Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sweetwater Preserve Trails (not really, but I was close)

***Updated 11/23/08 ***** I thought I was on Sweetwater Preserve trails when I did this trail run and blog post, but I have since found out that I was not! See this post for the real Sweetwater Preserve write-up. But, don't miss this run I talked about below - it was beautiful and a lot of fun - it was actually still in the Tucson Mountains, but a little North of the Sweetwater Preserve. **** end update - Renee
I finally checked out the trails in Sweetwater Preserve, an area of land in Tucson recently set aside for us outdoor folks! It was absolutely beautiful! It is in the Tucson Mountain range and can be accessed from the same trailhead as the Sweetwater trail, which takes you to Wasson Peak. Camino del Cerro trailhead is just off I-10, down at the end of Camino del Cerro Rd. heading West. Instead of taking Sweetwater trail, you head North on the Thunderbird trail. Along the Thunderbird trail, I passed an abandoned mine (Thunderbird mine). No need to check it out; I didn't want to know what was living in there! At some point, I ended up on the Windmill trail. I wonder why they call it the Windmill trail?
The windmill was a neat find! It was near a small canyon. I really felt isolated out there today; I didn't see a single mountain biker, hiker or runner the whole time. It struck me as a good place for a mountain lion, but that thought just added to the adrenaline rush! A big thunderstorm swept into town last night, and I was worried it would continue this morning, but all I received was some cloud cover and a slightly cooler temperature, which was great! I took a great shot of the cloudy Catalina mountains from the preserve.

Some of these heavily cactused desert runs can initially start to look the same sometimes. This area was so green and pretty, though, I'm ranking it up there as one of my favorite desert runs so far (maybe even more than Tucson Mountain Park?) It had a nice blend of rolling up and down hills, with some occasional flat stretches, and had some pretty narrow singletrack as well as wider trail sections. It was also very rocky in some spots, so I could practice my agility a little, but also had some nice smooth trails, too. If you pay attention, you can find some fun stuff out there in the desert. I saw this saguaro cactus (in the picture to the right) and took it as a sign to head right (literally, it was at the head of a junction!) As is typical on Tucson desert trail runs (or is it typical on a lot of trails?) many trail junctions were unmarked, some being shortcuts back to other trails, while others dead-ended (one near a person's house on the edge of the preserve). I had a pretty sketchy map, so I went ahead and headed back on a suspected loop (the whole thing appears to be a series of loops). I ended up on the Cactus Canyon trail from the Windmill and Gila Monster trails, which I took to the Coyote Pass trail, which went to Picture Rocks Wash trail, and I was hoping to connect to the Brittlebush trail and take it back to Thunderbird (or Cactus Canyon). However, once I got on Brittlebush, I soon lost the trail. I was wondering all over the place looking for it, and I started to think it dropped into the small wash ahead of me. However, I wasn't even sure it would reconnect (remember, the sketchy map) so I went ahead and backtracked on the alleged big loop I was making, which added to my run time. I ran (and hiked) for 2:10, but was out there for almost 3 hours with the stopping, wandering, checking things out, and picture taking (and a couple of restroom breaks). I don't think I was ever lost (Tucson is right to the East, just start heading that way!), but I was worried that it wouldn't connect and I would really have too much backtracking to do and with it being so remote, I just didn't want to push it. I ended up running out of water 15 minutes before the end of my run, so I'm glad I made that decision.
The trail left a bunch of scratches on my legs; some spots on the trail are super narrow (watch the overhanging cactus trail runners!) and the prickly bushes got me time and time again. I always feel like a real trail runner when I look like I've been through battle. :)

I definitely recommend this trail run. I'm going to the map store to get more details and I might try it again next week. My Summer Trail series races will be the following 3 weekends after that, so I won't get another opportunity until September. The solitude and beauty of these trails seemed to fill my spirit up. I wore my 'Pinkcorker' visor and pretended I was doing an ultra. It was so much fun.

1 comment:

RunningTroysLife said...

I'll have to check out that side of the perserve. Sounds nice.