West Silver Bells

November 12, 2004

The West Silver Bell Mountains are a great place for a true wilderness ride without travelling far from Tucson. We had the trail totally to ourselves in mid-November. However, we saw quite a lot of debris along the trail -- mostly one-liter plastic jugs tied with pieces of torn clothing. This road provides a direct connection from the border almost all the way to Phoenix without ever leaving reservation land.

The trail begins at the cemetery belonging to the former mining town of Silverbell. This wire crib marking an infant's grave is eloquent testimony to the harsh conditions that prevailed in this desert mining camp.

Near the highest point on the trail, there's a ridge of red-and-white quartz that looks as though it once formed the roof of a cave.

"Bicyles with Rocks" (photo by Dennis)

Both times I biked in this area, a leaden sky limited opportunities for photos. Later, five minutes of golden light at sunset more than made up for the cloudy day.

Dennis' "moody windmill" photo, taken at an abandoned ranch where the trail intersects the back road to Phoenix.

The loop took us +3 hours with stops. It is an easy ride with thrilling views south into Tohono O'Odham Territory. There are definite challenges in the form of tire-eating sand traps and bone-jarring descents that end when your tire slams sideways into the oncoming hillside. For directions and an excellent map, it would be wise to visit the Southern Desert Mountain Bicylists web site.

Dennis ensnared by a twisted, man-eating barrel cactus.