Green Lemmonaide

Green: because I did Green Mountain trail
Lemmon: because it was on Mt. Lemmon
aide: because my new compression socks seriously helped me out

Decided to ride Mt. Lemmon again. Yes, again. It’s closer than Mt. Graham or Flagstaff, and so it wins every time when I am optimizing riding time, driving time, and temperature. I decided to mix it up a bit, skipping the turnoff towards Mt. Bigelow at Palisades, and instead take the dirt road a little further up to Secret, 1918, Bear Meadow and then ride Crystal Spring from the west entrance of Butterfly.

Riding up the Mt. Lemmon highway, a roadie sneaked up behind me and exclaimed “Can you loan me some of your granny gears?” And I wasn’t even in my granny gears front or back, yet. We chatted a while and Peanut, as he likes to be called, turns out to be new to Tucson and an avid biker of all sorts. I shared with him my knowledge of the Mt. Lemmon trails, the water spiket at Palisades, and saw him again a couple hours later going down just as I was to turn off for dirt.

The trails are beginning to feel familiar, some turns are half-ways expected and knowing where I need to hike it helps with the flow. The rain didn’t damage the trails, actually seemed to have moved dirt into right places for the most part and the damp soil felt sticky – instead of the usual slip&slide.

This time I was loaded with water and ready for anything Crystal Spring and the old Mt. Lemmon highway could dish out. The ride went well, including the occasionally too-steep sections and fallen trees. I was surprised at how much the trail had overgrown and to encounter 3 fallen trees since last month. It has really been wet up here.

Butterfly at the western entrance connects with Crystal Spring a bit further down.

Shoulder-heigh ferns made it feel like a jungle.

Start of the Crystal Spring trail.

Loud thunder from behind me was announcing that the monsoon was happening today in the mountains to the north-east. But, would it reach Mt. Lemmon? After the mandatory stop for burritos, Gatorade and coffee at the Summerheaven convenience store, it began to pour. I took shelter at the community center, well outside the rain and wind, and otherwise enjoyed the mandatory hour-long break with some reading and finishing my last burrito. Temperature dropped to about 70F. Still tolerable.

Monsoon in full swing ~20 miles north-east of Mt. Lemmon.

Waiting out the rain outside the Summerheaven community center.

After the rain stopped, I took a connecting road through the north side of Summerheaven to avoid the usual noise of tons of cars and motorcycles. The views weren’t terribly impressive, but interesting nevertheless. On reach the Mt. Lemmon highway, it was suspiciously quiet. Not only had the rain flushed out all the trails, it had also removed the hoards of tourists and their vehicles. Riding towards Palisades, I saw a car had rotated by 180 degrees with the Sheriff there to assist in loading it on a tow truck. I don’t think this could have happened going 45 miles/hour, or even 55. Oh my.

View of Summerheaven from the northern slope.

Leaving the cool temperature at the top was also nice, and upon reaching San Pedro Vista, it was probably 75F. With still a tiny bit of mist/rain in the air, the Green Mountain trail was looking appealing. The occasional shrub deposited refreshing liquid onto my arms and legs.

Upper start of the Green Mountain trail.

Phil the snake is buried here?!

There were steep hike-a-bike sections, many more than what I had expected from the descriptions I had read. Not bad going though, with cool-ish air and complete cloud cover. I was thinking that this could be a ‘project’ trail for me, as I can see how parts can be ridden, but I am not ready for some of the lines and long, technical climbs, yet. Probably a project for a full-suspension bike, but not too bad on my hardtail.

Delicious single track lures me onwards.

With it being only 7 pm at the bottom, I decided to go for a quick ride on Bug Spring trail. By the time I hiked to the top, sunset was illuminating a few patches of clouds in red. The trail surface was hard and rutted from the rain. Crossing the creek was a lot of fun by pretending to be an enduro rider with the front wheel lifted for the attack.

Sunset on Bug Spring trail.

Water running plentiful along Bug Spring trail.

Nighttime view of Tucson from somewhere along Bug Spring trail.

It was completely dark by 8 pm and without my tail light, I decided to skip Molino trail this time. Though, in retrospect, that makes no sense at all. The trail was probably in fabulous condition, and would have made the short climbing sections a breeze to tackle. Oh well, next time I’ll bring a light, and rain jacket, too!

On the road down, I figured that cars would see my headlight illuminating the rocks and notice me that way. But, not a single car passed me on the way down.

Stats: 56 miles, 9500 ft., 12:30 hours, GPX track

More, please!

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