Monday, March 23, 2015

Albuquerque Mountain Biking: Flowy Placitas trails.

Backcountry skiing is nearly set for Green conditions for our Spring Break, but meantime we are staying fit on our local trails near Albuquerque while we are swamped at work.

At the northern foot of the Sandia Mountains lies a sweet set of quick access mountain biking trails.
Placitas, NM has some open space just 30 mins from ABQ, with trails that are not published per se, so they are fairly empty, despite being very good.  They are fast, flowy, and a good cardio workout.  They also have some great technical downhills up above the flats, near the wilderness boundary.

You can find them, at least on Strava, or just one main righthand turn beyond (south) of The Merc store on Highway 165 in Placitas.  The parking is good, but expect to explore, as the trails are not signed.

19 miles
2224 ft.
2.25 hours

Monday, February 16, 2015

Socorro Mountain Biking: Cerrillos del Coyote Area

Stats: (2 short rides)
Arroyo de la Parida
13.2 miles
1050ft gain
Cerrillos del Coyote race loop
10.5 miles
900ft gain

Suggested Season: Late Fall/Winter/Early Spring

We've always wanted to try out some of the mountain biking in Socorro, NM.  And, although I had biked a loop on the GET just north of there, neither of us had done the biking found on the Socorro MTB page.  So, with Gallop trails still muddy/out-of-shape according to the riders out there, we went down for the weekend with some friends to get an initial taste of what was offered.  We went with our friends Stephen and Karen

Ride 1: Arroyo de la Parida
We thought the best place to start would be the old Cerritos del Coyote race loop.  Never having been there before, we got lost trying to find it the first day, and instead rode a loop around the north end of the Quebradas Scenic Byway road.  It would make for great fat-biking, with lots of sand at the end, as you head out to Pueblito, but the majority of the riding was fun and there were some ruins to check out.
This ride should be started at the same parking lot as for the Cerrillos del Coyote loop found 2.6 miles up the Quebradas Scenic Byway road on the right (south) side of the road. Head east one mile on the Byway and take a left up a steep somewhat rocky road. Follow this road up and down fun hills and drop down into the Arroyo where the road follows a fence line back west.  Just after passing a ruin on the northside of the fence, go a bit further and head left at an ATV fence crossing, through a wash , and up a grade. Once on top head west along the top of the mesa, and follow the main track all the way into the sandy wash that leads back to Pueblo (where one accesses the Scenic Byway from the Rio Grande).  Then head back on the Scenic Byway east to the parking lot.

Ride 2:

The second day we found the Cerritos del Coyote trailhead parking lot, and rode the good (if baby-heady) single track through some sweet arroyos and geology.  If there's one quality that stands out about this ride, it is the geology...  The Hogback in particular is fun riding along a limestone ridgeline.  We marks all the turns with cairns, and the information online is pretty good.  Still there were only a few bike tracks to follow since the last rain, which shows this area, although worthy of interest, see probably just a hand full of riders each week.
Follow the information on the Race Page, but know that the route is best ridden counter clockwise and that the last 2miles or so are on the Scenic Byway.

The parking area at mile 2.6 on the Scenic Byway.

The view westward

Heading southward up out of the initial arroyos section 

Skinny trail is fun and rocky with good views.

A road section on the southern part of the loop

Along a part of the Hogback

from the hogsback section the trail head north to Cerrillos del Coyote 
The two rides are north and across the river from Socorro.  Ext 190 Escondida and look for signs for Quebradas Scenic Byway.
Original race course pic off the Socorro Fat Tire Web Page.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Skiing the San Juan Huts System

by Sarah
photos by Sarah and Laurel

I can’t exactly pinpoint why I hadn’t been hut skiing in Colorado until now…   I imagined travelled beneath loaded avalanche paths, making reservations a year in advance, having to collect a dozen of my closest friends to fill the thing, then paying an arm and a leg.  All the myths I had created dissolved when my friend Laurel suggested we meet up this winter for a hut trip in the San Juan via the San Juan Hut System.  
Winter awaits...
It couldn’t have been much easier to plan our trip.  The San Juan Hut Systems folks made planning easy: they sent us maps, a gear list, GPX files; and one can rent a single bunk in their 8-person huts.  Before I knew it, Martin Luther King weekend was here and I was headed to Ouray to meet Laurel and start our trip.

