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  1. #1
    caninus xerophilous
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    I wouldn’t wish this ride on my worst enemy. (Drivel warning)

    Bug Springs, a Tucson ride sometimes talked about, rarely ridden, and with good reason. It is a trail that is supposed to make for an a nearly all off road MTB descent off of MT. Lemmon starting by linking the Green Mountain trail to the Molino Basin trail which can be easily linked to La Milagrosa. Sounds good in theory but for practical reasons this route remains elusive.

    I had never ridden before this weekend as some of the guys I ride with and some on MTBR have filled my head with reasons not to give it a look.

    “It would take tons of dynamite to make a trail from Bear Creek picnic grounds over to Bug Springs”

    “There is no trail there, even if some of the USFS maps show one.”

    “We looked for the Bug Springs trailhead and it does not exist.”

    “The Bug Springs trail has only been planned by the USFS and has not really been built yet.”

    These comments led me to believe that the Bug Springs trail was a myth. This was further enhanced by the trail showing up on some official maps and not others.

    But I was also intrigued by MTBR’s Epic Rider’s statements that he had ridden Bug Spings several times and there was indeed some bushwhacking and route finding needed to do the trail and that the valley on the other side of the ridge from Bear Creek picnic ground hid some great riding. Dale even sent me a GPS’d route to get me pointed in the right direction. That was something like over a year ago but I never found the time or like minded riders to give it a go.

    So this as this hot weekend loomed, one of my fellow Cabbage Heads and I decided that a run down Green Mountain and Molino would be a fun ride. Standard fare riding for freeriders in the Tucson area, when the Summer time temperatures make riding at the lower elevations a bit uncomfortable.

    On Saturday morning we shuttled up to Buna Vista for our planned ride. On the drive up we noticed throngs of roadies ascending the Lemmon highway, we surmised as there appeared to be no scheduled event that they must be celebrating the Tour de France, which had just entered the Alps and Lance had just put up a heroic effort when his team fell apart leaving him to do epic battle the Europe’s finest teams, solo.

    At the trail head we armored up and began pogoing around the parking lot to loosen up before tackling the trail. There were some roadies there eyeballing us and we were eyeballing them while they discussed pushing onto Summerhaven for some pie.

    I broke the ice and said something like “Damn, those roadies pack a lot of stuff” as I bounced around with a twenty pound pack on my back.

    A roadie with nothing but a saddle pack and a bottle of water responded “So are you guys gonna ride the road down or what?” It didn’t occur to me that this was intended as a joke until later.

    “Nah were going to ride Green Mountain Trail and Molino basin.” I said.

    “So are you going to take Milagrosa all the way down?” Taunted the roadie.

    “Nah, it’s too darn hot for that.” I sheepishly replied while hopping on and off the curb.

    Soon my fellow Cabbage Head and I were blasting along the Green Mountain trail at a good pace. When we climbed up to the Green Mountain Saddle, we decided that we were feeling froggy enough to out and back to the Gutherie Saddle. That done we commenced to spanking the back side of Greenie like it was our private love slave.

    Blasting down Greenie we noticed that the trail had been brushed by those hard working USFS folks, who had also done the same on the Gutherie spur, which made the trail flow smoother as one could see a bit further down the trail. At one point on the backside of Greenie there is an off camber two foot root and rock drop into the apex of a 90 degree turn. I noticed that the riders of some week old tread marks which preceded our onslaught had failed to make the turn.

    As we dropped into rocky wash just at the General Hitchcock campground, there were some campers there that poked their heads out just in time to see me endo into the wash in a failed attempt to drop of a rock into the wash. When we hit the campground we hucked some of the walls and boulders near the campers area. It turned out we had ridden with one of the camperes last November out at Elephant Head Butte.

    Still feeling froggy we rode the creek out to the Lemmon Highway and decided to huck some stuff in the Bear Creek picnic grounds. It was there, while rallying there my riding buddy brought up the thought of checking out the Bug Springs trail. Heck, The Map showed trail up and over the ridge as an easy trail.

    We rode around and located what appeared to be a trail ascending the ridge. It was fairly easy going at first along a pine needle covered trail and we committed to futher exploration. Soon any semblance of a trail petered out into a steep rutted chute with sketchy footing. Curious, we pushed further assuming this was just a small difficult section before the rut returned into something resembling a trail.

    A wickedly bad assumption it was. The rutted route only got worse, steeper and sketchier. However there always was something higher up that enticed us and lured us ever farther into this evil trap. Pushing a forty pound sled with a twenty pound pack up a very steep slope with loose footing in bike shoes makes for a character building experience.

    At one point my bud hollered up, asking if we should turn back. I opted to push further being nearly two thirds the way up and the prospect of having to walk my bike back down the steep hill, it was way to steep to even consider riding down was un appealing as I was ever so close to solving this Bug Springs Trail caper for myself. Selfishly and with a tinge of guilt I urged my riding partner up the punishing mountain slope.

