Monday, April 25, 2011

Souvenirs of a Weekend in the Gila

Although we probably shouldn't have, Lane and I drove down to Silver City and mountain biked in the Gila National Forest. I'm pretty swamped with school-related work, but sometimes you just have to get out of town!  Lane surprised me by packing up all of our gear and getting the car mission-ready for the excursion. This was such a treat. All I had to do on Friday was come home from work and hop in the car.

Part of the drive down was a bit painful due to the high winds on the interstate, but once off the freeway, we had such a lovely drive into Silver City. The terrain changed from desert, to piney woods as we climbed into the Black Range. Much of this land is grazed by cattle and we had to drive carefully to avoid the cows and bulls in the road. A wild turkey was spotted too, which was a real treat.

We rolled into Silver City around 9:00 and were astonished to see that restaurants and and a cafe were still open! Even in Albuquerque it can be a challenge to find tasty food after 8 or 9 and Silver City's population is significantly smaller. Home to Western New Mexico University, it looks like the town caters to the student crowd. After a cup of tea at the Javelina Cafe we camped in the Subaru in the town museum parking lot.

We fueled up at Diane's (delicious eggs florentine, by the way) and picked up some necessities at the food co-op and Gila Hike and Bike. In our usual fashion we arrived at the trailhead around noon, a bit of a late start. We also realized that we left our forest service topographic map at home. No worries--we packed the compass and the fabulous GPS my dad sent in the mail--thanks, dad! This was to be our first time using this nifty bit of technology.

This ride was tough! The first 7 miles of forest road were a variation on a theme--up and up some more. Not quite half way through the ride we were pretty tired, but we soldiered on. We hopped on some single track, also known as the Continental Divide Trail (CDT), for about 6 miles of rolling, sometimes technical riding. We rode through areas recovering from forest fire, with beautiful grasses and lupine tickling our ankles. The views were stunning and if I hadn't been so worried about the time, I would have stopped to snap some pictures. We had the intense focus of getting out of the woods, literally and figuratively.

I ran out of water around mile 12, but Lane still had plenty. The sun was beginning its descent and the GPS said we still had at least 6-8 miles to go. Signs of large mammal life were present and looked pretty fresh. We had plenty of food and extra clothes if we didn't make it back to the car by nightfall. If it was all downhill we'd be in good shape. But as it turns out, it wasn't.

The CDT intersected a forest road that shot down into a canyon. Just before the end of the road, Lane fell, hard. He was bleeding and a little shaken up. The sun kept moving toward the west. About this same time, 2 men and a woman in their twenties came up the road in what looked to me to be an oversized, gas-powered golf cart. They offered us a lift back to the main highway, but said the ride out wouldn't be too bad of a climb and was maybe 5 miles. We had about an hour's worth of sunlight and figured we could make it, or at least make it to their campground and catch a lift back to the Subaru.

The climb out was grueling, since we were tired, thirsty, hungry, and a bit beat-up. We just kept turning over the pedals and keeping an eye on the GPS. At the first possible moment where we thought we could take a shortcut back to the car, we took it. Fortunately, we made a great educated guess. Just as we were whooping and hollering that we could see the car, my rear wheel seized up with a whooshing sound--a major flat. A rusty nail, about 3 inches long pierced the tire and tube, rendering my ride finished for the day. Perfect timing, really. If that had happened 1 mile earlier, we would have been getting back to the car in the dark.

As dusk settled upon us, we scarfed down a quick dinner, hydrated and were grateful to be able to sleep in the back of the station wagon, not in the backcountry. The GPS and compass were something we could not have done without and were grateful for these devices, too. A few hours later we were camped in a canyon in the Black Hills en route back to Albuqerque. A great weekend in beautiful surroundings with just a few souvenirs to remind us of the adventure:

We're already planning our next trip there!


Chile said...

Sounds like fun. Looks painful. What a blast!

Desert Lean-to said...

Chile, Yes. All of the above!