Wednesday, April 23, 2014

El Tigre Bikepacking, Mexico Day 1

After a weekend doing the Gila River Ramble a few weeks ago, I was left with that yearning for more, yet *different.* It is the kind of thing that would lead you to search for a new route, like Scott and I did during the Coconino a few years ago and with other first time bikepacking trips.

As soon as the Gila River Ramble was over, I talked to Lee about going to Mexico to do a bikepacking trip. No stranger to riding in Mexico, he was excited and asked the plan. Max and I recenly had a successful bikepacking trip last year in Pinacate, Sonora. I had been scanning over Google images of places in the Sierra Madre in Sonora, Mexico....El Tigre and Lake Angostura seemed like a possible destination.

From various fisher forums (I enjoy reading Fish Forums in my spare time), it seemed like the lake was famous for bass fishing. I emailed one of the active members on the forum and got a GPX file that really did little to help. The only other option was to draw in a GPX file using Google Earth. It would be a "rough guide" of where we wanted to go. Additionally, I spent about 3-4 hours looking on the web about the area.

The plan was to go around the lake on a "possible" road and then over to climb a Sky Island, called "El Tigre."

After about an hour of visa/car permit, we headed down to Agua Prieta for the night.

The next morning we drove to Esqueda, Sonora and talked to the Policia Municipal about the area. One of the policewomen offered to leave our car at the station while we were bikepacking. We got ready (while talking to one of the prisoners behind bars, offering him some candy at times) and left after eating some carne asada tacos.

We started riding and were immediately greeted with some stunning views of "El Tigre" in the background. There is something to be said about exploring a new area, especially when you can see your goal far off in the distance, like a carrot beckoning you.

Although this is not a ride without obstacles. First, you have to be careful of cattleguards that are not bicycle friendly.

More importanly, there was the water issue. Afterall, we were riding in a desert for the first day.

Luckily, we had some extra help from a power that is not from this earth.

After the big, first major climb (shown in the first picture), the road began to weave through canyons....

...up and down at times, for several miles. We had our first encounter with a rancher right before his ranch, Agua Caliente. Oscar offered Lee "anything that we needed" saying that we just needed to head to the ranch. I was asking another person in the car, presumably his son, about the route around the lake. His response was a "ufta," which in English translates to "very long, steep at times climb."

Long and steep, eh? I laughed at the "ufta" comment in my head for a few hours after we left Oscar. Hours we had...

 Did you know that Cheetos has 1100 calories in one bag?!

A sign of a legit, exploring bikepacking adventure? Yes, it means a lot of pointing at the horizon.

After about 4 hours and only 2 cars passing us, we stopped to evaluate the plan of getting around the lake. To the north, the lake is met by its main tributary and source. Finding a crossable place where the river meets the lake might save us miles.

But, I had a little mechanical first. My brake pad spring had gotten pushed in betweens the pads and bent. So much so, that is was deemed useless. We took it completely out and hoped for the best during the next few long descents to the river.

An escape from the heat and a good place for a siesta 

After our break, we continued on the east side of the lake on a less-traveled road, but that had equal climbing.

We continued pedaling until we met the next rancher, Gilbert. His house (show above) was close by and he told us to head over and fill up on water. Incredible, simply incredible.

Lee said it best, "this is what is was like back in the early 1900s when people would see you and offer you anything and everything."

Every rancher during the entire trip did the same thing..."what can I give you? do you need anything?"

A pot in a pot refrigerator for the drinking water 

I loaded up 200 ounces of water and started the climb up to El Tigre. When pressed, Gilbert estimated that the next ranch on the way to El Tigre was 13 kilometres. Named Gigi, Gilbert, made it seem like we could camp there if needed.

After about 3 miles of wash riding, we began to climb up toward El Tigre.

El Tigre , a Sky Island, can be seen in the background

A little too early for camping, but we almost chose a spot near here 

At one turn in the bend, we stumbled on my favorite encounter on the trip. There were three guys frying up some freshly caught fish, jamming to typical "banda" music, drinking tecate.