    Soon I arrived upon the ridgeline saddle where the “trail” petered out into dense thicket of manzanita. While I waited for my bud to climb up I surveyed the valley below and made out a dried creek bed, which I surmised must be the one that Dale had mentioned, all that needed to be done now was to bushwhack down the reverse slope into the creek and sweet freeriding should await.

    As I continued to wait for my companion to crest the ridge I scouted about for any semblance of a trail along the ridge. All I found were a few dead end game paths and some hiker detritus.

    My bud arrived a tweaked and exhausted from the climb. As we rested he pulled out his copy of “The Map” which really isn’t that good of a map, it is rather a MTB trail guide that provided only a minimal topographic rendering, which was obviously not intended for bushwacking.

    My bud was a bit skeptical of my confidence in our location and my idea of the route that lay below. I guess rightfully so as we had previously done nothing as remotely as stupid as this together. If only we had a true topographical map.

    We debated our location and the lay of the land, still pondering a return down the sketchy and treacherous slope which we recently suffred. Together we again scouted the ridge for an alternate route. We did find another steep sketchy rutted route ascending up the same lousy slope and also vanished into the dense tangle of manzanita on the ridgeline.

    As we struggled through the manzanita back to our bikes we were still collectively unsure of our plan. Then I spied something in the underbrush worthy of investigation. It turned out to be a USFS topographical map of the area, an omen.

    Looking at the topo we saw that the USFS had indeed marked a “route” up and over the ridge and down the creek up onto a ridge and down to Prison Camp. The topo showed the route turning into a trail when as it climbed out of the creek. I again reiterated that I had it from a reliable source, the renown Epic Rider, that the route ahead was indeed doable on a MTB. I asked my bud one last time which way we were going, hoping that he would want to drop into the creek below.

    We straddled the saddle and began our descent into the valley below, homing in on the aforementioned creek. Plowing through the manzanita and scrub oak at risk of drive train destruction we were able to ride/hike down into to the creek. There I promptly found evidence of the USFS Bug Springs Route. My bud thought differently, but now he had no choice but to reluctantly follow me, down the creek without a paddle, going back the other way was now not an option.

    The boulder strewn route along the creek bed flowed well for me and was reminiscent of some wilder freeride adventures in the Sinai Wilderness of Egypt in times past. My bud after walking a bit found his freeride mojo and began boulder surfing along the creek bed.

    I was in heaven, riding uninhibited along the gnarly creek in the wild sparsely traveled valley. My reluctant riding partner soldiered on, but no doubt thinking that this will be the last time that he willingly follows my dumb ass into the unknown.

    The route began to weave in and out of the creek bed and though I could clearly see the path, my bud had lingering doubts. When I mentioned that I was digging the ride he verbally expressed his frustration, though in good spirits.

    Some where in there, my ghetto tubeless rear tire was punctured and went flat. I was able to clean and reseat the bead but could not get the puncture sealed as all the sealant spooge had dried up. I was reluctant to put a tube into it as it was only a slow leak and if I could nurse the tire home I would just need to re-spooge the tire. It worked out OK, as I would get ahead of my bud and re-inflate the tire as waited for him to catch up. The interval was just right as it allowed for frequent rest and shade stops.

    The nebulous route continued along the creek before it climbed out above a boulder strewn waterfall. There it turned into a slightly more defined trail as indicated on the map. As we climbed out of the drainage and onto the ridge we were confronted by a new problem.

    The area along the ridge had been burned hard by the Aspen fire and the trail through the remaining area would remain a sketchy route that was in places fairly tough to ride, even on a long travel heavy duty trailbike.

    As I buzzed along savoring the rugged nature of the trail my friend continued to be dismayed. Even as the terrain transformed into some good freeriding he continued to curse the route, specifically that even though the riding was turning out to be OK, it in no way was good enough to warrant the suck @ss climb from Bear Creek that we had to endure.

    We finally hit an area where we could really open up and bomb along the route as were generally accustomed to riding, nice flowing technical terrain. At one ridge top we stopped to survey the route below as we could now see Prison Camp down below.

    It was there that I again emphasized, that to me, the route was most fulfilling. To which my bud responded “I would not wish this ride upon my worst enemy”.

    Upon reaching the highway we decided to skip Molino Basin and head for Chuey’s for some well deserved food and pain numbing margaritas. Another Cabbage Head was indoctrinated in SunDog riding.

  2. #2
    Occidental Tourist
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    thanks for the report!

    I wondered how long it would be before someone went scouting. From the sounds of things - better you than me ;-)
    So does the potential exist?
    Glad to hear all turned out (relatively) well on another of your marches.
    This is just need to know information: Am i supposed to enjoy the irony or pity the sincerity?

  3. #3
    caninus xerophilous
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    Should't be too difficult.

    Quote Originally Posted by YuriB
    So does the potential exist?
    Certainly does. All the USFS need to do is cut a gradually ascending bench cut trail with a few switchbacks running from the north end of the picinic grounds up to the saddle.

