Saturday, April 26, 2014

El Tigre Bikepacking, Mexico Day 2

The next morning (see Day 1 here if you did not read it), we woke up with overcast and a smile! After some breakfast, we packed up and began the slow climb up to El Tigre.

"Seguridad primera"  important, given the steep drop offs at times during the climb up the mountain

Steep climbs you say? Lee is game!

Rancho Bonito

As with Day 1, our trip was a bit of a tour of "ranches." Included in this tour, was a quick stop at Rancho Bonito. We talked to the only "guachero" there (give the Semana Santa weekend, all of the other cowboys had gone home) and even he was about ready to head home for the weekend.

We passed some very large tailings ponds that have been eroding. Only later when talking to some miners did we learn that El Tigre (the mine) is trying to extract minerals from the old tailing pond samples.

Our Google satellite images showed a road that veered off to the right that would eventually take us to the other side of the mountain. One of the goals of this trip was to verify the road and check out its condition. The route is signed "Gold Hills," although first we would ride up to explore "El Tigre Mine." We continued to ride up to the mine.

Although "ride" is sometimes not an option. The steep road up showed us where we had come from (the mountains in the background is where we started on Day 1).

The old mine was incredible. Its history dates back to the the early 1900s, right before the Mexican Revolution. If these buildings could speak....

Another way to keep water cold, although not as traditional as the pot in a pot method seen yesterday.

Bathroom break anyone?

Not even one of the old shafts could be hidden. Lee predicted that they tried to cover the shaft years ago. Although the amount of water in the mountain pushed the dirt and rock and made this "sping" that is still running out of the old shaft (at about a rate of 15 gallons/minute)


After touring the old mine site, we started the last climb to the new mine.

When we got there, we saw a group of people sitting outside. I asked if we could come over and talk, to which they affirmed.

We started talking about the mine and its history.

They invited us inside their large community house. While it was one large, long building where they slept, it looked like each miner had their own room connected by a small entry way. We sat in the kitchen and looked through the old artifacts while listening about the history of the mine.

The view from the mine, El Tigre, named after the mountain also

It seems that this mine has quite the boom and bust cycle. During its more than one year operation, it has survived the Mexican Revolution (a superintedent was even killed during one uprising). In its heyday, some 5,000 inhabitants lived in this area (hard to belive given the fact that there are less than 20 people in the area).

During some 35 years of operation, the mine produced the massive tailings pond that we had ridden by earlier that morning. During the past 4 years, the miners have been doing drilling explorations, taking samples and sending them to Tucson for more investigating.

Additionally, the area of Sierra El Tigre was one of the last hideouts for the Apache Indians that were trying to evade both Mexican and American officials up until the 1930s.

Such history was intriguing. On our way out, the miners suggested we visit an old mission that was a few hundred feet off the main road.

An old, wooden stove used to heat the church

A look at the church from the outside
One last farewell to the miners left an open invitation on the table. "Next time you come, you guys can sleep here in the church."
We gave a similar invitation to them should they ever come to Tucson. Lee left his business card, as we started our descent down to the Gold Hills turnoff.

The turnoff was another steep road. Both Lee and I walked on many occassions as we continued on the route to the western side of Sierra El Tigre.


After a few hours of riding, we found another turn off to the next ranch, La Matanza. From there, the road dropped in elevation several hundred feet. We could see several mountain ranges that would possibly have to be climbed in order to get to the western side of Sierra El Tigre.

 While descending, we saw many of the same sites, just from a different direction.

While descending, we saw our friends that we had seen on the way up, only now there were three other people with horses with them.

The party had continued for another 24 hours since we had left. We decided to partake in the celebration again.

Shot of tequilla=Lee is game to ride a horse


We chatted with the ranchers again, getting information on the route. The route to Presa Angostura (the dam to the south) is doable. The son of Sra. Gigi told us the name of the ranches that we would cross through. There were quite a few of them, each he had mentioned, were very friendly.

We said goodbye, inviting them to drinks the next time they are in Tucson. Four tequilla shots are all you need for a good descent!

The plan was to get a boat ride across the lake from Gilbert and then continue on exploring a different route back to the car. After waiting for about an hour, we decided just to head back the same way we came (the fear of him not showing up prompted this idea).

We searched for a closer route back, without success.

We continued on the road until finding the Rio Bavispe, where we decided to set up camp.

Our premature choice to set up camp down at the river during Semana Santa weekend might not have been the best idea. The typical "banda" music was being played down the river. It echoed up the canyon, getting louder as we went to bed.

That was, until an incredible thunder storm started happening. Both Lee and I woke up the the bright, large display of lightning over our heads. The fire had stopped so I immediately thought of one thing: fire. Lee had a different idea, book it into the trees. I started to put leaves on the fire, stoking it as the rain began to come down. Shoot!

I ran over to the firewood and grabbed several arm fulls of wood, throwing them on the small fire. I ran back to my pad and sleeping bag and tossed both in my emergency bivvy. The large drops began. I ran back go my *emergency* bivvy, cuddling my sleeping bag as the rain started to come into the bivvy. My feet and head were getting wet, but I could still see the light of the fire. This continued for about 10 minutes.

The rain slowly died. I got out of the bag and put more wood on the fire. Despite the intensity of the storm, I seemed pretty dry. Lee came out of the woods, seemingly dry and also in awe that I had decided to start the fire. "I thought you were crazy for putting leaves on the fire. I understand now why you decided to do that," Lee said. We huddled around the fire for about 10 minutes before heading back to our sleeping bags.

No sooner had we fallen alseep before another storm came. I repeated the same thing as for wood, stoke the fire, hide in the bivvy. This storm lasted about 15 minutes, coming down even harder. The full moon came out and all was clear.

Lee and I had to laugh as we came out of our bags again. Classic.

I fell asleep and was not disrupted again until the morning. Also, the party next door with the loud music had stopped...if that is what it took to bring down their party, maybe the monsoon was actually a good thing.

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 climb."

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

 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 good 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....


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...