Catalina Foothills - Winterlude 2021 - CycleBlaze

December 22, 2021

Catalina Foothills

Rachael and I both put in full rides yesterday and have another challenging one lined up for tomorrow so we decided to take it easy today.  We have different rides in mind but both plan to go up the Oro Valley, so I suggested we start out together and then separate somewhere along the way.  Rachael is antsy to get started though before I’m ready because I took too long finishing off yesterday’s post so she leaves about a half hour before me.

Rachael’s idea of an easy ride today translates into a 49 mile out and back: north on Mountain, and then on the Loop all the way to its end in Oro Valley.  It would have only been a lazy 48 but when she entered our alley at the end of her ride she found three loose dogs barking at her so she circled the block and came in from the other direction.  Just enough extra distance to allow her to round up to an additional mile.

I’m bound for the Oro Valley also, but by way of the Santa Cruz River.  By the time I start out it’s almost 11, and shirtsleeve weather already.  Today will top out at 75, the first really warm day we’ve seen since we arrived.  About ten miles into the ride I leave the Santa Cruz and start biking east up the Rillito Wash.  it takes me about a mile to realize I’ve spaced out and taken the wrong turn thinking this was the path up the Oro Valley, so Once enlighten the comes I turn back and get on course again.  When I tell this story to Rachael at the end of the day she asks what the use is of drawing a route for myself if I’m not going to pay any attention to it?  A good point, to which I have no good answer.

I didn’t really need to add an extra two miles to the ride I mapped out for myself, but at least it let me catch a shot of a house finch.  Not the most exciting sighting of course, but the pickings have been meager on the birdwatching lineup so far and I’m taking anything I find.

A house finch, a bird you can see pretty much anywhere in the country except the heart of the Great Plains.
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Back on track again, I’m just starting up the Oro Valley when I see a large mesquite ahead so full of house finches that it looks like a Christmas tree.  I look again though and see that one is not like the others - an American Goldfinch bent over backwards like a contortionist, his brilliant yellow breast puffed out.

Great act, Mr. Goldfinch! I wish I could do that.
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Pretty small potatoes, I know; but a few miles on there’s a genuinely interesting sighting.  Out of the corner of my eye I see a white flash and look up to see a large hawk come to rest high up on a utility pole.  He doesn’t look like any other hawk I remember seeing so of course I’m excited.  I can’t get a good view though because the sun is behind him and he’s partially blocked by the utility pole.

I lean my bike against a fence and start walking down the path to the other side of the pole, hoping he won’t immediately fly off but thinking it unlikely.  To my surprise though he stays put, regally surveying the terrain in all directions and unconcerned by me down below pointing my camera his way.

And he still stays put when the next biker s arrives, looks up, and quickly  gets his camera out too; as do the next four cyclists that come along.  I ask them all if they know their hawks, but no one knows what this is.  They’re all still looking up when I finally bike off.

A ferruginous hawk! I’m not sure I’ve ever seen this magnificent bird in the wild before. The guide says this is our largest hawk, and this behavior of perching on tall poles like this is characteristic of them.
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So that makes the day for me.  Everything else is just gravy, but there’s quite a lot of it as I wander through the Catalina Hills, a part of town I discovered for the first time last week on the ride out to the Bicycle Ranch to pick up the new cluster for my Bike Friday.  I was impressed then by how attractive the area was for cycling and planned to return.

And it really is a fine cycling area (as you’ve also seen if you’ve been following Kelly’s posts - Jacinto just found this area for himself as well).  Today I followed a route that doesn’t really make much sense if you’re trying to get anywhere - I just biked several roads up to their end in the hills, dropped down and went up another one.  Spectacular views, generally quiet streets, attractive neighborhoods with impressive cactus gardens.  The climbing wasn’t bad at all either except at the end of East Ina Road, where I came to a thankfully short 13 per center - just enough to warm me up for a much longer fifteen per center lurking around the next corner.

A great ride, even without that hawk.  I’ll be back, and bring Rachael next time.

Another peculiar mailbox. Must be expecting a weighty delivery.
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An interesting yard ornament.
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The west end of the Catalina Range seems startlingly close from the upper end of Magee Roard.
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I think this is the mouth of Pima Canyon, but I might have lost track here.
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Birdhouse, I guess.
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Phainopepla, an old friend but new this season.
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marilyn swettGood catch, Scott! We saw these in Lost Dutchman SP but they always moved so quickly that I could never get a decent picture.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo marilyn swettThey are hard. Pretty easy to spot, especially once you recognize their voice; but they keep their distance.
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1 month ago
Kelly IniguezI like his top not. He looks like a teenager, slicked up to go out!
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1 month ago
Another spot I’m unsure of, but I think this is at the upper end of East Ina Road.
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The view northwest.
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The view straight west. I think the high point in the nearest formation is Sombrero, and the distant range is the Silver Bells. Maybe.
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At the top end of Campbell Avenue the public road ends at the entrance gates to Catalina Ridge Estates.
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Southbound on Campbell - a fast descent, and safer than it looks here.
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Ride stats today: Rachael: 49 miles, 1,100’; Scott: 43 miles, 1,800’

Today's ride: 43 miles (69 km)
Total: 879 miles (1,415 km)

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Comment on this entry Comment 5
Gregory GarceauI'm a little late, but my happy birthday wish is no less sincere. And congratulations on riding your age once again. At 75, you haven't gotten ferruginous (rusty) at all. Which reminds me . . . nice hawk photo.
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1 month ago
marilyn swettWe've enjoyed all of our rides in the Oro Valley area - lots of on-street bike routes. But it is a distance from the river trail.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Gregory GarceauThanks, and thanks for the lesson! I’ve known the name of this hawk since I was a child so I never really thought about it’s meaning.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Gregory GarceauAnd now that you’ve pointed out that ferruginous means rust-colored I especially like this photo because he’s perched next to a rusty pole.
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1 month ago
Graham FinchLots of different birds there, Scott. There doesn't seem to be many here, certainly not where I usually ride.
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1 month ago