Saturday, November 29, 2014

Rio Puerco and Arroyo Chico Bikepacking: Cranksgiving 2014

~60 miles
~5 of those hike a bike 
~48hours (-ish)
~carried nearly 4 gallons of water each.

Route topo at the end of the blog entry.

Cerro Cuate in the evening silence.

In the desert lies an ancient silence.

It is made of breath, fire, and time. It can erode mountains, out-run the night, and ooze into your soul. It absorbs nearly everything in the desert, and then scatters anything that remains across centuries of erosion and ruins.

This silence is pure. It can nudge you, trample you, or hold you captive in its mediation for years.

Starting at Cabezon Peak

Silence, distance, wind, and time.  These elements are part what make the desert so special, and foreboding.

Here, the skeletons of volcanoes are laid bare like broken pillars of gods.  Time races and stands still. The air is crisp.

Our loaded bikes broke the silence with the crackle and grind of gravel and dirt beneath our tires.  We headed out, down the road and into the brown, cold landscape . . . and the desert immediately started to do its work.

Rio Puerco Valley with many, many volcanic plugs rising above the valley floor.

The quiet desert was stealing pieces of us as we rode along. With each pedal stroke, something was left behind.  The cadence and breeze sucked out our 'yesterdays' and replaced them with emptiness. I felt the desert itself riding there alongside me, drawing my soul further and further out from my body. Silently inviting me to join it permanently.

Cerro de Guadalupe

Cabezon and Cerro de Guadalupe

The cracked mud, the monoliths, the porous sandstone bluffs, and the winding arroyos, they all snatched bits of us away.... The air and sky too; they washed over us taking parts of us down the valley and out into the wide open spaces.

We lowered our bikes into the chasm riverbed of Rio Puerco.

A ruin succumbing to the desert.

Cabezon from the ruin

Left alone, everything in the desert disintegrates.  I could feel myself already beginning the process of dissolving... Something slipping away each moment; every tick of the clock something of me was spread out onto the the vast landscape, and I couldn't retrieve it.  My shell of 40+ years was burning up, and drifting into the night with the fire smoke.

I was disappearing.

And the disappearing felt good.

Cerro Chamiso Losa from camp

The Challenge:

There is a not-so-subtle worship of international adventure in the outdoor enthusiast community.  Nepal, the Alps, and Alaska all come to mind.  It's a competition of sorts, that most are not willing to mention, let alone admit to.  It does get mixed up with our want to explore, so, sometimes, we can get away with advertising it as just plain curiosity.  But, lets all just come clean.

The assumption is that the further away, the better (the more enviable).

This trip challenges that idea, and we challenge you as well!  Try to find adventure near you.  Reduce your impact, reduce your drive time, reduce your amount of air travel.  Find an adventure type that matches your surroundings and your time frame.

This trip was into the Rio Puerco Valley one hour north of our home in Albuquerque (the biggest city in New Mexico) and near the 'patchwork' area east of the Navajo Nation. It reminded us of what an international trip feels like: remote, no people, and lots of history.

Granted New Mexico is the 4th largest state in the union behind AK, CA, and TX, ...B U T perhaps you can find some of the qualities and pieces of this trip in a trip near you.  We'd love to hear.

The Rio Puerco Valley is only somewhat popular, but not during Thanksgiving.  And, even when it is popular, it doesn't have busy trailheads and hides the visitors well, because they are so dispersed.

It has very unique mixed and exposed geology of volcanics and sedimentary layers.  Here's Bear Mouth on the northern edge of the Chivato Plateau.

It has intricate canyons that subtly sneak up on you and reveal amazing erosional patterns

Large vistas and sweet volcanic plugs. Here's Cerro Parido

Places to stop without fear of weird people coming by. Cerro Parido

Interesting and unique flora

Intense washes that are not easily traversed with out a road, or slope somehow heading down and up out of these steep walled canyons

Brown ranch land, and Cerro Parido and Bear Mouth.

water sources (in a pinch)
Off-trail fun leading further into the middle of nowhere. Chivato Plateau in the background.

What was once a road, but now barely shows ATV use.

BLM patchwork land along the eastern border of the Navajo Nation.

Amazing, old ruins that have no record, plaque, or park interpreter to lead you to a foregone conclusion… just ruins.

Did I mention these crazy formations.

Arroyo Chico, an alkali-filled river that apparently runs all year, and could be a water source for travelers.  Springs can be found in various spots on the map as well.  We specifically saw 4, and can give you the info if you want it...

Awesome sunsets as we start our fire.

Sweet camping out at the end of a road to nowhere, where we end up going off into cattle paths and nonexistent tracks.

More ruins

some unique riding along cattle paths

Arroyo Chico is a unique landscape of rocky cliffs and outcrops and grasslands.

Believe it or not, adventure is supposed to be a bit challenging and random.  Here we found our way down into a chasm with steep sides, and only one (hard) way out.
Arroyo Azabaché

Finally back on a road. Y E S !!

More sweet geology in an unnamed valley

More Views

More awesome, lonely riding.

Rio Puerco Valley

Heading down into the Rio Puerco Valley  (this is part of the CDT)

This is part of the CDT in the Rio Puerco Valley

Nearly done with our ride,  the sun sets as we crack through the last 10 of our 60 mile ride.


On the map below we did NOT do the red northern part, but instead cut back towards Cabezon on the Green.

View from the southeast:

Another View from the west.