Saturday, February 6, 2010

Tucson Mountain Park and Brown Mountain

After we thoroughly examined the Arizona Trail both north and south of Colossal Cave Park east of Tucson, we headed west. We had a map and we had a couple trails that we wanted to ride: Brown Mountain and Golden Gate.

We got a campsite at Gilbert Ray Campground just west of Gates Pass. Then we ate some lunch and went about finding Brown Mountain.

It wasn't far, but right away we found signage to be spotty. After just one or two wrong turns, we found what certainly seemed to be the Brown Mountain Trail. We traversed along the base of a rocky ridge, encountering lots of technical features and tight switchbacks. Then we reached the end of the ridge, and the trail went up and up. It was the warmest day of our trip so far, and I broke a true and enthusiastic sweat.

It was up and down, and it was technical.

Truly beautiful trail.

Which reminded me of my pretty little Kathy, who couldn't come with me on this trip because of the limits of her vacation time.

Here is Gary on a rare smooth bit.

The conclusion of the Brown Mountain loop took us pretty much back to Gilbert Ray. So from there we headed south, seeking the Golden Gate Trail. There are a combination of singletrack and doubletrack links that we used to get south. We took the Campground Trail to the Sego Trail to the Gates Pass Trail to the Mariposa Trail to the Avery Bryce Trail to the Kerr Jar Trail to the Golden Gate Trail. Or at least that's what we assumed, because non of them had signs. We just went by what it looked like our map was showing us. And for the most part it made sense.

Then we climbed up what we assume was Golden Gate. And it was really nice. It was a fairly gradual climb with the occasional technical feature--a climbing ledge or narrow rock gap. Then it seemed to just go back out to the Gates Pass Road. There was an option that went right, in the direction we assumed we needed to go, but it looked like a faint hiking trail.

We opted to bag it and try to find the Orcut Trail. By our map it looked like this could be accomplished either by riding right down the Gates Pass Road or by taking the Ironwood Trail to the Chaparral Trail. There was a sign for Ironwood, and we took the trail behind the sign. But then it got confusing. There were branches and braids and intersections appearing constantly. Some were marked with cairns. We tried to stick with what looked like the "main trail" but it was hard to tell most of the time.

Eventually we just looked for trails that seemed to be going out to the road. We took a couple that seemed to go the right way, then turned to go either back where we came from or in the other direction. I think it's just too easy to make a trail in that environment. You really don't need any tools, you just start riding something.

But of course, it all worked out. We got out to the road, we found the start of the Orcut Trail, and we were on our way. Orcut had some moments. There were parts of it that were doubletrack, but even some of that was technical enough to be fun.

Verdict on Tucson Mountain Park:
  1. It's incredibly beautiful.
  2. You need a guide or something better than the crappy map we printed out at the library from the internet.
  3. I want to see the portion to the southeast, Starr Pass and all that.
But tomorrow, elsewhere. We had plans to meet up with AdventureLee way up north to see a remote and rare section of the AZT. Alarms were set for O Dark Thirty.


Ed said...

Beautiful! Keep 'em coming....


Gary B. said...

It's cool you're spacing out each portion of the trip in it's own blog post. Fun! I'm sure missing that country right now, even Brown Mtn sounds good. :-)

I hope your trip home was uneventful.