Sunday, August 30, 2009

La Milagrosa ride

On Sunday, Zac, Johnny, and I left at 5:10 AM with lights strapped to our bikes in an effort to beat the heat as much as possible. We rolled up Redington Rd. with very little traffic, except for a few early riser Jeepers. We had made it to Mile 5 by the time the sun hit the road. Surprisingly, one of the shooters was already up and shooting at Mile 6. How early do we need to get up to beat these guys?

It sure was dark when we started.

The sun starting to rise.

The sun still not officially up when we hit the dirt.

Wake up Tucson! Most are still sleeping while we climb the road.

Zac and Johnny crossing over into the sunlight.

We did our usal climb up Redington and at the Mile 10 OHV area, Erik, Liane, and Nicole met up with us. We continued on up to Mile 12.6 and rode the Bellota AZ Trail. The hike-a-bike was killer on my legs, and this was not a good sign for the upcoming ride. The downhill to the intersection of FR 36 was a blast though. We rested under our usual shady tree at the intersection of FR 36, then did the next section of the AZT up to the intersection of the FR36A Jeep road. At this point Erik, Liane, and Nicole split off to return back to their cars, and Zac, Johnny, and I continued forward to the La Milagrosa trailhead.

Erik on the AZT.

The group at our usual shady rest stop.

We stopped at the trailhead to La Milagrosa for one last rest break in the shade. It was 10 AM. This was by far one of the stupidest things I had done. La Milagrosa is a tough trail with no shade and usually ridden in the winter time. But here we were on tired legs about to start the brutal 4.6 mile stretch of trail on a hot summer day. I didn't even bother with Clif Bars this ride. I had frozen 2 Snicker bars and stuck them in my Camelbak. I finished the second half of the first bar before La Milagrosa, figuring I'd save the second bar as a reward on the trail.

The trail starts off with "The Waterfall", a technical rock section. I haven't been on this trail in a few years, and the only time I have ridden it is on my Bullit, which has a few more inches of suspension than the Blur. We hiked down the waterfall, climbed the trail up the other side, and began our ride. Right away there were rock drops to be ridden, and I quickly switched over to getting over the back end of the bike. The Blur did rather well, and the nice thing was, I was able to ride the climbs on a much lighter bike.

Zac and Johnny at The Waterfall.

Zac hiking down the Waterfall.

We were all very tired on La Milagrosa, and as a result, would end up riding over stuff we probably shouldn't have in order to conserve momentum. There was still a lot of hike-a-bike, but I was surprised at the good time we were making. We would have to stop between sections just to rest the legs and arms before rolling again onto the next section. At the top section before the descent down into the wash, my stomach started growling. But I couldn't stop, and told myself I would stop in the wash for a snack. I rode several of the drops and made it to the wash, where I parked the bike, found one of the few areas of shade against a rock wall, and devoured the second Snickers bar.

Views from the trail:

My house is down there...somewhere.

Cool saguaro shot that Johnny took.

Zac in the shade of the rock wall in the wash.

Bike parking in the wash.

We were roasting at this point in the ride, but still had a few miles to go. We hiked up out of the wash and started the descent across the granite playground area.

Johnny and I on the granite playground.

There is a gate after the playground and at this point I got a nosebleed, probably from the heat. Yet another good reason to wear full-fingered MTB gloves. We hiked down the next steep part of the trail and came across a group of teenagers in swimsuits looking for water. Um, they were soon to be disappointed. The only water we had come across in the entire canyon were pools about a foot wide of stagnant water and yellowjackets. We rolled on and finally crossed the last wash and hit Horsehead Rd. From there we took Soldier Trail back to our starting point.

It was just over 5 hours of riding time (over 7 hours of actually being out on the trail). We reached home just after 12 PM. Ironically, at about 3PM the clouds rolled in and the monsoon rains started. I would have loved to have a little rain on the trail that afternoon because it was crazy hot. But we completed a very tough ride. The Garmin map of our track circling the mountains is here. A little over 30 miles total and over 4,000 ft of climbing on the bike.

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