As the Labor Day weekend had sneaked up on me somehow, I was trying to to come up with a good hard ride. After some discussion with Scott, a Samaniego Ridge loop materialized and I got Pascal on the hook to do this with me. I’ve heard and read many a time that the Samaniego trail on Mt. Lemmon is a really hard ride and should not be attempted alone, so I had been putting this off until I was in better shape and there’d be someone else crazy enough to join in on the fun.
We met at the 50 Year trail, and started at 6:30 am to ride the paved road to Oracle.
After a quick stop at a convenience store in Oracle, we rode up the Mt. Lemmon control road. Our first stop was Peppersauce campground to refuel water.
The ride up was hot and humid, we were absolutely drenched and it was tricky to keep water, electrolytes, and food in the right proportions. I was half an hour slower than last time I rode up from Oracle, clocking in at 4:45 hours for Oracle-Summerheaven. I think the heat was just too much for me, and my saddle may have been too low, as my quads were burning. The 1 hour rest stop at the Summerheaven general store proved sufficient to get me back in shape. At 2 pm we were leaving Summerheaven, about 2 hours behind plan.
The monsoon has brought a lot of water to Tucson this year, and Mt. Lemmon has been watered a-plenty. All trails on the north slopes are overgrown, and Samaniego ridge trail was no exception. You may say that it is seriously overgrown, both with scratchy, thorny bushes, and thicket in general, making it hard to ride and just plain “see” the trail. The GPX track proved extremely helpful in occasionally navigating blindly through the foliage. The Samaniego ridge trail we encountered was not as shown in this video, except for minute 6:40 in this video, where we dragged our bikes around the rock outcropping.
The trail after the Corkscrew of Death was hard to find in places, but the most annoying part where the green fuzzy worms on the thorny shrubs that stung like wasps or ants, when they touched your skin.
The ridge trail then proceeds as a hike-a-bike up to Mule Ears mountain, followed by some rideable single track. We were cruising again, and made some good time as it was close to sunset and we were still not off this hike-a-bike marathon trail. Pascal mentioned that he did an Ironman in 12 hours, to which I replied, “We may still encounter a river to ford through!”. But, no river needed to be forded – luckily. The trail was extremely scratchy, and my compression socks + arm protection were a helpful, though not impenetrable protection.
With only my Lezyne superdrive light being useful when it wasn’t flickering, we walked the last 1.5 miles of rutty, steep, and overgrown trail to Charleau Gap in the last shimmers of sunset. The views, when we looked up, were fantastic.
The 13.7 miles from Summerheaven to Charleau Gap toook us 5:45 hours, that’s an average of 2 mph. Afterwards, we managed to get down the 4×4 road fine, but with only one headlight it was a bit tricky to keep close enough for light to be useful. This also forced us to take the most civilized way back to the cars, routing around the 50 year trail section.
Stats: 71.4 miles, 10,000 ft., 15 hours GPX track