    As it stands now, thats one tough hike up with a bike or without, way steep and sketchy. However, once you get down into the drainage its a peice of cake.

  4. #4
    Saucy Size
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    Quote Originally Posted by SunDog
    Certainly does. All the USFS need to do is cut a gradually ascending bench cut trail with a few switchbacks running from the north end of the picinic grounds up to the saddle.

    As it stands now, thats one tough hike up with a bike or without, way steep and sketchy. However, once you get down into the drainage its a peice of cake.
    Do you know if USFS or SDMB or SAMBA or IMBA or IMDB or USDA or AlAnon has made any noise about making that cut? Think they'd entertain a proposal?

    p.
    Don't be that guy! Read the forum guidelines.

  5. #5
    caninus xerophilous
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    Word on the street is yes.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul B
    Do you know if USFS or SDMB or SAMBA or IMBA or IMDB or USDA or AlAnon has made any noise about making that cut? Think they'd entertain a proposal?

    p.

    At one of the SDMB AZ Trail crew leader meetings last year I met a USFS Ranger who MTB's, he said that they were planning on it. If I remember right, it was something about connecting Green Mountain to Molino via Bug Spring Trail. I believe he said that they had already completed the environmental impact study and were supposed to start working on it this year.
    Last edited by SunDog; 07-11-2005 at 04:00 PM.

  6. #6
    Saucy Size
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    Sweet.

    Awesome drivel BTW. That character-building experienced sounded eerily familiar.

    p.
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  7. #7
    Scott in Tucson
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    Nice

    Great report Louis. Your buddy's comments and attitude reminded me of a few sections of the AZT ride. Your bud must be tough in that he kept going and didn't give up. Same with my bud. It's too bad you can't convince someone to enjoy it for what it is, though.

    I've only been on Bug Springs once. I attempted it in the other direction. That wash was a real bugger to get up. I abandoned before I got anywhere near the saddle and rode home. Just like you I hadn't really planned on exploring it.

    Some day the ultimate climb challenge will be available: ride from the Tucson valley to Mt. Lemmon all on trail. Just thinking about it knocks me out. Milagrosa is just the warmup.

    OK, you're right, the reverse direction will be fun too.

    USFS plans to link all the existing trails (bug springs being the most important link) so that this is possible. The other link is between Green Mtn and Butterfly. One word: dynamite. Mike Watson (the guy you met at the AZ trail meeting) tells me about it every time I see him, but it sounds like it is still a ways off. You can count on SDMB to be there to help build and possibly design it.

    Keep the ride reports coming. I'm still so brutalized from the great divide that I can't even think about grasping a handlebar.

  8. #8
    Just another half mile...
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    Hey Louis, It's great to see that you finally were able to explore Bug Spring! Your report brought back lots of good memories from the time we rode it few years ago. As you said, the hardest part of the ride is the first climb were we crawled and dragged our bikes up through the brush. But, once on top there was a defiend trail that dropped down into the creek bottom. From the sound of it, the trail has overgrown a lot since we rode it. To make this a great trail wouldn't take much to reroute a trail up from the picnic area and a short reroute of the bike portage out from the creek. When we rode it, we linked it with Greenie and Mili and it made for killer epic ride that took us close to 8 hours to complete. Once the forest reroutes the trail, combining all three trail will make for a great ride! Here's my GPS MAP that Louis mentioned. Oh yea, we also had a similar character building experience on our ride.

  9. #9
    caninus xerophilous
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    Riding buds that persevere under adversity are great.

    Quote Originally Posted by Krein
    Great report Louis. Your buddy's comments and attitude reminded me of a few sections of the AZT ride. Your bud must be tough in that he kept going and didn't give up. Same with my bud. It's too bad you can't convince someone to enjoy it for what it is, though.
    You know their tough when they chug through something they really weren't prepared for rather than crumble like a cheap taco shell. It's when they stop bickering and give the silent evil eye that we need to worry.

    Quote Originally Posted by Krein
    I've only been on Bug Springs once. I attempted it in the other direction. That wash was a real bugger to get up. I abandoned before I got anywhere near the saddle and rode home. Just like you I hadn't really planned on exploring it.
    You're a sick man, the ride up the ridge before the creek would of had me in waffle mode.

    Quote Originally Posted by Krein
    Some day the ultimate climb challenge will be available: ride from the Tucson valley to Mt. Lemmon all on trail. Just thinking about it knocks me out. Milagrosa is just the warmup.

    OK, you're right, the reverse direction will be fun too.
    Ah the diversity of MTB'ers. I guess once you get to the top of Greenie you could take five and then go over Bigalow down to Butterfly and then onto Oracle via Oracle Ridge for the trans Lemmon Epic.

    Quote Originally Posted by Krein
    I'm still so brutalized from the great divide that I can't even think about grasping a handlebar.
    So you did the Divide after your trans AZ epic? Damn.
    Last edited by SunDog; 07-12-2005 at 08:25 AM.

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