Day 2: Hike in Madera Canyon, pedal to Green Valley - Southeast Arizona 2016 - CycleBlaze

March 28, 2016

Day 2: Hike in Madera Canyon, pedal to Green Valley

I left the Santa Rita lodge at 8:30 with all my gear, pedaling up a 10% grade for 20 minutes. I had to stop a few times to catch my breath just to climb 600 feet to the end of the road at the Mt. Wrightson trailhead. It's the main trailhead for the Santa Rita mountains, with 4 levels of parking and a toilet building at each level.

I went up the Super Trail to Josephine Saddle. The trail continues to Mt. Wrightson.
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Today I hike the Super trail up to Josephine Saddle, then the Old Baldy trail down to the trailhead. The climb is almost continuous uphill, from 5500 to 7080 feet elevation (1670-2150 m). The Super trail continues to 9453 foot Mt. Wrightson, the highest peak in the Santa Rita mountains.

Near the bottom of the Super trail, entering the pine zone.
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The trail follows Madera Creek for a mile or so. The creek has a steep gradient with many small cascades. The oaks transition to pines at about 6000 feet elevation (1820 m).

Cascades on Madera creek.
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It was a warm sunny day but it was pleasantly cool under the canopy of tall pine trees. I took most photos when the trail entered an open area with a good view, but most of the trail was in dense forest with no distant view.

Climbing higher.
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It was fun to see the view to the northwest, looking down on the area I pedaled through yesterday afternoon. I couldn't recognize specific details but I could see the town of Green Valley. And now I look down at the giant copper mine instead of looking up.

View looking northwest towards Green Valley and a giant copper mine.
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Most of the trail is densely forested.
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My turnaround point is Josephine Saddle, 7080 feet elevation, highest point of the tour. I saw hikers come and go on the trail to 9453 foot Mt. Wrightson. My 7 mile hike climbs less than halfway to Mt. Wrightson. I could do the 4000 foot ascent if I was well rested and drove a car to the trailhead, but not in the middle of a bike tour.

The area is densely forested with tall pine trees, so it has no panoramic views. I wandered around for a few minutes to find one gap in the trees with a partial view of the "back" side of the saddle. The weather at the saddle was a pleasant 60F (15C), breezy, mostly sunny.

The only view I could find looking down the "back" side of forested Josephine Saddle.
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I descended the Old Baldy trail which has fewer views out of the canyon but many views looking up at Mt. Wrightson and the surrounding peaks.

Up close view of 9453 foot Mt. Wrightson from near the top of the Old Baldy trail.
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The Old Baldy trail descends more steeply than the Super trail climbs. It didn't take long to get back to the trailhead.

Mt. Wrightson a bit farther away.
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Back on the bike I stopped several times while descending out of the canyon.

Descending on the bike through Madera Canyon.
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First, a stop at the Madera picnic area along Madera creek with many oak trees.

Madera Creek again.
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Then a stop at the Nature Trail trailhead. I walked a mile uphill to get great views looking up at the mountains and looking down from the canyon.

View of Santa Rita mountains from the Nature Trail. Mt. Wrightson left of center. Josephine Saddle right of center.
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View from the Nature Trail looking out of the canyon.
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Then a stop at Santa Rita Lodge to buy ice cream from the gift shop and observe the bird watchers for a few minutes. Later I learned that Madera Canyon is ranked the third best bird watching destination in the United States.

Santa Rita Lodge is popular with bird watchers.
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Then a final stop just outside the canyon to enjoy the views after descending from the oak zone to the more open mesquite zone. I expected it to be uncomfortably hot in the open desert but the temperature was only 80F (27C) with a brisk southwest breeze. Definitely cooler than yesterday. Tomorrow is forecast to be much cooler.

Now outside the canyon in the grass and mesquite zone.
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Picnic area just outside Madera canyon.
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I had a great visit in Coronado National Forest.
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Back in the desert valley with mesquite and cholla cactus but no grass. A final look back at the Santa Rita mountains near the end of a great day.
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Back in Green Valley at 5 PM I had to backtrack 1.5 mile north to Comfort Inn. $95, more expensive than Tucson. Dinner at a restaurant next door.

What a day! Great scenery. Great weather. Great hike. My right foot was sore near the end of the hike but it wasn't a major problem.

Distance: 19.0 mi. (30.4 km)
Climbing: 781 ft. (237 m)
Average Speed: 11.1 mph (17.8 km/h)
Hiking: 9 mi. (14.4 km)

Today's ride: 19 miles (31 km)
Total: 65 miles (105 km)

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