La Milagrosa - The Miracle

Waking up to sunny skies and warm weather, Nick had one goal - ride his bike for a few hours. We looked a few maps, then headed north towards Mt Lemmon. There were a few trails that sounded interesting and we were hoping for some good pedaling. After 20 minutes on the road, we turned onto the Catalina Highway and the road turned uphill. We stopped to look at every vista point, searching for a trail that headed down the mountain. A few roadies caught us, giving us that "what are you guys doing riding your bikes up this?" looks. Then two guys on mountain bikes caught us. Nick decided to ask them about the trails in the area and they gave him a suggestion as to something that might be fun. With Old Pueblo coming up, Nick didn't really want a really technical trail that would freak me out. He pretty much said so when talking to the other riders. Oh, no, no big drops, they assured us, mona lisa smiles on their faces. You're gonna have a great time, especially on that bike (Nick was on his 29er 1x10 Epic and I was on my Era. But they hadn't even looked at me). So we turned off the Catalina Highway at the Molino Basin parking area, right onto the AZ trail. We had no clue where we were going, just that we needed to turn right at the intersection and were going to have fun (or so we'd been told).

As promised, the initial climb up to the saddle was steep, loose and rocky. I wasn't having that great of a ride at all on the climb. There were things that I was walking that I felt like I should be able to ride. It was a steady grunt of climb, but as we got higher I started feeling more comfortable. And the views were great, with the Catalina highway far below down the valley to the north west and miles of cactus filled canyons down the ridge. I wasn't hiking that quickly on the hike a bike sections because I was too busy looking around at the views. Then we reached the top of the ridge line.


Coming down one of the little hills along the ridgeline

And the trail plummeted down into the canyon below us. I could see the switchbacks far down the valley, long straights and tight corners. And plenty of rocks. Nick was ecstatic - a downhill worthy of the climb to the top of the ridge. He took off down the first long, steep rocky drop with a hoot. I got to the top and slammed on my brakes. I knew it was all rollable, but just did not have the the guts to point my bike downhill and roll. I'd watched Nick and he'd made it look so smooth. Something about the 1000+ foot drop on my right! So down I walked. There were a few more sections that I did not even attempt, including a sharp left switchback with five waterbars. But as we got closer to the valley floor, I started regaining my confidence and riding more and more. It was awesome fun, and I was having a good time talking to myself as we descended.

We reached the water tank in the bottom of the canyon and stopped for a bit. The trail we'd descended vanished into the cactus above us. We continued through a gate and took the right as instructed. Right away, the trail dived into a deep canyon, with the rocks bleached white from the water and sun. There were still deep pools of water in the canyon and we stopped to look around again. Up a steep, rocky hill with large steps, the trail hugging the canyon wall and cliffs dropping down into the narrow canyon. Then the terrain opened into the top of one of the many ridges folding down into the horizon. It was a fun trail, rolling along the top of the ridge with picturesque canyons to either side. The constant rolling up and down along the ridge made for some fun riding. It wasn't too hard, just constant awareness of the cacti and rocks.
Right after barbed wire gate - about to follow the fence up and over some rollers

After a few of the rolling hills, we started descending again. The rocks got steeper, much like the slick rock we'd ridden on in Moab. The trail was narrow in spots, hugging canyon walls and wide open in others. There were a few sections that we both walked as we descended into a wash. It reminded me of the section in Williams with the waterfall. I leaned into the cactus as I unclipped and we had to spend a few minutes pulling spines out of my rump. Then the climb back out of the canyon wash. Without a bash guard and a race coming up, Nick wasn't try the step ups. I was happy to walk up it, even with a bash guard. At the top of that hill, we could see trails all around on the canyon and the Tucson valley spread out below. Only one more fun descent left. Again, there were some uber steep and loose sections I choose to walk. But when we popped out onto black top and around the stucco gate, we both had huge grins. Awesome fun ride. Our Specialized Era and Epic bikes, while not all mountain rigs, handled the miracle trail with ease. Now Nick wants to come back with a Safire and a Stumpjumper and really have some fun! As for those two locals who thought they playing a joke on the clueless tourists, that was a perfect ride for the day...
Yep! We had a great time on this bike....

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