A place to share words and pics. Mostly bikes, but my photog eye does wander.

Bikes let the good times roll. In solitude or with friends. For a half hour or 8 hours. Pedals become the gears that turn the earth as the sun seems to track their motion, day after day. Miles become food, and you're hungry. The bike stops being a vehicle, or toy, or transportation and becomes an extension of will, allowing you to journey beyond the pain of self into the realm of almighty, joyous nature, she that feeds our souls. Pedal yourself into the maw of creation. Pedal yourself silly.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Lemmon Drop

The Lemmon Drop hung in my mind since last year when I saw it posted on the boards. Mt Lemmon, top to bottom. 9k to 2k ft. Hitting alot of the Lemmon trails: Aspen, 1918, Secret, Green Mountain, Bug Spring, Prison Camp (and probably a few others), and for those a bit heartier than I that day, ending on Milagrosa. Our day was ambitious. Freeskier and I were to wake at 2am to arrive at Le Buzz in Tucson at the base of the Catalinas by 5:30am to catch a ride on the shuttle to the top (for a nominal fee of $10). I might have fallen asleep by 11pm the night before, anticipation and excitement not letting me slip off to slumber easily.

Soon enough 2am came. Coffee, gear, bike. Out the door. Arrive at Freeskiers's. Load up. On the road. Somehow stay awake and join the group in the parking lot.
The shuttle was half loaded when we arrived. Some introductions were had. Some nods. Most were still half asleep. Some contemplating the day. The big day it was to be. A long day it would be.

After about a 45 minute drive to the top, we unloaded and went scooting down Aspen Draw. Steep, surrounded by pine, and rooty, it was a blast. Before too long we broke tree cover and crossed through the radio towers, maybe somwhere around Bigelow.

For coming down a mountain, there was an unjust amount of hike-a-bike. Punishing amounts which started at the start, and went right on through the end. They were spaced well apart - up here, which might be Sunset?, up Green mountain, up Bug Spring, etc., that you could get enough enjoyment out of what you've just ridden to push up the next hill.

With views like this, magnificent from top to bottom, it was easy to keep pushing on. This is just before/after Summerhaven.

The third week of October was the most perfect time to do this ride. The colors were in full swing with vibrant yellows and reds. Hard to believe we'd end the ride in the desert. And that was the real magic of this ride. Start in alpine forest at 9k ft and roll through pine and aspens, which give way to smaller trees and shrubs, eventually to the grass of Prison Camp and the cactus and cholla of the desert floor. So many ecological zones in a mere 8 hours!
Having spent my Mt Bike life entirely in the desert, riding through fallen leaves, and dense trees with roots is strangely a new experience to me, even though it seems so familiar, reminding me of my days riding bmx through the forests of the midwest. Twenty + years later and I think I enjoy it even more now.

Freeskier making the trail come alive.
Lots of yellows were splattered all over at the top.

A Bob Ross happy scene, if only lacking for a cabin.

Green and yellow married well here, with a reddish path between them. Elevation seems to have many beauties up its sleeve.

If the yellow were gold, I still couldn't feel richer than just being there, witnessing the leaves' firey death.

As we came around Bigelow and made our way to Green Mountain after slogging up Secret or some such trail, we were treated with views to the north, as we made our way around Green Mt. Great trail. Very technical, with steep pitches, off camber rock, tight switchbacks, and HAB.
We started above the towers on the mountain to the left, far in the distance.

The Voodoo is doing me well. Can't say enough about this bike, especially for all day riding. Perfect XC machine for me.

A taste of Green Mt, in its more tame form. It hangs precariously on the side of the slope.
Scott Forty G from San Diego was rocking a SS 32x18 with 780mm bars and killing it.

"Hey, with all these people we can finally move this rock form the trail." Ah, nope, we couldn't. This sucka was heavy.

Valet parking on the mountain?

We dropped straight down that ridge to where I took the snap. Lots of nice switchbacks in there.

Tight squeeze for FS.  I couldn't  make it with my 711mm bars. Just a bit too big.

After banging out way down and hiking up Green Mt, we exited at the start of Bug Spring, which wold lead to Prison Camp. Here you can see the Catalina Highway cutting across a portion of Mt Lemmon, as it makes its way to the top. We were shuttling up that about 7 hours earlier.

Bug Spring has some roll and flow to it, but it is only book-ended with two wicked HABs. I was feeling the torment of the several HAB sessions of the day, which there were no less than 4 extended sessions of probably a few hundred vertical feet and 20-30 minutes each one. My poor arthritic knee had had about enough. But when Bug started to point down, with the Highway in the background, I forgot all that, easily. Once Bug opened up, it was joy all the way down to Milagrosa.

The grassland reminds me of the area around Sonoita and Kentucky Camp. Its white tips gently wave in the breeze and seemed to swoon for riders as they went speeding past.

Prison Camp set us free with some smooth elevation loss.
At this point we had aligned with the AZT. For the 300 race, we'd be going up this section. Oy.
The rocks around this elevation, 3k ft, are pretty similar to the formations at the top of the McDowells around Tom's Thumb.
Well, we were up at 2am, drove for 2.5 hours to take a shuttle 45 minutes to the top of Mt Lemmon and then rode for  7.5 hours to only get to the bottom of Prison Camp, which is the start of a 30 minute hike up to Milagrosa. We were pretty toasted. My knee was already screaming. Beers and chocolate milk were at the car, six downhill road miles away. We still had 2.5 hours to drive home. We bailed and we still feel like we won. It was a tough ride. Especially considering we were just coming down the mountain.
There is way too much up to come down that line.

2D of the same track. Milagrosa would have taken us over another saddle further to the east, but that will remain for another day. And I'll have to think about another Lemmon Drop. The damage to the knee was rather significant. I can ride all day, but extended time pushing the bike and the bone on bone becomes unbearable.

What a great profile. Down she goes! There are those out there that have ridden up this, to only turn around and head back down. These men; not mortals. That is some serious effort.

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