Asked where in Arizona I should ride my state resident and friend Joe (Rockman) said I could rack up a lot of miles at Brown’s Ranch in the northern part of Scottsdale. I had no idea what an incredible place Brown’s would be until I pulled into the parking lot … a lot that could hold at least 150 cars. People were everywhere … prepping for bike rides and hikes.
I was surprised to see the parking spot closest to the huge trailhead open. As I eased the 150th vehicle into that spot I began to think to myself, “And this is on a Thursday Morning! What would this place look like on a Saturday or Sunday?”
The trailhead building was, by far, the most extensive I had ever witnessed. People were milling around like ants getting into a humming bird feeder.
I glanced at the huge map on the wall and grabbed a map (there must have been a hundred in the bin) and headed out.
I had decided to begin by riding the whole perimeter of the land trust, clockwise.
The trails near the trailhead were wide, smooth, and packed with hikers. I felt bad as I approached, many scrambling out of the way, as if I was going to run them down. I thanked every single one as I slowly cruised by.
At one point there were so many hikers I decided to take a trail leaving Brown’s Ranch on the western side, hoping I would be able to loop around to the north and rejoin the system (which eventually I did).
I eventually made hit the Ranch Trail which led me to Ranch Road … where I came across an old concrete block water tank. I figured the structure must have been left over for when Brown’s Ranch was operational.
I left the water tank on the Corral Trail and soon came across a mountain biker resting in the shade of a tree. He said his name was Clark and he was trying to get back into biking. He said he was listening to an excellent book (called Orphan X), and gave me a quick review. I typed the name into my phone as I am always looking for a good “read.”
Clark told me to go ahead but we eventually spoke again when I stopped to eat my snack.
Clark, a local rider, told me the best route I could take would be to stay on the Hawknest Trail … then eventually take the 136th Street Express all the way along the east side of the system. He said I could ride with him but he wanted to get a head start on me. So he left as I finished my Nature Valley bar and polished off a water bottle.
Clark was absolutely correct! The northeast portion of the Hawknest Trail was the best of the day. I rode the narrow thread as fast as I could, weaving through rocks and around cacti, truly expecting to see Clark around the next turn. But, never did see Clark again.
At one point I sped upon a mountain biker. He was sitting on a hill, his body blocking the rays of a lowering sun offering just a rough outline. “Damn Clark, you must have been really booking it … I had a heck of a time catching you,” I exclaimed as I pulled up beside him. The rider said nothing, and as I looked over at him I knew why. He wasn’t Clark!
I spoke with Merv who said he thought Clark had already passed by and informed me he had just taken a mountain biking class and loved his new sport. He had been a distance runner but after a knee replacement had decided to try a different form of exercise.
After leaving Merv I ran into a couple more mountain bikers … John and Cindy.
I had to laugh as my wife is also a Cindy. I told them our family was confusing as my brother also married a woman named Cindy. Two Cindy Undens can be confusing sometimes. But John said he could top my story. He said he worked with a guy with exactly the same first and last name … and both their wives were a Cindy.
We spoke about various topics including kayaking. We made a point to stay in touch and went our separate ways.
I decided to take a few of the trails which led back into the heart of the preserve, and found some beautiful trail settings.
By looking at the map I decided I wanted to see what “The Amphitheater” looked like. I took the Cholla Mountain Loop Trail and loved it! A true roller coaster track, sometimes winding between boulders larger than a house.
I came up two structures I cannot explain. They were probably twenty feet tall, made of rusted iron, and tapered as they rose upward to a perforated ring attached to the top.
While looking at the map I noticed the Vaquero Trail. I had to try that trail as my high school mascot was a Vaquero. This trail was not as much fun as the previous ones as I found myself mostly climbing.
Once I completed the Vaquero Trail I used the Wrangler and Upper Ranch Trails to get me back to the Brown’s Ranch Trailhead. I found riding these trails much easier as most of the hikers had gone home.