So - the last Friday we were there I decided to head down to Madera Canyon. I had been looking for an 'M' for Harley ABCs Tour, and it had shown up. Tif and I went and got the 'M' at Mount Lemmon, but the web page had looked cool so I decided to head down. Tucson is pretty cool in that; although you'd think it was pretty much "pure desert", you can get an hour or so out of town and be in all different kinds of terrain. Another "ride up into the mountains" sounded fun.
So I did some google mapping and found a pretty good loop. South out of town, down the S Nagoles Highway, then down Whitehouse Canyon Rd and into the Canyon itself. Coming back out I'd take E Box Canyon Rd, over to Hwy 83 and north back into town. All in all a pretty good ride and shouldn't take too long.
So we (Captain Jack and I) head south out of town, and avoiding the interstate, we take Sahuarita Rd west to Nagoles... only deal is that they are graveling it and its got fresh gravel. Not to great on the bike, but we brave it - at least traffic is flowing at 25... Until we hit the one lane. So Cap'n Jack and I kick back in the 90 degree heat, Aerosmith blasting, and trying not to get too fried. After about 5 minutes I turn him off (to keep cool - or at least not get so hot) but still listen to the tunes. Finally the pilot car comes and we are on our way. I'm not sure how much longer this construction is going to last; but at least Wilmont should be soon and we can head south (not wanting to take this road all the way to the Nagoles Hwy).
We get to Wilmont... and its a dirt road - so we continue on our way. Finally we find a paved road heading south and we roar off, picking up some speed and some wind. Going along through the Pecan orchards; the temperature drops a good 10 degrees. Its awesome... until 5 miles later, yup - it turns to dirt. So we turn around, head back north and stay on Sahuarita till we hit the Nagoles Hwy, and head south on that, following the signs to Madera Canyon.
We are heading south, and then east, but it doesn't look like we are going to get that much closer to the Mountains... but then the road starts heading due south and says the National Park is about 8 miles ahead - so we should at least get into the foothills. Cool deal.
We then get closer to the park and see this sign, about 20 feet past the park sign:
Just in case you can't read that... here is a close up:
Yeah... that's right
SMUGGLING AND ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION MAY BE ENCOUNTERED IN THIS AREA.Gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling doesn't it? Especially when I've seen like ONE car so far.
Anyway, we are up for it and continue on. I get into the park and it is pretty cool. Saw: deer, wild turkeys, quail, squirrels and all kinds of birds. And there were plenty of people around picnicking, hiking, etc. Up into the canyon, dessert giving way to foothills with all kinds of trees, little stream. Very nice.
Coming back out of it we head north on the road and get to the Box Canyon turn off. "14 miles to 83".... and the road is dirt! But it doesn't look "that bad", and surely its not all dirt - so off we go.
A little nervous, given the sign and all; but we're doing 35 - 40, so moving right along. Then we see a sign (after about 5 miles) that says something like "9 miles of narrow road ahead". 5 miles back or 9 miles ahead? We continue on.
And the road just gets worse and worse. We are now doing maybe 10 MP, and sometimes almost coming to a complete stop as we cross what look like 4 wheel drive roads. Single lane, switchbacks, soft dirt or rocks everywhere. I'm expecting someone to jump out at any corner... Kind of get this "Badges... we don't need no stinkin' badges" picture in my mind.
Anyway, we continue on. And we are going slow enough to see the 3 inch flying bug things in front of us that keep slowly flying out of our way as we pass.
The road keeps switchbacking up and up. Not like going over Independence Pass or anything, since we are in the hills... but still very twisting and you can't see more than about 10 feet in front of you and some of the corners feel like they are about 5 miles wide. We did see one truck on the road. We pulled to the side and he passed us in the opposite direction and then we ate his dust for the next mile or so. Eventually we started heading back down and came to this little canyon.
Pretty cool! The only place I stopped to take a picture. The rest of the time we just kept moving! Before we got to 83 we did hit pavement finally and went through some ranch land. Again... a different part of AZ. Looked like CO to some extent. Pasture land, windmills, cows, trees. Very pretty. Then hit 83 and roared home.
All in all, quite the adventure and it all turned out well. I wouldn't do it with Cap'n Jack every again - but a dirt bike or a pickup might be fun. It was very pretty.
Brian's response when Tif talked to him on the phone and told him I went down to Madera and then across Box Canyon on the bike by myself... "Is he nuts?"