At first light, I was like, "Let’s get the fuck out of here." Janna slept very well. Me not so much after having a gun and potential threat waved at us. We packed up and starting climbing up the paved road. Immediately, the beauty of the day brought me back to the enjoyment of the moment.
We turned off onto a dirt road and the route just decomposed into rock babyheads and rubble. This would prove to a repeat terrain theme of the day. We wound in and out of foothills filled with yuccas and mesquite for several hours until we went up towards the Santa Ritas more directly and passed by an abandoned mine. The route crossed a beautiful stream with a full side view of Mount Wrightson and the observatory. At this point, we began hike-a-biking more steadily. For the next two hours we seemed to alternate between grandma gear pedaling and pushing the bike up steep climbs. I passed two deer hunters scoping the valley below. Eventually, we hit a beautiful saddle. Here, I let loose and flew down into the valleys below.
There were more hunters out in camps, everyone surprised to see us out here on bikes and not ATVs (literally, one guy on an ATV passed us and said we were “crazy”). Up and down repeat valleys and passes along with repeat hike-a-bikes until we came to the top of the last big climb. It provided amazing views of Madera Canyon and a whole side-view of the Santa Ritas.
From here, we swept down miles and miles of rocky mountain side road while passing by loads of cattle. Eventually, we crossed a cattle-guard and the road really improved. Ranches appeared along the way as did the presence of Border Patrol vehicles. The dirt road entered a ranch property and traced along the bottom of a gorgeous flowing wash before summiting one last pass with a view of the Patagonia Mountains. A UPS truck came rumbling up the dirt road - it blew my mind that they were willing to drive out here.
With that, we plunged down and eventually were riding under gorgeous soaring deciduous autumn-colored trees from The Nature Conservancy’s Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve. It felt like true autumn now in the desert (by November), and it put me in the mood for Thanksgiving and the holiday season ahead. Janna and I turned into downtown Patagonia and made up our way back up Harshaw Road to our car at the AZT Trailhead. We were utterly exhausted by this hardest day of the three, but I was very excited to dream ahead for future bikepacking trips.