Monday, April 9, 2018

Two in Tucson: #1 - Picture Rocks

In December, 2017, my wife Pat and I spent a few days in Tucson, for a winter getaway from Colorado. I was fortunate to ride two of Roger Peskett's 100k perm populaires.

This is about the first one: the Picture Rocks 102km Permanent Populaire.

As you see, it traverses Tucson Mountain Park and Saguaro National Park. But the name "Picture Rocks" was the big draw for me, as it was bound to be picturesque!

Weather when I rode was seasonal: 50's to 60's, and partly cloudy to sunny.

From a north section of Tucson, we make our way to the loop trail, with an info checkpoint at a non-traditional bike shop perched on the trail at the edge of the Santa Cruz River.

The trail was one of the highlights of the route. Lightly traveled, a few cyclists and joggers, with nice riparian views.

Nice views and some shade, too!

The second checkpoint was at a courtyard of various cafés and other places to enjoy the passage of time, as a number of cyclists were doing when I breezed through.

The second highlight for me was climbing Gates Pass (3172 ft.). A few stiff sections, but really a delightful pass with low traffic and fine scenery ... 

... and our intro to saguaro country for this ride.

Nice views from the pass into the desert hinterlands beyond Tucson.

A plaque explains that local rancher Thomas Gates explored a way over the Tucson Mountains west from town, and found this pass. While at the close of World War I there was a flurry of local interest in spreading west of Tucson to establish mining and agricultural claims, Gates sought to preserve some of this landscape, and succeeded, resulting in what we see today as this Tucson Mountain Park, adjoining Saguaro National Park.

The national park is the next stop, replete with lots of info on saguaros, their place in Native American life, and local flora and fauna.

There are various side trails and items of interest at the visitors center, to peruse at another time. Here is a tour of cactuses.

The pavement through the park was a joy to ride, and a contrast to most of the roads in this area, which were quite rough with expansion cracks.

Out in the Picture Rocks area, it was a broad expanse dotted by rock formations. This is a desert agricultural area with lightly to moderately traveled roads mostly with no shoulder, and very polite traffic. This route avoided another feature of Tucson area roads: the roller-coaster traversal of washes, which make driving and cycling some mixture of fun and adventure.

This not very good photo shows a field of cotton backed by one of the rocky ridges.

The rest of the trip featured a segment down the I-10 frontage road, then final miles in town on roads with traffic but bike lanes.

I chose this Wienerschnitzel restaurant as the finish establishment.

Among the many offerings, they had a special on corn dogs, which was my choice.

I enjoyed this route overall, a great sampler to biking in Tucson and the Tucson area, and especially Gates Pass, Saguaro National Park, and the Tucson loop trail.


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