Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Trials on the Trails

Neva and I have ridden from Silver City, New Mexico to Pie Town, New Mexico so far, via the GDT (Great Divide Trail) route.  My expectations were open because I knew that no matter what, off-road terrain carrying a child and 125 pounds of weight would be hard.  Here are some things we've encountered so far...

New Mexico mosaic in Penny Park, Silver City, NM
WATER!!! Or lack there of...

Water is the big issue here because New Mexico has been going through a drought and anywhere the maps might say that there is water; creeks, cow tanks, etc., there's not.  People are hauling in water to their cattle, the creeks are mud pits at best, and the threat of fires are high.

The stretch from Silver to Pie Town is rough because there aren't any small towns in between.  The only reliable water sources are at the USFS Work Center in Beaverhead, and the lone house you might see once every 30 miles, maybe.

Neva helping the firefighters water the plants at Beaverhead

Through the dry terrain, we carried 11 liters of water, which we could use for 3 days, if necessary.  Luckily, USFS patrol the dry areas pretty well and are very hospitable.  I would see a truck about once a day, and ask for a fill whether I needed it or not.  This was also a great way for letting people know that we were out there.  When Neva and I pulled up to Beaverhead Work Center at 8pm on Friday night (June 7) the firefighter on duty, Levi said he was about to go look for us and check to see if we were okay.  The forest service works hard, and they're always ready to help.  They really make me feel more at home in the wilderness as a sort of extended community family, watching out for the land and everything on it, kind of way.

A bovine farewell leaving Beaverhead Center towards the Malapais plains. 

SLOW...Gravel, and washboard, and winds, oh my!

Yes, off-road can be extremely slow going.  Think 3 mph uphill, when you can ride, and walking speed, if it's more steep...pushing a total of around 150 pounds, depending on how much water you are carrying.

TIP:  If you are carrying a child, they might be able to pull their own weight sometimes!

Neva helping me push the trailer up the hill

Leaving Silver City, it's pavement, but there are no shortage of hills.  Once you hit Pinos Altos is when you'll head off road, and you start with a very steep hill.  For the next 50 miles or so, you're looking at gravel washboard, but it is bikable.  There are about five areas where you will climb 500 feet in elevation in about 2 miles.  These portions we had to walk.  The combination of washboard and gravel makes steep downhills sketchy.  Wind and washboard can knock the trailer into a waggle, and the gravel can cause you to fishtail if you try to brake.  Disc brakes are advisable.

I took a little spill on the downhill washboard/gravel.  Off I went, but the trailer stayed upright.

There are a lot of ranchers through the Malapais Plains area, and they lay down thick gravel because it makes the roads easier for driving on; however, it also makes pulling a trailer like pulling an anchor, and is so thick in some places, it will stop you in your tracks. Luckily the plains area is fairly flat, so walking isn't too much of a chore, and the little one enjoys taking short jaunts out of the trailer.

Neva says, "Mommy, I want to get out and run.  I can go SOOOO fast!!!"

Going northbound, we've really had our share of headwinds, 35 mph!  The best thing to do is leave as early as possible because the winds do pick up the later the day gets.  Just keep in mind that the temperatures change 50 degrees or more from night and day, and scorching heat can turn to chilly after 8pm.  It can be 92 during the day and 35 at night.

You can get an idea of how hard the winds are blowing from the trailer flag and Neva's hair

IT'S SUNNY, hot, hot hot!

Leaving Silver City, it's hilly but with shade trees.  Once you see the elevation steady out, you've hit the plains, and there is not a shade tree for miles.  The stretch between Beaverhead Work Center and Elk Springs has one tree about half way that's off the side of the road near some mail boxes and at the intersection to go toward Magdelena.  That's it, so water is even more crucial with the sun exposure, but you can fill up at Beaverhead which should get you through.

My Neapolitan-style tan from biking west Texas and New Mexico

In Silver City, we picked up Super Salve sunscreen made locally by Denise.  I use that during the day, and at night, I use the Herbal Comfort Salve on my skin to help it heal faster.  You can check out her products at www.supersalve.com. The skin is the largest organ on your body, so it's important to keep it healthy, otherwise you will feel really drained really quickly.

The Super Salve sun cream stays within hands reach, right in front of me in the handlebar bag.

The GDT in the summer is hot, but it's not bikable once the monsoons hit around July, at least for this area anyway.  It's really all about the water throughout New Mexico.  Stay tuned to see specifics on where we have been!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds very, very difficult. What an experience. Very proud of you guys. Be careful.