We're going to Moab, in July! Most people would say we're crazy but we know from past experiences that the mountain biking in the La Sals is sublime and July is the perfect time of year to be there: cool in the evenings with snow caped peaks above and never ending views of the desert below. I love Moab! So in reality it's too freakin hot to be down in town but I imagine a quick stop in to the Moab Creamery for a double scoop can't hurt.
Let's back up a bit so I can give you a bit of history. Last fall I joined this forum and I continue to be amazed and thrilled by the stories I read. Kerry and I decided back in January that we would take time off from work following the 4th of July holiday and go on our first extended bike camping trip. Normally Moab is about a 6 hour drive from Albuquerque - taking the pavement. But we're going to get there taking as much dirt as we can. We'd like to go over some of the high passes in the San Juans and we'd like to cruise along the Dolores River valley too. Also, a ride along the Divide Road through the Uncompahgre Plataea would make for a nice addition to the trip. We plan to take the Continental Divide Trail route up into southern Colorado but from there our route is pretty much unplanned except for a stop in to see friends in Crested Butte. We've got 12 days so let's see what kind of adventures we can get into. Woohoo!
Before January of this year Kerry had never ridden a motorcycle while I had ridden street bikes and had some limited MX experience. We are avid mountain bikers and back country skiers so we are pretty comfortable in the high country in pretty much any season. I bought a 2002 KLR 650 and we picked up a DR650 for her. Over the next 6 months we took numerous day trips honing our skills and picking up new tricks with each trip out. We spent time learning to work on our bikes in case something went wrong while we were way away from anywhere. I learned to change tires and I now have this down to less than 30 minutes, including the tire balancing step. We also spent quite a sum amassing gear, luggage, tools, and farkling our bikes. In hind sight, mountain biking is a much cheaper sport but damn this is fun
We hit the road at 7:04 a.m. The goal was to get through the first 100 miles of pavement and get up into the higher terrain before the July heat started to kick in.
We made good time up highway 14 through Madrid and Cerrillos and then took the by-pass around Santa Fe and headed up to Abique. Along the Santa Fe bypass we saw an older couple riding their bicycles at a rather slow pace. We noticed that he had a lap dog of some sort sitting on the rear pannier rack atop a big cushion. The dog was just lying there gazing out at us as we rode by. Odd.
We had considered stopping into Bode’s gas station in Abique for a breakfast burrito and a top up on gas but we took the chance that there would be food and gas available in El Rito as Abique would have been about 10 miles out of our way. We lost that bet. There ain’t much in El Rito and we passed right through what is left of the small sleepy broken down town without seeing any sort of store whatsoever.
We were soon onto dirt following the Continental Divide route up towards Hopewell Lake just below highway 64 which cuts through the high terrain between Tierra Amaria, south of Chama, and Tres Piedras near Taos. We had previously only been through this area once on the highway during a winter storm in a truck. What we had seen from the highway made us want to ride through her on the bikes. The roads were grated and in good shape. We passed by nice rock cliff bands and through open meadows with the wildflowers just starting to perk up from the recent rains. Before the week of the 4th
of July the local terrain had been a dust bowl and we had been riding through several inches of silt. Now the roads were almost tacky with very little dust. Nice!
We spotted an old log cabin.
The road from here became a little rougher and we prepared for some slow going as this was our first trip with bikes fully loaded. I was nervous as to how well they’d handle and I was a bit nervous about Kerry. Alas, once we got past the hill we could see in front of us the roads were fine and we came around a corner to see the Hopewell Lake picnic ground right about lunch time. We rolled in, found a nice spot near the end of the park and took our first break. We had some tasty Mountain House dehydrated cuisine. A year or so prior we found a huge box of the stuff at Costco and just knew it would come in handy some day on backpacking trips or the like. We had about 12 packets of this stuff to get through. Not bad and it’s real practical for motorcycle camping.
After lunch we headed a few miles east on 64 and then continued north once again along the CDT route heading towards the Colorado state line. For those who know the area, we were travelling through the terrain that is west of San Antonio Mountain, that big round hump you drive by along 285 as you head up towards Antonito, CO. This is a gorgeous area definitely worth going back to.
Eventually we popped out by the Cruces Basin Wilderness. This has to be the smallest wilderness area ever as it appears to be only a few miles across.
Basically it’s a big basin. Who’da thunk? Nice area though with the classic NM rolling grassy high terrain punctuated by stands of Aspen and pine trees.
After a bit we got to the Lagunitas Lake campgrounds. We checked out the upper one first bit it was kind of muddy and had a port-o-potty as the facilities. I’d prefer to go in the woods. We then headed down to check out the lower camp and along the way we came across two pit bull pups cruising across the road. I assumed they were camped with someone nearby. Upon reaching the campground we did our usual thing of inspecting the various sites around the lake to see if there was a spot that met our standards: good morning light, flat, clean, and reasonable access to water. This camp area was pretty bumpy and it looked as though the forest service had come through and cleared a bunch of dead fall and left behind all the small stuff. Rather untidy, really. But we were tired and it was getting late so we decided to make do. We found a nice flat spot at the bottom of the lake. It was blocked off from vehicle access but we saw no reason we couldn't fit our bikes through there and unload our stuff right at the table. Sweet!
We saw a fellow camped in one of the back spots so we chatted with him a bit. He was a bit bummed because he had caught his limit in trout but couldn’t build a fire to cook them due to the fire restrictions. Then the two pit bulls came back around. He told us the Forest Service had carted them away the previous day as they were strays. They were skinny and looked hungry. We concluded someone must have dumped them at the campground. Sad. But I wasn’t too keen on having a couple of ravenous pit bulls hanging about. Fortunately they didn’t bother us after they figured out we weren’t going to feed them.
We also met a nice couple from Farmington in their late 60’s. They were out cruising around places they had been as kids reminiscing a bit. Turns out they are avid motorcyclists and had a number of great stories to tell that all started some like, “must have been 37 years ago…”. One story was quite impressive. The lady was driving up 285 north of Tres Piedras heading toward the Colorado boarder. She came up over a hill doing about 65 mph on her Triumph Trophy and hit a stretch of several inch deep gravel to which there were no warning signs. She said she managed to hold it together without crashing. Scary. Another good story was about a trip to Oregon where they spent 5 days getting there and then made it back home in two days to get back to work. Sheesh, I could barely make that drive back in two days in a car! These two must truly be Studly Adventurers.
We had another package of Mountain House stew for dinner and then it was pretty much an uneventful night with a bit of rain.
And without further ado, introducing us: Kerry Flint (Flinty).
And me, Greg Dunham (gregdee)