Finally reaching the top of yet another long, torturous climb, the thought occurred to me, not for the first time today, that this route didn’t look particularly familiar.
Being bored with bicycling the Union Hills Loop in the normal, socially acceptable, clock-wise direction, I decided this morning to ride the trail backwards, hoping that the perspective change would make it appear new and interesting again. It did. The Union Hills Loop is riddled with trails that branch off at a variety of angles and leading off in a multitude of directions. Shortly after the second unexpected climb — most of the Loop is relatively flat — I began to suspect I had chosen a wrong branch a mile or more back. Rather than turn back, I pressed forward and started looking for side trails that would lead back toward the main route — it’s virtually impossible to really get lost in the Loop area since it’s completely surrounded by out-reaches of Phoenix and adjoining communities on three sides and the I-17 on the West.
The trail up this last hill, the fifth, was at least heading in the right direction. Riding the fast switch-backs down the other side was a pleasant supprise and I reached a mud plain — the only remaining obstacle before rejoining the Loop trail — very quickly.
Last Friday, the North Phoenix area received a record 2.5 inches of rain. The mud plain was a reminder of Friday’s torrential downpour and was already partially covered with desert grass. The grass had probably been laying dormant for sometime and was growing rapidly in the unexpectedly wet soil. In only two days time it was already a couple of inches tall and will probably have seeded and died out by the time the ground dries out again.
I still had plenty of momentum from the downhill run and decided to follow the trail across the plain rather than try to find my way around it. I almost made it. Momentum carried me nearly half way across. Careful pedaling — trying to keep the back wheel from spinning and loosing traction — got me within a few dozen feet of the edge of the mud plain. Unfortunately, every rotation of the tires deposited mud between the rims and the break pads. By the time I lost traction, I had a solid ball of mud, about eight inches across, jammed into and collected around both sets of breaks. Friction at the breaks finally over came the front wheel, while conveniently disappearing on the ground.
Picking myself and the bike out of the mud, I trudged to edge of the plain and spent several minutes removing as much mud as possible from tires, breaks, and pedals as well as the cleats on my shoes. Not an easy task, since the mud was completely packed with fresh green grass and was quickly gaining the consistency of Adobe.
The rest of the Loop was uneventful, except that chunks of mud I had been unable to scrape off would periodically get somewhat dislodged and wedge against a rim, adding a bit more resistance to the spinning wheel.
Tiring, but a good ride.