Our first plans for a circumnavigation of the Sky Island Odyssey East loop had been cancelled at the start of the pandemic. Finally getting around to leading this ride felt like a return to forward momentum after the chaos of the last two years.
For this trip, I had a slightly modified version of Sarah Swallow’s excellent route, setting us up to start in a little closer to Tucson for less driving. This also lined us up nicely for enjoying the luxury camping at the Appleton-Whittle Research Ranch on our second night.
We picked a convenient juncture to park and meet up at the intersection of Greatervillle and Box Canyon roads. Our crew of old and new friends gathered around at 8AM on the brisk cold morning of Friday, February 4th, nervous and excited for the adventures and misadventures ahead.
Our ride started off with a long downhill run down Box Canyon Road into Green Valley. We stopped at the Safeway in town for some coffees before setting off for the tough part of the day.
On a loop ride, what goes down must come back up. And after that nice coasting start to our 3-day ride, it was time for the climbing and what would turn out to be the most challenging part of the ride. We ascended over 2000 ft riding into gusting headwinds, followed by rolling climbs over chunky gravel for the remaining arduous miles into camp.
That tough finish to the day spread out our group with the last riders arriving into camp a couple of hours after dark and a portion of our group missing our camping spot and camping out a few miles further ahead.
After a very windy night, we woke up to a calm beautiful morning. Riding into Patagonia in the morning was glorious. We regrouped loaded up on food and enjoyed the coffee at the Patagonia Lumber Co.
Arriving into town shortly after we did were a group of friends and employees from BICAS who were gathering up with bicycles dressed up for a bicycle camping party. Our groups co-mingled as we exchanged notes about our days adventures before our group pulled out anticipating quite a few more miles before our day was done.
Our ride from Patagonia to the Appleton-Whittle Research Ranch took us through the breathtaking expanse of the San Rafael valley. It was a truly beautiful day to be out. Arriving at camp we were welcomed to the ranch by our host Cristina as well as Sarah Swallow.
After our rough and tumble first night, the accommodations that the ranch had to offer were luxuries. Between showers, a kitchen and a sheltered area for camping, we were living it up that night.
After a cold night we awoke to another beautiful day. The climbing over our last stretch of riding reminded us of the challenges of the first day but stretched over fewer miles.
It was great to finally level up to leading an advanced level bikepacking trip. And as we have been preparing to support next weekend’s Ruta Del Jefe, riding this route was very informative. And of course it was great to spend time with a big bunch of our friends and customers, getting a solid dose of outdoor rejuvination.
Thank you to everyone who joined us. And special thanks to the riders who contributed to the above photo collection: Bill Hatcher, Erik Binggeser, Dean Wolfgang, Dan Millis and Toby Smith
And if you are interested in joining us for one of our outing, we’re onto the second part of our beginner/intermediate/advanced bikepacking ride series with our Beginner Overnighter to Catalina State Park on March 12th.
Notable Tucson Jan/Feb ’22 Cycling Scene Happenings
- Reddington-Lemmon Loop
- Lael Wilcox made this classic Tucson gravel route official by publishing it on Bikepacking.com.
- 24 Hours of Old Pueblo Returns
- This celebration of epic distance mountain biking was in full swing again this year.
- Bags By Bird Returns to Tucson
- Jay Ritchey has moved his bikepacking bag making business back to Tucson.
More Campfire Jan/Feb ’22 Highlights:
- Joe Cruz visits Campfire
- On January 25th, we hosted Joe Cruz down the street from the shop at Borderlands. Joe is known for having bike packed all over the world over the last 3 decades. As a professor of philosophy and a regular contributor to Bikepacking.com Joe is a gifted speaker relating the stories of his travels while exploring the deeper themes and experiences behind bicycle travel.