Return to Milagrosa

Back in 2012, when Nick and I were visiting his parents in Tucson prior to racing 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo, we got punked into riding La Milagrosa - one of the most technical downhill trails in the Tucson area. I walked most of it back then - both the AZT portion and Milagrosa proper. So when we made plans to head down to Tucson at the end of January to visit his parents again, Milagrosa was high on Nick's list. I'll admit, I was also looking forward to once again trying m y hand at that trail. Would I be happy and having fun with the advancement of my riding ability for that kind of trail or would it be mental break down? Only one way to find out and that was to head up Mount Lemmon and take the chance on the miracle trail.

I thought that we would ride the road at a comfortable pace. And by comfortable I meant my pace. After all, it was about six miles of solid climbing and Nick wanted me to be all A game for the descent. So it would be an easy ride up the road, right? Well, somehow my thinking it would be an easy ride didn't translate. There were just enough roadies out that Nick didn't want to let them all pass. Obviously the fully kitted out dude with the complete bike that weighed less then Nick's pack wasn't going to have anything to do with the two mountain bikers. But the rest of them? Fair game! That meant a hard tempo climb and one that I wasn't really ready for, but too proud to ask Nick to slow down on. I was just happy I hadn't put my knee and elbow pads on at the bottom like Nick! That meant I could take a break after we turned off the road to get my pads on.... Thinking ahead!

Looking up to the saddle above Molino Basin

I didn't really remember the climb up from Molino Basin from the last time. I remembered walking a bunch because the chunky rocks were big enough to swallow my little Era had I tried riding them. I also remembered switchbacks. Lots of switchbacks. My goal was to ride as much as I could, but to be realistic and not kill myself for the descent later. There were a few things I tried, one switchback that I made when Nick didn't and then a few things that I looked at and when "nah... not today." There was still some mud and ice in the shady areas, which made some of the rock ledges even tricker. And me less likely to want to try them. There will always be another chance. I don't think the trail is going anywhere. And my goal with this ride wasn't the climb. It was the descent that had totally freaked me out years ago and had me walking almost everything. Why stress out about the climb when I had other objectives for the ride? Finally, we reached to top of the saddle. There was a group of hikers up there enjoying a snack, but other wise, nothing but miles of desert in all directions. The sound of running water echoed among the canyons - this was the first time I've seen that much water in the Mount Lemmon area in all our years of riding there! Nick was actually worried that we might not get to ride all of Milagrosa due to the water.

Time to focus. I remembered that the first descent had really been all rideable but that the sharp fall to the left had freaked me out last time. So I didn't even look left as we started ridding. Kept my eyes on the trail, picking my best line and letting the bike take the rock ledges. It was all rollable if you didn't want to jump things and I was perfectly content with rolling. It was much better then walking! And I was actually having fun. It was still challenging and I was a little on edge with a lot of self talk to stay focused, but I was having fun. I didn't meet my goal of not crashing though - on one of the switchbacks, I didn't quite get around enough and wasn't able to bail neatly. A few bruises, but I didn't land in a cactus, so all is good. Next time - it wasn't even the hardest switchback. That one I still had to walk. I just wasn't ready to try it. Finally, we reached the bottom where the water tank was. The creek was full and flowing fast. We stopped for a snack at the water tank, looked at the map and then headed out, hoping for the best. With the amount of water running, the entrance into Milagrosa was going to be questionable.
Nick studying the map - we actually needed two maps to complete the loop due to where they cut the boundries!

Or so we thought. It was actuallly just one deep spot to cross, with the water spilling out below the trail into pools. I opted to walk the entrance as well, but this time I could see the line people were taking to ride it. Maybe later - on a bigger bike with more padding. Or not. There are some things that just don't need to be done in my mind. We climbed up from the creek onto the ridgeline, traversing the ridge through grass and cacti. I wasn't pedaling too hard through that section since I didn't want to catch my shoe on a prickly pear. I've done that - it hurts! I was pretty happy with how I was riding, tackling everything the trail had thrown at us.  I actually only walked one thing on the descent - and that was just because I needed a mental break for a minute from picking the line and deciding if it was a roller or if I needed to launch it. That mental processing is still a work in progress, but getting better every year.

Approaching one of many rocky ledges.

Rolling it out. I'm still working on the hucking part!
It is always nice going back to a trail that was a little (a lot in places) over your head a few years ago and seeing the difference in skill and confidence. I'm sure the bike helped a bit - but having the best bike for the trail doesn't mean anything if you are still not willing to ride something.


Popular Posts