We could not help but stop and partake in the fish.

Our new friends had chosen to set up camp on the side of the road. Great view, but it had a dangerous drop off on one side.

The sun was setting, but the scene (both nature and our friends) were so unreal, we had to stay longer.

We chatted for about 20 minutes on the side of the road, eating fish and drinking Tecate Light. This is what Mexico is all about, this is the *real* Mexico that few people see.

I (as well as Lee) am a sucker for goog coversation and good food. We left smiling and laughing at the thought having such an encounter on the side of a the road/cliff.

We continued on pass the ranch that Gilbert had recommeded, setting up camp in a wash.

The next Don Miguel go-to item for endurance riding?
Next up, Day 2 and Day 3....

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Gila River Ramble 2014 Day 2

The next day, we slept in late and began to ride up Box Canyon. Having only ridden *up* the canyon in the dark (the old AZT 300 route went up Box Canyon), it was a surprisingly easy, yet beautiful change.


Connecting to Martinez is the the hidden gem to this side of the river. Since the Gila Canyons AZT section has been completed, this area is often overlooked in favor of a point-to-point, shuttled ride. This is also one reason why the Gila River area is one of the best places to bikepack in Arizona...the options are endless.

As we got down to the river, we took the double track to connect with the Arizona Trail at Gila Canyons. 

After about 30 minutes, we took the turn to go up to Walnut Springs and saw Hermosa Tours out doing their thing.  We chatted for a bit and asked about their operation. They even let us top off our bladders for the steep climbing to the gusher.

Max pushing his bike up one of the steeper sections to the spring. This route is worth the view and water, but is a steep climb. 

 Where's Max?
Water in the desert, it is a beautiful thing when it is in this form.

We rested at the spring for about 30 minutes, enjoying the cliffs and drinking our flavored sports drinks.

Stunning cliffs are the reward for the detour and HAB

As I mentioned earlier, heading to the artesian spring is not the easiest way to get water. After topping off our bladders, we took a wash, hiking for about 30 minutes. I would recommend this route for anyone that has already seen the typical AZ Trail from Picketpost to Kelvin, along with Ripsey and is in need of a change of scenery. That said, if you have never seen the area, it is a must-do.

Back on the AZ Trail, we tried to beat the heat. 

We got to the train bridge before the last ascent up the AZT and decided to take a nap in the shade. Five minutes turned into 30 minutes; actually, an hour probably. The birds were singing and the small rapids of the Gila River were drowning away all our worries about the heat.

It is easy to see why we typically ride this route in late March, early April....great views, stunning wildflowers (although this year was mediocre). 

There was only 1/2 gallon at the Kelvin water cache. We used it all up, before pressing on to Ripsey.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Gila Ramble 2014 Day 1

It has become a yearly tradition of sorts to ride the Gila Ramble. It is the classic AZ bikepacking loop, quite arguably the best in the state. There are many different options for parking, although the Cochrane Road is only about 2 hours drive-time from my house. Obvious decision.

No so obvious, what to pack or what time we would be leaving on Friday. As it turns out, we got a later start than anticipated.

We bombed down to Area 52, thinking we would stay the night there.

Gila Canyons in the background

Now, if we can just convince Max to go back to his all-mountain, riding days

We played around a little bit and enjoyed some of the views. Both of us were ready for some more pedaling, so we headed out down to the Gila River to see about crossing. The gauge was reading high before we had left, so it seemed unlikely of us crossing. It was too high, plan B was to ride dirt roads to the bridge on the canal.

We kept riding until the very beginning of Box Canyon proper, setting up camp for the night.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Big Bikes and Burritos

The Tuesday Techy Taco ride is slowly morphing into a 50-Year ride with the big bikes. This past week, Jonathan, Scott and I did the classic loop from the corral. New lines were done by all...

including this one, that still messes with me.

Ride, fail and repeat until successful. Repeat process until the sun went down.

A transition from TTT to BBB has taken place...the Big Bike Burrito (from Nico's) ride.


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