The summer will bring plenty of cloudy days, but for now they remain infrequent and good clouds are more than enough of a reason to drive up the mountain – the payoffs on this trip were watching the light on the San Pedro River Valley and Galiuro Mountains from the Incinerator Ridge Trail, seeing the end of the day thru The Window from near the junction of the Mount Lemmon and Sutherland Trails and hiking in the darkness thru the clouds and big pines near the top of the mountain on the Meadow Trail.
Any ‘big view’ from the Santa Catalina Mountains is going to include at least one – and often more – of the Madrean Sky Islands. Like the Santa Catalina Mountains these ranges soar up from the desert floor to oak and pine forests at higher elevations. Almost anyone who has spent time hiking in Southern Arizona will have driven to some, or many, of the Madrean Sky Islands – some people have also connected these ranges in long distance human powered efforts – two notable recent events:
- The Sky Island Traverse is an incredibly interesting and rugged route that spirals thru a number of Sky Island ranges in Southern Arizona including the Santa Catalina Mountains – a thru-hike of the SkIT was completed by Ryan “Dirtmonger” Sylva, a rare event, and his blog includes a great post on the SKiT!
- Readers of this blog are probably intimately familiar with the Arizona Trail – but might not be familiar with the AZTR300 and 750 – probably best described by quoting Scott Morris’ Racing the Arizona Trail page:
The Arizona Trail Race is an unofficial challenge that takes place every spring on the cross state Arizona Trail. Two distances are available. The Arizona Trail 300 is a 300 mile event that has been held every April since 2006. The Arizona Trail Race is the complete traversal (Mexico->Utah over 750+ miles) and was offered for the first time in 2010. Both events are run concurrently, starting on the same day.
This is not an organized or sanctioned event in any way. It’s simply a group of friends out to ride their bikes on the same route at the same time. We’ll probably compare times afterwards, but more importantly, we’ll compare experiences — the highs and lows the trail and mountains offered us.
The 18 miles or so of road climbing up to Mt. Lemmon are as challenging as I thought they would be. Pedaling up a sustained climb in the heat, on pavement, on a loaded mountain bike is a drudging affair. I decide to simply take my time and occupy myself people watching.
I am passed by a few Tour de France style riders, who zip by effortlessly on their speed machines. I begin this ongoing joke in my head that Neil is up there attacking the climb, dropping all the roadies, while I am just turtle grinding in my lowest gear, waddling up the hill like that Gila Monster.