Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Dragoons Day 2

After the first day of riding out of Tombstone, we slowly had breakfast and coffee. It was a very, very slow morning. I think we finally left around 8am. 

This time of year (January, lows are in the 20s-30s) does not see a lot of camping. I think we spotted 3 trailers/campers on the way to Slavin Gulch Trail. 



Using the GPX file from Sky Island Traverse, we tried to find a connection of Slavin Gulch Trail. This trail would have allowed us to not use Slavin as an out-n-back. Needless to say, it did not work so we turned around and continued on the singletrack that splits of Slavin Gulch at the beginning.



This section of the trail is beautiful. This is where you might see another cyclist in the fall/spring time. During January though, we only saw 6 hikers during the entire trip and no mountain bikers.





After some exploring, we found a trail that veers from paralleling FR 687 and heads directly toward Council Rocks. You go through the green gate and around some fun, technical trails to arrive at the petroglphys and metates.



We explored some of the singletrack in this area and realized that you can ride directly from the Council Rocks to FR 688 on singletrack. I will have both options in the GPS file when I post it.



The dirt road FR 688 (shown below) will take you to the Trail #279, but the other option would be to do an out-n-back to the Butterfield Stage Station (mentioned earlier). Due to time constraints, we headed directly to Trail #279 and toward Cochise Stronghold.



Not a bad dirt road given the views



Commence hike-a-bike.........NOW!



We pushed up some of the switch back sections. I would have liked to blame it on the pack, but I am also a little out of shape.

Later on, we opted for a scouting trip to Middlemarch Trail #277. What started out great became a HAB, probably about 40-45 minutes of pushing up a steep, eroded section of singletrack. We eventually popped out at Canal Spring (shown above) and FR 4388.

Given time constraints, we had to NOT ride up toward Cochise Peak and down Slavin Gulch Trail #332 (that is the same one we did an out-n-back on). Given this write-up that I had read before, it seemed that the trail might be even more HAB.


A pretty place to ride.


Back to Tombstone for some beer and food. 

We did find and alternate route instead of taking the highway. But honestly, I would start in the city of Dragoon next time like I mentioned. Tombstone is overwhelming and too far of a drive from Tucson.

The stats:
49 miles
5600 feet of climbing
7.18 hours of moving time

Click here to see the GPX file from this loop. It is NOT cleaned up yet. I would recommend that you DO NOT do Middlemarch Trail and just continue on toward Cochise Stronghold #279.

How to get to the Dragoons:

Take I-10 East to the first Benson exit, stay on that road and head toward Tombstone, shortly before reaching Tombstone take a left on Middlemarch Road, which is a good dirt road and go approximately 8-miles to a “Y” at forest service road 687 where you will go left and park. It is around 11-miles from this point to the end of the road. If you want to make the ride shorter, drive farther up 687 and park.

How to get to Tombstone:

Take I-10 East to the first Benson exit, stay on that road and head toward Tombstone. You can park anywhere off the main drag that allows public parking. We parked on 4th.

The Dragoons Day 1

The simple requisite of new and close meant that the Dragoons were the place to start. Researching the area got me on Google. Of course, Scott and Lee were one of the first to explore the newer sections of this area; their trip report is here. Also, I found these two articles that help me nail down a route that was focused on the Dragoons.

The plan was to do the some of the classic 30ish mile outer loop of Dragoons, while searching for some new trail to link the Council Rocks and possible addition of a figure 8 for future use (that would use either Cochise Trail or Middlemarch Tr, possibly even Slavin #279 from east to west from FR 4388

With the route, we set off from Tombstone a little later than expected due to a delay on I-10. Our plan was to camp below the on any of the campgrounds between FR 687A and FR866.



 As we left town, two different people warned us of the "people" that are over in the dragoons. Classic. I love how the locals in this town think.

The first lady said "to make sure to have a gun because of the immigrants" and the second gentleman said to "watch out for the crazies."  We brushed off both saying that we familiar with camping in southern Arizona.


 While riding out to the camp spot, we probably got passed by 5-7 vehicles on Middlemarch Rd. Given the size of this dirt road, every car was not very friendly and blazed by us. If I were to do this route again, I would start up at city of Dragoon and stop by the Butterfiled Stage Station (see PDF here). The other plan, I would take the gas line road that that Simplissity did during his traverse. On the way back into town on Day 2, we did find a way to bypass the highway section of this route.


