Dawn breaks over the pecan grove on the east side of the Santa Cruz River as I start my ride from my first official DeAnza trailhead. There's an interpretive sign and everything.
Trail markers lead me south, through desert scrub and riparian areas--washes, arroyos, and what not.
Trail overgrown with monsoon greenery, and trail markers seem to lead directly onto a golf course. There's no mountain biking allowed on most golf courses, so I go down into the sandy Santa Cruz River. Some hard packed sand is easy to ride, but I struggle through some deeper sandy sections. Walk a bit, ride a bit. Take a few snapshots of dried mud. I see lots of golf balls in the riverbed sand.
The golf course is about 20 feet above me because the river has cut away the banks here. I wave to a woman walking her dog along the top of the bank. I'm walking my bike. I ride for about 50 yards, then get stuck walking in deep sand. "If she can walk her dog up there, I can ride my bike," I decide. And I walk my bike toward the steep bank.
My feet sink into the sand. By sink, I mean up to the middle of my shins. Quicksand! My bike is not sinking. But both feet are sinking deep with every step. I am only about 3 feet away from the grassy edge which I know will support me. My mind races: I can't believe I'm stuck in f**king quicksand! I could call out for help, but the dog-walking old lady wouldn't be able to hear me and if she did, she couldn't rescue me. I think of her dog: Run Lassie, go for help! Meanwhile, I posthole toward the grass and I make it!
I use the adrenalin rush to bound up the grassy hillside with bike shouldered like cyclocross, leap over golf course vegetative debris (cactus, grass clippings), and stumble onto the fairway. I sit down to knock the mud off my shoes. I sit directly on an ant colony. Lovely.
My shoes are still muddy!
I happily remount my bike and continue south along the DeAnza Trail which follows the edge of the golf course. Ah, this is much easier than riding in the sandy Santa Cruz.
I use the newish trail bridge to cross an arroyo, and weave south through tall grass on a great trail. I cross another steep-sided arroyo to a turkey vulture nesting area. Too late for foreboding.
I enjoy the desert's second springtime with flowers and cactus fruit.
I want to continue south, but I must get to work this Tuesday morning. My return trip is quick and easy, now that I'm following the trail above the river, instead of in the river.
Back at the interpretive sign and parking lot, I tell my exciting quicksand tale to a Pima County road crew member. He and his colleagues await the road work phone call and enjoy breakfast in the shade. He reacts to my story with a wipe of his mouth to dislodge the last bits of egg mcmuffin. "Do you ride on the golf course?" he asks. I hesitate and want to yell "the golf course is NOT THE POINT OF THIS STORY," but intsead say: "Yes, on the way back."
I need to work on my storytelling skills.
Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail runs from Nogales, AZ, to San Francisco, CA.
De Anza Trail miles: 6
Total De Anza Trail miles: 40
Total ride miles: 12