The last time I canoed the Rio Grande through Boquillas Canyon was in 1979. After 40 years, it became time for me to remind myself of some of the lessons that 33 mile stretch of river taught me way back then. And so, I floated it.
There are three well-known peaks in the Alaska Range—McKinley, Foraker, and Hunter. At 14,195 feet, Hunter is the smallest of the three but is considered to be one of the most technically difficult 14er’s (14,000-foot mountains) to climb in the world. And reaching its summit was our goal for the particular trip this story is about, at least until lousy weather got in our way. We were a group of 10, which included me and several other Outpost Wilderness Adventure leaders along with two other non-OWA guides.
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 really tricky spots occur where small creeks, thick with willows, come in from the sides. While most of the trail can successfully be ridden by using a combination of vigilance and proper 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.
It was music to our eyes. A horizontal mine shaft that a mountain bike could be ridden into. The official-looking opening into the Porfirio Diaz Tunnel was stuck onto a hillside in the middle of Batopilas, Mexico. Sure, it’d been abandoned for 70 or 80 years, but that wasn’t really of any 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 as we’d contemplated the place previously. A flat dirt roadway- perfect for mountain bikes– led into the darkness. Even though it had the ominous appearance of almost being eaten by the solid rock, its beckoning call was persistent and ultimately won us over.
It was Christmas break of my sophomore year in high school when Jake and I took off from Denton, Texas. We were in his parent’s VW Camper-van bound for Mexico with a stop in Douglas, Arizona en route. The plan was to meet up with a more mature person, whom I sort of knew from the summer camp where I worked, who lived in Douglas, and then the three of us would travel on down to Guaymas, Mexico. Once down near the Mexican town, we’d have some quality beach time and experience all of the “neat adventure stuff” that could be had in the area. (Note- Years later and as a parent, I’m not sure how we got our parents to agree to the plan. Although I do remember it being a good thing that we were going to be under the supervision of someone older). In the van, there was scuba gear packed away under one of the seats in cardboard boxes, places to sleep, and we must have had some food. We simply planned to beach-camp, swim, and scuba dive in the surf and enjoy some tropical weather while it was cold and windy in North Texas.