Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mt. Lemmon

After spending a little time in Tucson a few weeks ago i couldn't wait to get back to enjoy the warm weather, so with the Martin Luther King Day holiday coming up i booked a flight to go back down and spend the long weekend with T-dub and Trigger and Reggie. When i was there over New Years T-dub and i had attempted Mt. Lemmon, but could only ride the first 14 miles on account of the road was closed beyond that because of the snow and ice. In retrospect that may have been a blessing in disguise. With warm temperatures (high 60s and low 70s) this past weekend, however, we would not be deterred. It has been five months since my amputation and i thought what better way to celebrate than to climb Mt. Lemmon.

Mt. Lemmon is a great climb. Twenty-one miles of pretty consistent climbing with only a few let ups in pitch and a few sections of 10-12% grade to make up for it. It's a beautiful climb that transitions from the desert valley floor up to the ponderosa forests with incredible panorama views in all directions. After you hit the 21 mile mark you've got four more miles of up and down before descending about a mile down to the famous "Cookie Cabin."

I got in friday afternoon and we went out saturday and did the Saguaro National Park loop, then Sunday morning we set out to ride Mt. Lemmon. I felt pretty good the first six miles or so, but as we hit a steeper pitch between miles 6 and 7 i started to fade a little. I kept at it though, and was glad for a few spots between miles 7 and 12 where the slope ease up to 1-2%, even if it was for just a few hundred meters. At about mile 12 the pitch picks up to 8-9% up to mile 14, but i had ridden this before and so was able to set into a fair pace (for a one-legged gimp at any rate) up to mile 14 at Windy Point. Moving past Windy Point we had a few sections of the steeper 12-13% slope, but they are through beautiful hoodoo rock formations that elicited unknown stores of energy from my tired body.

After the hoodoo lookout, however, i was done, but i still had a good 5 miles to go before mile 21 and 10 miles to go before the cookie cabin. T-dub peeled a banana and some fruit snacks and handed them over to me and i managed to slowly work my way those last few miles to the summit. From there we descended down the backside to the Cookie Cabin where Reggie and Trigger and the kids came up and met us for some king size cookies.

After the cookies we jumped back on the bikes and made our way back up to the summit, then started the 21-mile descent. I brought my gopro camera along so we got some footage that i'll try to post up in the next few days, but suffice it to say it's a great, fun descent with some wide, fast turns and curves—a nice reward after the climb up.

Monday we rode out over Gates Pass and out into the desert enjoying the warm temperatures and bright western skies, then rode back into Tucson and enjoyed each others' company at the outdoor seating of a coffeeshop which will remain nameless until we had to head back to Trigger and Reggie's so i could pack up my bags and bike and head to the airport. A short trip i wish i could've extended, but i'll be grateful for what i get!

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