Saturday, November 29, 2008

A tour of the riverpath

A few weeks ago, I decided to try out the Rillito River Path, as I had never ridden it. I looked at a few maps, and determined I could potentially get from my house to the Sweetwater trails on mostly bike path and river paths, minimizing road time. So one day I pulled out my trusty hardtail mountain bike and set off to see if I could do it and find a route. I settled on the hardtail as my weapon of choice as I doubted I would need any suspension, it wouldn't bob on the road, and the fat tires would help keep me out of trouble if the terrain got rough. I also don't feel bad about tossing it over fences.

After studying satellite images, I found a nice little dirt trail not far from my house. My journey started by taking a trail that parallels Ft. Lowell that many people walk everyday. I hopped on Conestoga and the bike path for a short distance before turning on Sundance and the dirt trial at the end of this residentail street.

I've run this trail a few times and it's a nice way to break up a training run. This connected to the Tanque Verde River Path, which is very short. Perhaps someday it will connect to something. But this path cut my normal ride down by a full mile by the time I hit Tanque Verde road. I did have to lift my bike over a guard rail to get to Tanque Verde, and this verified my bike choice.

I took the dirt shoulder of Tanque Verde east to the Tanque Verde wash. I was hoping to get on the river path there, but was instead greeted with a very foreboding fence. The nirvana of river path was just beyond this fence. The fence was too high for me to toss my bike over.

So I continued on the road to Pantano, and found another entrance on the south side of the wash. This looked much more inviting.

The Tanque Verde river path on this side was quite nice. Residents along the path had landscaped the area around the path, making for a scenic ride.

That is, until I hit Sabino Canyon Rd. The path came to an abrupt halt, and there was a steep drainage ditch in the way. I didn't want to slip in the bike shoes I was wearing, so I opted to go back to the closest ramp and cross over through the wash.

Unfortunately, the ramp on the south side of the wash that I took to get down in the wash did not line up with the ramp on the north side of the wash that I would need to get out. I ended up hiking a quarter of a mile in the wash! Later, when I did a return trip of this ride with Zac, we just rode up Tanque verde to Sabino Canyon road and stayed in the bike lane.
From the satellite images, I couldn't figure out any trails that clearly stayed on the north side of the wash to the Rillito River Path, so instead I took Sabino Canyon to Cloud up to River and down Craycroft. This is where I found the "official" start of the Rillito River Path.

The parking lot was packed! Being that this was my first time on the path, I took the north route. Well, turns out that was under construction, so I had to do some back-tracking. But the north route did take me past a round house. It is now a side project of mine to find all of the round houses in Tucson and document them. I don't know why. Maybe it's kind of like when you get a new car and suddenly you start to recognize all the other cars like yours on the road. This round house was a 2-story rock house with a Spanish tile roof. This made me glad we went with a metal roof for our round house, as ours looks much nicer.

As I rode the river path, I crossed over from the north side to the south side and back so many times that I can't remember where I crossed over. But from this point on there was great pavement to be had.

I also discovered the river path has really cool bridges. I have a thing for bike bridges. They are so cool!

Right around Campbell Ave is where I came across the first map of the river park. Of course I had to take a pic of the map (add maps to my list of bike bridges and round houses).

The path goes right through the Children's Memorial Park, where I stopped for a brief rest and snack and a chance to take a pic of my steed.

Not far from the park was an awesome tunnel of trees. The path was completely shaded by mesquite trees. This is looking back at the tunnel.

There are also really nice bathroom and water stops all along the path. This was the last one I came across before the path ran out.

The path comes to an abrupt stop at the train tracks and I-10. I'm not sure what they are planning for the path in this area, but I was kind of a bummer to have the path end so suddenly.

Each bridge has unique artwork. This was the last bridge before the end.

I took a few side streets down to Ruthraff and crossed under the freeway. Holy cow is that scary! No bike lane and a ton of traffic. I crossed over the Santa Cruz and rode the dirt shoulder up Camino Del Cerro for a bit, before deciding I was too hot and tired to continue. I took this pic of my turn-around point. The dip in the mountains just to the left of the phone poles is Reddington pass and where my house is and my starting point, 28 miles away.
I stopped at a Circle-K to fill up on some Gatorade. I didn't want to ride another 30 miles back that day, so I hopped on the Sunny Tran and for $1 got to rest for an hour while it took me and my bike back to the east side of town all in one shot.

The bus dropped me off at Golf Links and Harrison, and I rode the remaining 7 miles home. Even though I didn't quite make it out to Sweetwater (the trailhead was still a few miles past where I turned around) I did find out it's possible to get myself out to those trails via bike and the river path. I just have to leave earlier and know where to cross over on the river path to save some time. And if I don't feel like doing 60 miles on the mountain bike that day, I can always take the Sun Tran across town. I had a blast on the river path, and will definitely be doing this ride again in the future.


Joyce said...

How is it possible that you have never been on the Rillito Path?!? Nice idea about taking Sun Tran. I'll have to remember that and scope out the routes.

PirateGirl said...

I know! I'm a dork. But now I've seen the light and am a river path convert. :)