Travel such as this is a dream: the thrill of backcountry skiing and the solitude of winter without the dread of winter camping.  Boy scouts and college students may enjoy camping, as do a smattering of folks whose tips I poached from the Internet, but not this kid.  I mean, I would if I had to, but… alas… the hut beckons, and I shall heed her call. 
Sure, you could watch the sun set from a snow cave...
... but that sounds awfully chilly

We started to climb out of Ouray on day 1 at 9 AM.  Switch backing through red rock cliffs was certainly novel, and kept my mind off the never-ending climb to the Burn Hut.  Lots of elk signs, grassy snack break spots, and pastries from the Bread bakery in Durango punctuated the long climb as we got into the rhythm of our backcountry systems and each others company.  Before too long, we hit Moonshine Park, which had “hot laps” written all over it.  YUM!  
Some hot laps in Moonshine Park.  Great turns abound, not far from the Burn Hut

We arrived at the Burn Hut and started a fire, melted snow and started dinner while watching the sunset from our protected perch.  That night brought a dusting of freshies, which made for an amazingly beautiful and glittery travel day on day 2.  We arrived at the Ridgeway Hut by noonish, put some water onto melt, and set off for a afternoon tour to get some views:
Topping out on an unnamed knob above the Ridgeway Hut
on the ridge that splits Ridgeway Hut from the Wilson Creek drainage; great skiing in this area
San Juan Huts System provides lots of information to help you find the best turns close to the huts
We enjoyed some company that night, a foursome from Durango who was skiing the other direction, and who were very jealous of our elk tenderloin dinner.  Double YUM!
            The next 2 days were, by far, our favorite travel days as the trail traversed the north facing slopes of the San Juan foothills.  Meadows, mountain vistas, forested slopes, animal tracks galore, in and out of percolating drainages, good conversation and startling silence.  We felt as if we had it all. 

We lucked out with high pressure travels days!
Just follow the Dallas Trail over hill and dale
One of many open slopes that invites the backcountry traveller to rip the skins
Looking over to the Uncompahgre Mountains
The vantage from right around the North Pole Hut
The last night found us at the outpost of the North Pole Hut.  Unlike the other huts, here there was no water waiting for us from other travellers, no well-worn path to the commode.  The hut was true to its name, and we really felt like we were out there.   At Laurel’s suggestion, we collected some old man’s beard (Usnea), dried fir and spruce needles, inner aspen bark, and looked around for pitch wood to start our fire without paper or manufactured fire starters. 
Loving the North Pole Hut
The North Pole Hut: a welcoming sight!
A lovely view from the commode
Using a nest o forest goodies to start a fire with flint and steel, char cloth, chaga mushroom

As the sun set behind the mountains and the forest grew dark, it got damn cold; I was so thankful for our little hut and that we had safely made it to our destination each night.  The reality of winter was omnipresent, and as the temps undoubtedly sunk into the single digits, I was so psyched on the hut, the trip, and our ability to comfortably and confidently travel during this special time of year.  

Best turns:  Moonshine Park; on either side of the ridge separating the Ridgeway Hut and the Wilson Creek drainage. 
Best travel days: Ridgeway Hut to Blue Lake Hut to North Pole Hut
Best animal tracks: Mountain lion on the logging road above Blue Lake Hut
Best animal sightings: Snowshoe hare and red fox
Best dinner: Duh- elk tenderloin
Best clothing that I had with me: Sarah: super thin soft shell pants, comfortable boot/ sock combo (got AT boots remolded for “comfort fit” before the trip; Laurel: cotton T-shirt (such a rebel, that one)
Best luxury item that I had with me: Sarah: Exped pillow; Laurel- 3 oz Nalgene with fresh creme for coffee
Don’t forget the: skin wax
Best skill to have: Starting a fire in a wood stove