We got to the campsite, had some beverages and went to bed eagerly waiting for the singletrack on Day 2.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Gila Coke Ovens Loop Day 2


The next day (read Day 1 here if you missed it), we woke up to beautiful lighting on Area 52. We packed up our gear, left it behind and went up into Area 52 for a quick out-n-back.
The classic toilet bowl line!
Mandatory hike-a-bike
Arizona is a special place!

Area 52 is a fun place, best left to big bikes and little gear. We played around for about an hour before venturing on toward our camp (we had left our gear at the camping spot) and then, to the Gila River. 

We crossed a low-flowing Gila and started to find a new route to Box Canyon instead of using the canal work-around (same one we used last year, 2014 during the Gila River Ramble). Having mapped out the route ahead of time via Topofusion, I had assumed the best route was a jeep road that connects with the railroad.

I was right about the railroad, I just screwed up on the location of the jeep road. We had to bushwack a little ways to get to the railroad.
Crawl-a-bike?


We road a little to the tunnel where we suited up with lights and raced through. If you have ever seen this train go by along the river, you would not be as nervous. I was a little nervous at first, but it turned out to be a quick ride out of the tunnel.


A little bumpy at times, but worth the scenery

We explored one small jeep road only to find a dead end. The route to Box Canyon Rd was the big was you cross before that road takes a sharp turn north (GPX file will be posted on Day 3). 

Box Canyon to Martinez, the classic west side route in this area



Ride. Rest. Snack. Repeat....that is what we did the rest of the day. I assume you have seen this area before. The only new part we added were the Coke Ovens (shown below). Enjoy the pictures until then.



Where's Waldo?

We did a big loop over to the Coke Ovens. Well worth it if you have not seen them. The ovens were built in 1882 to make mesquite into charcoal to be used my the nearby smelting towns. Given the large amount of mesquite in the area, the 5 ovens were built by the Pinal Consolidating Mining Company. Charcoal burns longer and hotter than mesquite; while the term "Coke Ovens" is a bit of a misnomer. They should have been called "Charcoal Kilns."

In 1971, the 72 feet high and 30 feet wide kilns were going to be modified into cottages. When you go into the kilns, you can see this modification, such as the concrete floors and door frames. The process was never completed, but is sounds like a genius idea for bikepacking huts!
that the five charcoal kilns were built around 1882 along the Gila River by the Pinal Consolidated Mining Company to turn mesquite into charcoal to be used in the ore smelting process. Charcoal burns hotter and longer than the mesquite wood from which it was derived. Smelters preferred coke, which is derived from coal, because it would burn even hotter and longer than charcoal. The abundance of mesquite in this Gila Valley location was exploited by the mining company in an attempt to obtain economic advantage. It should be pointed out that "Coke Ovens" is a complete misnomer and "Charcoal Kilns" would be most accurate to describe these bee hive structures.

Read more at: http://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=830
Copyright © 2016 hikearizona.com
the five charcoal kilns were built around 1882 along the Gila River by the Pinal Consolidated Mining Company to turn mesquite into charcoal to be used in the ore smelting process. Charcoal burns hotter and longer than the mesquite wood from which it was derived. Smelters preferred coke, which is derived from coal, because it would burn even hotter and longer than charcoal. The abundance of mesquite in this Gila Valley location was exploited by the mining company in an attempt to obtain economic advantage. It should be pointed out that "Coke Ovens" is a complete misnomer and "Charcoal Kilns" would be most accurate to describe these bee hive structures.

Read more at: http://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=830
Copyright © 2016 hikearizona.com
the five charcoal kilns were built around 1882 along the Gila River by the Pinal Consolidated Mining Company to turn mesquite into charcoal to be used in the ore smelting process. Charcoal burns hotter and longer than the mesquite wood from which it was derived. Smelters preferred coke, which is derived from coal, because it would burn even hotter and longer than charcoal. The abundance of mesquite in this Gila Valley location was exploited by the mining company in an attempt to obtain economic advantage. It should be pointed out that "Coke Ovens" is a complete misnomer and "Charcoal Kilns" would be most accurate to describe these bee hive structures.

Read more at: http://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=830
Copyright © 2016 hikearizona.com

No Gila Ramble is complete without a little bit of randomness. Down by the river, we stopped and watched two 4x4ers get stuck, only to almost flip their truck over. Apparently, we were in the way because we also got yelled at too by one of them.

I love this place....


We peddled from the Gila back to the road and beyond to our camping spot that evening.


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