Monday, January 26, 2015

Dezert Daze: My first bikepacking trip

I have been a biker and backpacker for quite some time now and a couple months ago I had the chance to finally combine the two. I had wanted to go bikepacking for awhile but just never had the chance to until Brendan Collier from The Hub Cyclery organized a trip from Idyllwild to Borrego Springs. I was in like Flynn!

Always being a fan of "stuff" I quickly picked Brendan's brain to see what I needed as far as essential bikepacking gear goes. As the author of the Stagecoach 400 race and avid bikepacker I knew his expertise on the subject would be all I needed to get started down the roads of bikepacking. I was set up with the Relavate Designs "SweetRoll" bar bag and "Versace" seat bag and to my surprise combined they were more than enough to fit the contents of my backpacking gear.

I had set up my SS Siren ready to run fully loaded with bikepacking gear and had actually done a couple of test rides to get a feel for it. But as they date approached I was very easily talked into trying out a "fat bike" for the trip into the desert. Although my expertise on "fat bikes" was very limited (I had put about 15mi on a Beargrease demo earlier that year) I decided why not, the benefits of having a 5 inch tire in deep desert sand fully loaded kinda even sounded appealing to me.

The Silver Fox
I drove up to Idyllwild that morning excited about the adventure ahead. As soon as I pulled into the Hub parking lot I saw a lot of familiar faces including the "Desert Fox" himself. This was gonna be fun. There was a lot of commotion in the hours leading up to the departure. Bikes were being outfitted with various bikepacking accouterments. A burrito order was placed and a couple of beers consumed, the rest were packed for the trip. After a brief announcement from Brendan we were on our way out of Idyllwild.

Heading out the initial feel of a loaded down "fat bike" was, well cumbersome at best. But after about a half an hour it wasn't so bad, fortunately there was enough dirt road type of riding to get used to the weight before we rocketed down the Keen Summit singletrack. We continued to make our way through Garner Valley and up over into Anza Valley. It was a pretty cold day and for the most part the pace was steady. I really didn't notice how chilly it was until we hit Anza for a refuel stop. I also began to notice how late it was getting and that there was no way in hell we were getting to the camp site by nightfall. All apart of the bikepacking experience I guess. Fortunately I had packed a light away but I was in the minority. Things would get interesting soon.

As the light of the day waned we made our way into the desert. I was glad to be out of the cold wind and starting the decent down into Coyote Canyon. I was enjoying the fading light and the cool colors it was putting out across the desert when Dave came flying past me on the decent exclaiming to me that my "fat bike" handling skills may be in question. It was more like "get that big gal under control." I thought to myself "have fun once you hit the sand with no lights".

No sooner had the thought been thunk when I came around the final corner that dropped into the sand wash to find Dave down in said sand with the front wheel looking like a taco. After a brief moment of silence Dave motioned for us to keep moving, he had been down this road before and like any truly self sufficient man he had it under control, that and Brendan wizard of wheels was only a little bit behind us. I took a rider (Angel) and proceeded to Bailey's cabin our destination for the evening. Now it was dark as I led Angel down the sandy road, every now and then I would here a noise only to look back and find Angel lying on the ground. No matter what kind of bike your riding in the sand if you don't have a light it's gonna be difficult.

Spam Sushi "Yum!"
We made it to the camp and immediately went about starting a fire. Within the next half hour or so everybody eventually made it in. We all set up our digs for the evening and got some food started. Some prepped food, some ate burritos from earlier, some even went so far as to make brownies in a portable dutch oven. All in all there was plenty to go around. The evening culminated in drinking the all left over beer and much of the whiskey supply and then attempting to not fall into the fire pit whilst spinning yarns. There was brief talk of an alcohol fueled game of foot-down in the corral but no takers. I fell asleep happy, under the stars with the wind snapping at my bivy.

The next day we all awoke to a nice sunrise and no wind. Had breakfast and cinnamon rolls thanks again to Brendan's dutch oven, Dave's wheel was tuned up and we were back on the trail before we knew it.
Morning has broken.

Now we were in the desert proper. Deep sand, baby head rocks and the willows lay ahead. I had a little foreshadowing of what the Willows had in store for us from a trail trimming excursion with Brendan the week before. I headed up the charge threw the willows and successfully navigated it till it's end. There was a lot of blind leading the blind for awhile but eventually it let out into a nice wash and then back onto the sandy trail. Ohh and that "fat bike" I was riding loved every minute, it was finally at home in the desert terrain. We made a quick stop at Indian Canyon to check things out. Fun little hike but we never found that Indian sweat house, in hindsight it was probably because we were in the wrong canyon. Lesson learned.

The rest of the trip was pretty mellow, a lot of sandy roads and great scenery leading out of Coyote Canyon and eventually some paved road and a quick stop at the desert sculptures then into Borrego Springs. We had a great lunch and were shuttled back up to Idyllwild.

Would I do it again, yep in a heartbeat. If you are looking for adventure like this then just you wait, I'm sure that Brendan is currently rubbing his hands together at the thought of another fun trip to the dez. If your new at the game of bikepacking have no fear for Brendan is well qualified and a veritable font of adventure riding/racing knowledge.

So how do you not taco your wheel- don't make fun of someone minutes before, instant karma sux! As for debauchery, you'll have to actually go out there to experience that!

1 comment:

  1. nice post Dave. I was in the same boat, years of backpacking/climbing and cycling but 1st time bikepacker. It was an awesome trip and I'm looking forward to more ( but with a fat bike next time)