Near the end of our month in Patagonia, Arizona, we finally decided to get our mountain bikes ready to explore some of the many unpaved roads in the area. We'd been concentrating on road riding, building early-season mileage and endurance, but the options were getting a bit repetitive since there just aren't that many roads to ride, Fat tires and suspension gave us the ability to see much more of this scenic area in comfort.
The first time we rode our mountain bikes, we both neglected to bring a camera along and regretted it. The views were breathtaking! We made immediate plans to go out again so we could take photos to share here as well as to help us remember just how special this little-known area is.
On a beautiful spring morning, we started out heading down Blue Heaven Road past the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve and down to Solero Canyon Road. This road starts low by the creek, then climbs up up up until you have a wonderful view of Patagonia and the dramatic mountains beyond. Red Mountain is especially gorgeous when it glows brilliantly in the afternoon sun.
Here's just a small portion of the long climb up.
We discovered that late morning was too early in the day for the best light (and thus photos) of the views from up high, so after getting to the top and catching our breath, we turned around and pedaled back to town, vowing to come back later in the afternoon for photos. I couldn't believe I was going to have to climb that beast of a hill twice in one day, but sacrifices are required for good art, right?
At the bottom of the hill, we watched a couple of cars crossing the overflow from the creek. I guess they knew it wasn't too deep and had the appropriate vehicles for it!
Next we headed east on Harshaw Road, a paved road that we frequently rode our road bikes on. On mountain bikes, we were able to take the fork onto unpaved Harshaw Creek Road to see some different sights and enjoy the virtually traffic-free nature of this road. It is really peaceful and feels a million miles away from civilization -- ahhhhhh.
There are many spectacular white-barked sycamore trees back in these parts.
One of the very coolest things from our entire time in Patagonia occurred along Harshaw Creek Road on this very ride. We heard a rustling in the brush by the side of the road and realized we'd disturbed an entire group of White-Nosed Coatimundi. I counted at least eight running away across the wash, but there were more. We couldn't get a great photo, but here's the best one of a couple of them that scampered up a tree to escape the perceived threat of these two ferocious mountain bikers.
And coatis weren't the only wildlife we encountered along this road. A friendly cow was checking us out as we pedaled by.
We rode up to the old ghost town of Harshaw where we'd take a break for a sandwich and a stretch. There's very little left here beyond the remains of one old home and a very interesting cemetery.
Many of the graves were very old but freshly decorated with (fake) flowers. There must be family members still living in the nearby area, even though Harshaw itself is no longer populated. We found wandering among the graves kind of peaceful.
This one caught my eye. I liked the simplicity of the cross fashioned of plumbing pipe.
After a screaming descent back on the paved portion of Harshaw Road, we made a quit pit stop at the house for more water and snacks, then headed back to Solero Canyon Road, part dos. The climb was no easier this time around, but the light was much better for photos. However, be advised that these don't even begin to do justice to the real thing in three dimensions. I felt like I was in Patagonia, South America instead of Arizona and couldn't stop oohing and ahhhing as I rode down the steep hill.
I ended up with 35.7 miles on the day -- fairly long by mountain bike standards. Barry, the animal, actually went out on his road bike for an additional 35 miles (for over 70 miles total) after this! I'd had enough, but it was all worth it as the sights we saw were truly special. We found ourselves wishing we'd done more mountain biking in the Patagonia area as there are tons more back roads to explore. Hopefully another opportunity will present itself in the future!
Emily & Barry
We're a long-married, early-retired couple who are currently traveling as nomads with no fixed home base. After years of living in North Carolina (Emily's home state), we spent 18 months living oceanfront on Ambergris Caye, Belize, a year road-tripping the US in a Honda CR-V, a year in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and are now roaming North America in our 32' motorhome, Pearl, following warm weather whenever possible.
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