Yesterday I set out for a little solo ride up in the McDowell's promptly at 7:00 am from the Gateway Access Area trailhead.
My plan wasn't absolutely clear, because it depended on how ambitious I felt once I got up to Tom's Thumb.
With my heavy bike, it took me two hours to finally get to the pass at Tom's Thumb, but I felt good as I conserved my legs on the climb up. Since I wasn't absolutely destroyed, I decided to run down the North McDowell Access trail to see if I could find a connector to Pemberton Trail. If I was able to find Pemberton, I could make my way back into the lower east side trails I was already familiar with.
I bugged a couple of hikers who had climbed up the North McDowell trail to see if they new of a connector, but said it wasn't possible. I knew there had to be a way, but I just had to get a look of the terrain below and talk to the right person.
The ride down the North McDowell trail, was actually pretty fun. The recent heavy rains only inflicted minimal damage. The crushed granite cinder on the trail was slipper but fun. I was glad I had big phat tires and big rotors.
Once down at the bottom of hill, in the North McDowell Access Area, I could clearly see where I need to be (on Pemberton), but I just need to figure out the route to get there.
I bugged one more hiker in the lower lot, and he said that I am on the jeep road I need to be, and if I keep heading east down the road I find cow gate and a trail head. About 1.25 miles and slight change in directly I found the connector, and it was very intuitive.
The connector trail is Rock Knob trail and from the gate to Pemberton was less than 3/4 of a mile. It spat me out at the fun section of Pemberton. From here, I headed due south for less than 2.75 miles to Coachwhip Trail.
Once I was on Coachwhip I had to make a decision on what route to take back over the McDowell Mtn ridge to the Scottsdale side??? I still had some legs left and when I transitioned from Pemberton to Coachwhip, so I decided to do the totally unnecessary and painful hike-a-bike back up the East End Trail back up to Tom's Thumb. It was about 10:30 (about 3.5 hours into my little epic ride).
It took me another half hour to get to East End Trail after I pedaled Coachwhip to Windmill Trail.
The climb up East End Trail was miserable. It took me a solid hour of push my 37 lbs bike the 1.3 miles back up the steep-steep hill. The 7" fork put my handlebars at eye level, so I struggle to leverage the monster of bike up the hill.
East End Trail got hammered pretty hard by the rains, and it come away looking very good. A number of deep trenches down the middle of the trail would make riding down it not very fun. The steep and sharp swithbacks are ordinarily fun, but I don't think it would be all that entertaining with the new trenches.
Once on top I rested for while in the shade of the two leaning boulders. At 12:00 I hoped back on my bike and ripped down the Tom Thumb trail, and that was a hoot.
I got back to my car at 12:45, and was thoroughly fatigued.
I didn't GPS the route, but I'd estimate it at 22.5 miles and about 4,000 vf of climbing.
Here is a Google Earth interactive map tour I put together of my route:
Here is my blatant rip off of Maadjurguer Tom Thumb photo composition.
Sitting on the Pemberton Trail looking west at the Mcdowell Mtns.
Here are a couple trail marker signs:
And here is a big phat diamondback rattlesnake that gave me a few ticks with her tail as I rolled by.