May 27, 2018

NM: Pinos Altos / CDT

The National Forests in Arizona were closing left & right to public access due to extremely dry conditions. Memorial weekend was upon us, where to go now? Ever since I've known Beto, he's been trying to get me over to the Gila NF near Silver City, NM for some riding. He and Shannon extended an invite for some camping and riding. I couldn't pass it up. Two more of Beto's friends, Bryan & Mike, would also be meeting us.

I had a few hours to work on Friday, then hit the road. A mere 5 hours later I was rolling into Silver City, NM. I had always wanted to check out the area. I also had a small bit of route scouting to do, this little ride called the Tour Divide goes right through town. In the end, I was able to drive a few miles of the route between Pinos Altos & White Signal. I also found a solid burrito joint and where to grab a green chili cheeseburger!!
New Mexico: The Land of Enchantment...and Chili's!!

Next time I need to check out the brewery in Silver City.

Doesn't look like much, but perhaps simplicity is key to an outstanding burrito?

I was finally able to use our new 4 person car camping tent. I bought it months ago!!
I found the others already well into camp mode, short ride under their belts too.
Looks like I missed a fun ride!! Photo by Bryan.

The Gila NF isn't immune to forest fires as one burns in the distance. Photo by Bryan.

Shannon & Mike celebrating a down tree crossing!! Photo by Bryan.
I had plenty of daylight to futz with my new tent. It went up easily for a first solo run. I'm sure K & I will get plenty of use out of it.

I was a bit surprised at the lack of other people camped out along this road. I passed by plenty of prime camping locations, all vacant. There was only one other couple camped out about a quarter mile away. Cool temps, pines, a light breeze and relative quiet. Perfect.

The next day during breakfast we discussed our ride for the day. Beto had put together a hearty three tiered loop of sorts, 60 miles of Gila ups & downs. (Nothing flat here!) He modified the route a tad and we were off, climbing forest roads on our way up to the Continental Divide Trail, CDT.
The charred remnants poke through the re-emerging forest.

The others left me in the dust as we crept near 9000'.

CDT singletrack!!
I'm fairly certain the last time I was riding the CDT, it was in Colorado and I was getting drenched. Dry conditions on this day.

The trail wound around the upper slopes of the surrounding hills.

The high cloud cover was a welcomed relief too.

Shannon approves.
Shannon & I climbing the CDT. Photo by Beto.

The crew: Mike, Bryan, Beto & Shannon.

Stay alert!!

Bear tracks??

Hmmm, we had fun with this one. Emu? Pterodactyl? Flamino? Definitely a flamingo.

Rugged terrain as far as the eye could see.

Some bits of rocky, technical trail.
We caught up to Beto and he asked if we saw the wild Turkeys. Nope, but that would answer our question about those bird tracks!! Can't believe it wasn't a flamingo...

Considering the large amount of volcanic rock around, the trail was in great condition.

Buffed out sections as well.

Limestone Twin Sisters.
The gang's all here. Photo by Mike.
Power couple!!

Decisions, decisions.

Plenty of new signage out there.

That's one very long, skinny sign.

Old CDT marker standing the test of time.

I do fancy the current design, the blue is easy to locate from afar.
I rode ahead of the group for a photo op on a fast S-curve:
Bryan coming in hot!!

Mike was not far behind. The turn barely slowed him down.

Shannon zipping along after smashing her hand on a trailside boulder moments earlier.

Beto taking is easy. Clearly having way too much fun!!
The spur trail off the CDT dropped us out on a dirt road. It didn't appear to be anything special at the time. A few minutes later we were all blown away. Not only was there water, but this canyon was amazing!! A canopy of green entangled the textured walls in this Gila oasis.
Splashdown!! Photo by Shannon.

Sometimes it's best to stop and soak it in.

Quite the contrast to the arid conditions surrounding the area.

Rock sandwich.

Our Shangri-La dumped out here. Now we were faced with some paved climbing on NM15.

More singletrack bliss tucked off NM15.
I was beginning to drag as we rode along NM15. The thought of chilling at camp was becoming a high motivator. Riding at elevation is never easy, especially the first few rides of the season. This year was proving a bit more difficult than ever with my reduced riding since March. My Achilles really wasn't bothering me, but I could tell it was there. I've been extra cautious about pushing too hard as this recovery has taken much longer than anticipated. I just don't want to do anything that will set me further behind schedule, whatever that schedule may be.

Beto's prized trail: Tadpole Ridge!! He really wanted to show this to us.
Tadpole Ridge ended up being much harder than I would have liked at that stage of the day considering I was already almost in chillax mode. Beto convinced me to stay with it at the top of the climb and I'm glad I did. The downhill back to Meadow Creek Rd. was a hoot.

Beto & Mike blast off onto Tadpole Ridge.

Bryan & Shannon give chase.

I contemplated taking a shortcut back to camp here, but stuck it out.
Cooking shenanigans. Photo by Beto.

Time for post-ride R&R...and beer.


We spent the rest of the afternoon chilling at camp, sharing stories and tipping back a few. To our surprise, we felt a few raindrops, but that didn't last long.

Beto had a shorter loop in mind the following day only overlapping the other ride by a bit. Shannon opted for a trail run while the boys took to the bikes. There wasn't a cloud in the sky on this day. It was quite the contrast from yesterday.
We repeated this section of forest road to attain the CDT.

A large section of slickrock at our turnoff.

Looking back from the slickrock, our route took us up the road a day earlier.

Bryan and I cruising up the climb.

Beto asked Bryan & I if we saw the black bear? Nope, missed out again. Photo by Bryan.

We found this motorcycle parked at the CDT turnoff. Photo by Bryan.

CDT singletrack.

Magnificent trail.

We found the owner of the motorcycle, a local rider out doing some trail maintenance along the CDT.

The trees began to open up and reveal the surrounding area.

Mountain layers in the Gila NF.

A long, rowdy downhill brought us here, the opposite end of Meadow Creek Rd. below our campsite.

Interesting way to cool off in the creek!!
This part of our ride is also a small section of the Tour Divide route. Pretty cool to see this portion in person.

Back at camp, it was siesta time.


After lunch we decided to break camp as we all had stuff to get done before the holiday weekend concluded.

So glad I made it over to this area, thanks for the invite. I'll be coming back for sure. The CDT in the area is fantastic riding and there are many more miles of trail to check out on the next visit. Silver City is only about 5 hours away too, not as far as most would think. It's definitely a summer getaway option.

On my way out of town I was craving a milkshake when I spotted Blake's Lotaburger. Beto had sold me on trying a green chili cheeseburger, so who was I to argue.
Both the Chili Cheeseburger & milkshake hit the spot.
Interesting view of Mt. Graham as headed down towards Lordsburg, NM.
Adios! New Mexico, see ya next time.

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