It started out as a simple and straightforward thing to do. Lou took off, leading our group of British mountain bikers back to camp. Just seconds after beginning the ride, he rounded a corner and rode up on a four-foot Rattlesnake stretched out across the trail. Instinctively, he hit his brakes extra hard, which caused him to crash. When the dust settled, he was lying on the side of the trail, penned between a cactus and the rattler. The Brits had quickly stopped and looked on in horror as their guide and the viper were suddenly face to face, and only a couple of feet apart.
It was a long downhill and flowed well. The section of the Colorado Trail we were riding drops slowly and steadily for miles as it winds its way down the Craig Creek drainage. It’s a fast, fun, and mostly effortless ride. Sure, there are plenty of obstacles along the way, such as unfortunately positioned rocks, encroaching Potentilla bushes, and washed-out ruts. But the only tricky spots occur where small creeks, thick with willows, come in from the sides. While you can successfully ride most of the trail by using a combination of vigilance and good riding technique, the creek crossings generally require something a little more. And with all of their mud, roots, and big rocks, those parts often end up being walked. Despite the downsides, it’s mountain biking in the wilds of Colorado at its best.
The entrance to a horizontal mine shaft that we could ride our mountain bikes into was music to our eyes. The stone opening to the Porfirio Diaz Tunnel sat solemnly on a hillside in the middle of a barrio in Batopilas, Mexico. Sure, it’d been abandoned for 70 or 80 years. But that was of no consequence to us at the time. The entrance was circular and at about 12 feet in diameter, a little bigger than we’d each envisioned it to be previously. A flat dirt surface/pathway- perfect for mountain bikes– led into the darkness. Even though the place had the ominous appearance of almost being eaten by the solid rock, its beckoning call was persistent and ultimately won us over.
The sixteen empty soda bottles sat on the counter in the Cerro Colorado store for two days, before the shopkeeper finally stuck them down with the others. They were a good conversation piece while sitting out there in the open. But when he found a spider in one, and since he needed to move them anyway, he put them into some empty slots in the Fanta case down on the floor. After he tidied things up, he thought about dragging the whole box of empties out from behind the Sabritas rack, so that they would still be visible. That way, they would continue to be the talk of the town, but he realized that if he did so, they would just be in the way and would make things look disorganized. And so he just stuck the case in the back room.
We topped the ridge on the dirt road and began dropping quickly into the valley on our mountain bikes. We all knew that it’d continue to get warmer and greener as we descended from the Bolivian highlands, but our thoughts were mostly focused on what awaited us at the end of the ride. The anticipated post-ride rewards were different for each person- a warm bath, cold beer, hot coffee, a dry room. And so, we thought of those things, and little else as the town of Sorata came increasingly into view.
“You’re not lost, if you don’t care where you are.”
By this point, we were some 20 miles from the last little outpost of a town that we’d been through. But theoretically, at least, we were about to come to another. Jerry had the best available maps of the area loaded onto his GPS. But it only told us where we were relative to whatever data it was loaded with. The adage, “garbage in, garbage out,” came to mind and was soon followed by the vision of a web page that simply said, “no data available.”
Old trails never die, they just get harder to see.
The names of the two trails do an excellent job of describing them in a few short words- The Puke Loop and The Meatgrinder. Their heydays of being a few open and pleasantly flowing pieces of path connecting extended sections of tight turns, horrendously steep climbs, and complicated descents have long passed. But the unfortunately angled roots, cactus, mal-placed rocks, and riding/hiking/trail running memories endure. More than just a few body scars remain on people to help tell something about what the two were like back in the day. And undoubtedly, some think of mountain biking the Puke Loop whenever they find themselves hugging a commode.
Interesting events late at night during a 24 Hour mountain bike race.
Things got progressively weirder as the Utah mountain bike race, known as the 24 Hours of Moab, continued. It was an event where riders, in teams ranging in size from individuals to up to 8, rode as many laps as possible within 24 hours. I was doing it solo, which among other things, created some intriguing late-night moments. At some point in the middle of the night, two tandem bikes with riders dressed as frogs rode in from a direction that had nothing to do with the race-course. During the previous lap, I’d been concerned when another racer didn’t correctly yield the trail on a long climb. But by the time the frog thing happened, nothing of that sort was bothering me any longer. I was just pleased that they were stopped and waiting off to the side of the trail for me to pass before continuing. From that moment on, as I rode up toward the crest of that hill each time, I kept looking for the frog riders and continued to be concerned that they might be riding that same section of trail. I hoped that if so, they’d at least be going in the same counterclockwise direction as the rest of us.
A group of backpackers attempts to climb Lizard Head and learns the true meaning of climbing.
Lizard Head is a big peak just to the north and east of the well- known, long, and breathtakingly majestic line of mountains, ridges, and spires in Wyoming’s Wind River Range, known as the Cirque of the Towers. On one particular Outpost Wilderness Adventure trip, we backpacked with two groups of 7, via different routes up to Bear Lake. The lake sits just on the east side of Lizard Head and was the location for our backcountry base camp. Once there, we set up two close but separate camps, each located between the lake and the mountain. The plan was to use each as a base for exploring and adventuring in the area. Since it was during the Fourth of July holiday, we knew that there’d be a lot of people in the general area, but that few would venture into that particular neck of the woods. And, as a special Fourth of July treat, we brought along freeze-dried hamburger patties, a cutting-edge item back in the ’80s.
An interesting turn of events while mountain biking some Copper Canyon singletrack.
Afterward, we began to call it the Trail of Death.
For the longest time, Batopilas, Mexico, was connected to the small town of Cerro Colorado by just a little bit of dirt road and seven or so miles of trail, just barely wide enough for local burro traffic. Then, a few years back, that same dirt road was bulldozed into the little Copper Canyon town. Most of the old trail was “improved” for vehicle use, although the last mile or so was left untouched where the road took an easier route.