Monday, November 9, 2009

High Desert Trail- the whole enchilada

Saturday nite found me in dire need of a veritable flood of endorphins to erase the thousand-daggers-in-the-eyes pain that is Michigan's Football season. Unfortunately, the short ride with the boy Sat eave provided only temporary relief, I figured I was in need of a ride a bit more substantial to set things back in balance. To wit, Sunday AM I geared up and turned the truck westward down I40, to Gallup and the sweet, sweet tread of the High Desert Trail. I figured the whole enchilada @ 22 miles just might do the trick.  Yep, it's been that kinda season, thx for asking. ;-(

Never disappoints, that trail!

11am found me hammering out of the east TH, the first 3 miles to the 6 Flags junction proved ripping fun, enuf to warm up the pistons and serve notice to the ole lungs, it was gonna be an epic ride today.

My last ride out Gallup-way was with the family back in March, the kids' small tires making our shortened loop more a sight-seeing venture than the packed tread deserved. Not so this day, as I found my self constantly working thru all the gears, giving the small cogs a workout for the first time since Winsor Trail.

For those of you unfamiliar with the HDT, it's a sinuous, narrow tread (12"-15"), purpose-built for mountain biking at speed thru much of its length. The trail circumnavigates three mesas right outside of Gallup, NM, allowing you to string together figure-8 loops of 8, 12, 18, 22 miles readily enuf. They run a renowned endurance race out there each April: Dawn To Dusk, repeating the big loop, you guessed it, from sunup to sundown, yikes!

5 miles in, I start sensing that waggle in the back tire that hints you better have packed a spare tube buddy. Sure enuf, I head into pit crew mode, strip the tire down to find I've been skewered thru the sidewall by a paddle cactus, darnitall.

I debate briefly whether to take the time to patch the snakebite only to see it fail like most of my SOP patch jobs, or take the bull by the horns and change out to the spare tube. Spare tube installed and back in the saddle, I ignore that niggling doubt about heading into the remaining 17 miles w/o an operational spare, and decide to press on.

I dawdled the next few miles, experimenting with the camera, trying out the timer.

My experiments were only partially successful: most attempts had me arriving breathless back at the camera only to find I blew completely thru the shot or failed to set the timer at all, not cool dude!

Got a few keepers, now if I can just remember what worked!

At the mile 11 turnaround, near the west TH, I stop for lunch, realizing I have seen exactly 2 riders for the day. Temps are in the mid 60's, there's a cobalt sky above, and mile upon mile of buff tread between me and the truck. And only a coupla other riders out here?! Luv it!

Leaving the turnaround, you're faced with a stiff climb back up to the top of the mesa. Guess that ripping downhill has to be paid for somehow, huh? Mile 13, I find my legs are rebelling, ready to give up the ghost. In an attempt to appease them, I find excuses to snap even more photos of the trailside artwork and grand vistas offered at every turn.

Yep, it's straight-up 3 o'clock!

Finally the taxing climb is over, giving way once more to serpentine singletrack along the mesa rim. My relief at completing the climb soon turns to that singular joy of hammering thru straights and berms alike. Confidence surging, I take advantage of a few outcrops to practice some jumps, costing me a coupla spokes for my trouble. No matter, that stretch is simply a blast!

4pm finds me back at 6 flags, 16 miles down, contemplating the wet noodles that have somehow replaced my legs. First Mesa Loop beckons to the south, its bonus 3 miles grown all out of proportion as I gaze back down the 3 miles of main trail that leads back to the truck. Hmmm, 3 miles (yay!), or 6 (yeesh)?

In the end, the late afternoon shadows pull me down the track to First Mesa, be fun to complete the whole enchilada today, what say?

Once at the turnaround on First Mesa, the fun begins again: swoopy, flowy, sometimes ledgy singletrack begs for speed. Furious gear changing rules the first coupla miles as you blast in and out of arroyos, top out, only to dive back in again. Once past 6 flags heading back to truck, the trail straightens a bit, you find yourself ripping down hard-packed adobe tread, tires singing in joyous harmony for the last 3 miles.

Back at the trailhead, I slowly sink into the driver's seat, completely spent, watching the sun dip below the mesa. 5 solid hours of riding, bandy legs, cramped shoulders, I'm not 5 minutes off the trail and yet I find myself already reliving those swoopy runs in my minds' eye, wondering when I can make it back this way.

NM offers some fine riding, and the High Desert Trail ranks among the best!

keep the rubber down and watch out for the little guys!  mjh

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