became very overgrown. I got scratched up pretty well trying to follow it for another couple 100 yards, then gave up and turned back. Hrumpf!

I drove back toward the city of Oro Valley, looking for a YMCA I had noted on the net. Heinous traffic again. I’ve spent quite a bit of time fighting Tucson’s traffic this week. I’m over it! Makes my little enclave up north of Oracle seem pretty nice!

I got the shower, went to Safeway and filled a pretty detailed grocery list, then went to Target and got some key items, then I did laundry cleaning some key items. By the time I rolled out onto my familiar dirt road toward the POD it was almost 8:00 PM. I hadn’t had dinner yet and I was starving.

Screw field trips, I’m going to stay close to the POD until the trail work day on Sunday.

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