Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tale of Two Trails Part I: The Dragon's Back

Labor Day weekend, schweet. Just how are we gonna uphold tradition by packing 12 pounds in this here 10 pound weekend? Lemmetellya:
Friday Night Lights: with the long-anticipated UM football season still an excruciating 18 hours away, we opted to get the party started by cheering vicariously for our favorite local HS team. The #1 v #2 matchup did not disappoint in its lead changes, dynamic playmakers, overall intensity of play on both sides. Unfortunately our team came up short on their final drive to retake the lead- committing a hot-headed penalty on the 8yd line, then throwing an INT in desperation as the clock ticked down. Our disappointment was quickly put in perspective, however, by the sights and sounds of the celebrations on the other sideline and in the opposing stands. The newly crowned #1 had won a hard-fought battle, leaving it all on the field. Wow, you won't find that kind of passion in the NFL!
Game Day Saturday: given over to college football, but of course. I did sneak out for a much-needed mtb ride in the ABQ North Foothills prior to the UM kickoff. Ran the GPS and documented the route with the camera phone, for future installment of Singletracks. Found myself running late as a consequence, was riding hellbent-for-leather back to the trailhead, got a rather insistent phone call, repeating when I did not answer. Hit the brakes to find the boy on the phone excitedly telling me of Navy's impending defeat of those hated Buckeyes. Dad, you won't believe this, but you know Navy? Well they’re gonna score a TD in justa second to beat the buckeyes. Oh yeah? Tell me about it, I luv to hear about OSU taking a beatin! His excitement precluded an accurate play-by-play, I finally connected with my darlin wife to get the scoop. Not much better there, as the field action proved too fast and furious for her to keep ahead either......and now Navy throws an interception and the buckeyesarerunningitbackforascore! Ah darnitall, disappointed twice now in two days. Fingers crossed this isn't some kinda sign of things to come this afternoon.
Game Time: No worries Mate. Apparently, with hard work :-o comes great rewards, as the boys in blue came out head hunting straight from the opening gun. Final score proved 31-7, however the more telling score of the day: UM:1, Overflowing-Fountain-Of-Criticism-On-National-Stage: zero. Good work boys, you'll be back on top in no time, schweet.
Sunday: Did I tell you how absolutely perfect the weather is here, this time of year? Temps only into the 80’s, puffy clouds maturing into distant TBoomers, the high desert beginning to bloom yellow, gold all over hill and dale. Might just be 1-0 record for the first time in 3 football seasons, but man did Sunday dawn bright and cheerful! In celebration of the moment, we loaded up the bikes, hit the road to the White Mesa trail network NW of ABQ. Our goal: ride the crown jewel of the White Mesa network: The Dragon’s Back, hisssss!

White Mesa trails were developed and are currently maintained by a local trail advocacy group, Friends of Otero, on BLM land near San Ysidro, on the doorstep of the Jemez Range. Their evil genius has you riding exposed ridgelines for most of its length, and I mean exposed! Dropoffs approach 150’ on either side, the ridgetops sometimes narrow down to 3’, with a rather steep penalty for failure in losing the tread, if you get my meaning. Think Joe's Ridge Trail, minus the 8 hour drive to Fruita, CO. Taking it all in, the kids were all bug-eyed in wonder, I could swear my darlin wife looked a little green in the gills.
But she’s a gamer allright, almost as much as the kids- I’m a lucky husband and father both.
We lollygagged the Dragon’s Back (hissss!), stopping often to film, take in the views, catch our breath at the beauty that is New Mexico in the fall. All too soon, we ran out of ridgetop tread after five miles of heaven, and plunged switchbacked in brake-squealing starts and stops down to the valley floor below: Valle del Muerto as we affectionately coined it that afternoon.
Turns out Saturday’s rains had absolutely saturated the valley’s caliche soils, settling into the two-track ruts in an endless chain of unforgiving adobe bogs. I at least was a bit familiar with the phenomenon, mostly from last year at this same time, not so the rest of the team. The kids looked to blast right thru the puddles in great fun, only to bog down, immediately sunk to the gunnels in rich, red adobe paste. The mud clogged rims, brakes, even the fork crowns in a viscous gob of clay, quickly removing all the joy from Mudville that afternoon, lemmetellya. The scene of we four scraping and slogging our way was made all the more comical by the turkey buzzards circling high overhead, kid you not. Curse you mtb-hating angry mud gods! Curse you!

But survive we did, the initial hard slog finally giving way to drier tread and eventually…is that a mirage?... the truck- a trying five miles as we’ve ever ridden. Nothing a Sonic Cooler (large) back in town couldn’t cure I’m happy to report- you kids wanna ride the mountains tomorrow?
Next up: Tale of Two Trails, Part II: Top to Bottom on the Winsor Trail!

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