Sunday, July 19, 2020

Rillito - Pantano - Saguaro Sashay 100k - inaugural ride!

On February 20, 2019, I tried out my new Rillito-Pantano-Saguaro 100k perm populaire in Tucson!

I'm only publishing now, 16 months later - because I forgot it hadn't been finished and published.

The preponderance of the route is on the river park trails (Rillito River Park Path and Pantano Wash Park Path) plus the delightful Cactus Forest loop in Saguaro National Park (East).

So while on a map the route may look urban, that's not the riding experience. And this was my goal in designing the route. Smooth pavement, tranquil miles, and a scenic cactus experience.

Catalina Mountains to the north-northeast, and Rincon Mountains to the east / southeast, which borders Saguaro National Park (East).

After the mile on Ft. Lowell Rd. and mile plus on Mountain Ave., we're welcomed by the Mountain Avenue Bridge (no motorized vehicles) onto Rillito River Park Path (north bank).

This gateway is just one example of artwork along the trail.
Catalina Mountains in the background.

Serene spur down the Rillito path to Mile 0 (and a checkpoint).

Sand on path after high water from rains. 
This isn't on the actual route, so I don't know why I included it,
but that's how it is on the river park trails.
This gets cleared away quickly by park staff.

Heading back east on the Rillito River Park trail.
Now it's a 1% grade uphill.

Pantano Wash trail has a sequence of evocative Commemorative Tree Parks where folks can sign up and plant a plant in honor of someone (with a numbered plaque in front - the photo above shows the key to the plots - and often a photo of the honored person). 

Here's one with some Christmas decorations left over.

Next it's the two miles up Golf Links Road, with places for food and drink. Then the sinuous Old Spanish Trail Road, such a departure to the grid system of Tucson proper.

At the entrance to Saguaro National Park (East), there is a visitors center with water, restrooms, and brochures. At the entrance, show your pass or pay your entrance fee. (Or if it's before 9am or  8am, there's no staffing.)

Cactus Forest Road - the high point of the trip - 
no need to rush through this!

But that first dip across a dry wash gets your attention!
Rincon Mountains in the background.

In the course of the Cactus Forest loop, you dip, climb, and wind around, to the western flank of the Rincon Mountains. You pass trailheads heading out into the park. Motor traffic tends to be slower than cyclists.

Before now, I had not ridden this loop. We had only driven it. Seemed like it might be harrowing - especially with signs like the above - but it turned out to be fun.

View of the Tucson Mountains to the west.

Javelina Rocks plaque - I have not seen javelinas in the park, 
but am sure they are there.
They are not in the pig family.

Javelina Rocks view

After a stop (checkpoint) at the Tanque Verde Ridge trailhead, it's a fond adieu to the park. 

This was the original Saguaro National Park tract. At the time, the cactus and other vegetation was in decline, from livestock and from a big freeze one winter in the early 20th century. But now it is a lush Sonoran Desert landscape.

The way back is downhill all the way to Mountain Ave.

Actually a dawn view. 
You might see something like this towards the end of your ride if you started later in the day.
Notice actual water in the Rillito River (after rains, or maybe mountain snows).

This is a 100k you can do year-round. In the summer, starting before 6:00 am means it's only getting toasty towards the end of your ride.

- - -

My friend Lynne Fitzsimmons, from Portland, OR, rode this route when she was visiting Tucson. Here is her write-up with photos!

Perm Pop in Tucson - Lynne Fitzsimmons


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