Tuesday, June 28, 2011

hermosa creek schweetness

upper Hermosa forks
Mountain biking? Schweet stuff.

Fly fishing? Awesomeness in and unto itself, you might say.

Mountain biking to far-flung remote areas to fly fish where few anglers have gone before? 

Boom!, that's Hermosa Creek schweetness right there.
Two paths diverged in the woods.  And I?  I biked one, fished the other

I was so geeked at the prospect of finally getting Hermosa Creek Trail done right, I found myself pulling into the shuttle pickup a good half-hour early.  You know, to check over my gear and bike yet again, never mind that I had just done the same back at camp, like 30 minutes ago.
Camelbak, check.  Lunch, shotblocks, check.  Map, gps, matches, check.  Socks, gloves, helmet, mtb shoes, check.  Flyrod, reel, flybox x2, nippers, hemos, floatant, tippet, check, check, check!  Oh man, this is gonna be great!
best $25 spent all weekend
Nick and Lisa with Hermosa Tours were running our shuttle up the mountain for the day.  Lisa actually had two of our group (coupla Las Cruces young guys in matching team jerseys) as sports for the day.   Our shuttle rep'd another NM contingent from Fanta Se, plus a nice younger couple from the Front Range.  Jason from Cali was the only single rider other than yours truly, every part the veteran with a schweet downhill rig and one of those decked-out Mercedes surf-and-bike touring vans.
obligatory bike shot
Nick and Lisa drop us off on a ridge above Purgatory ski resort, everyone promptly flies off down the dirt road hellbent for the trailhead some 5 miles away.  Me, I'm still cinching fly rod, reel, fishing hat to my camelbak.

I swing a leg over, catch up to Lisa and her bookends in short order, pass the front range couple, man theYeti can fly on the downhill!  I settle in behind Lisa + sports until we reach the trailhead then let them peel off down the trail looking for all the world like the devil himself was after them.
beautiful, no?
I give them some space, mosey across the East Fork, get to crankin myself.  I settle in a bit to get a feel for the trail, bike and weighted pack.  Before you know it I'm kickin it after my fashion, nothing that would impress most anyone else mind you, but I can just tell I'm in my groove today.  Oh man it felt nice- really, really nice you know?
One of the unique aspects of Hermosa is the extended downhill nature of the trail.  She runs a good 20 miles from upper to lower trailheads (the only vehicle-access points), dropping from 9,400' down to round 7,000' in the process.  That means downhill fun, no matter how you do the math!

waterfall/avalanche chute
So I continue bombing down the trail, soaking in the smaller jumps and berms, just enjoying the ride on this renowned trail.  It's a solid 3 miles from the TH before I really start the sidelong glances at the shimmering, crystal clear watercourse running alongside the trail.  I pull over occasionally to savor the moment, the day!, snap a quick pic.  Not yet, man, not yet, the rod stays stowed.

more gorgeousness
It's two more miles of tread before I finally find that unforgettable stretch I've been looking for, and give in to the growing urge.  I stash the Yeti streamside, assemble the 4wt, tie a Root Beer Float onto the business end and step onto that huge boulder backing the glory pool before me.  I take a moment to count targets, there's at least six fish within casting range, a couple really worth writing home about.  In goes the pitch, and just like that I'm counting coup on my first trout of the day.  


I'm telling ya the Hermosa down in the depths of that canyon is like that.  A fish behind every rock, in every eddy, in every run and pocket.  Beyond five miles in, there are no hikers, no runners, and exactly zero Texas Wheelchairs.  Just bikers and the occasional moto.  And while I'm not one to normally kiss and tell, you make it down there and back out, son you've earned the right to carry a rod with you and enjoy more of the same.  

mostly bows, with brooks, cutts, cuttbows mixed in
 Hermosa?  With exactly two access points separated by 20 miles, it's not goin anywhere.

Back at the flyshop, the counter guy was calling that the 1% rule: you know friend, 99% of the fly anglers are not mountain bikers; 99% of the bikers don't tote a fly rod along.  That trip is made for the 1%.

Gotta love it.
heavenly pairing
lower Hermosa canyon

your ticket to happiness
What they don't tell you in the trail reviews: 8 miles road + 20 miles trail + 1,900 feet of climbing on a 'downhill' trail makes for one loooong day indeed.  Back at basecamp, I was beyond washed out.  Thinking backonit, I make it five hours in the saddle, 3 more chasin fins.  Tabulate the energy food you'll need, then double it, sounds 'bout right.  100oz camelbak ran out within 1 mile of the lower TH, 24 miles in.  Plan accordingly!

trail's end


  1. Dude,

    That looks unbelievably fun. That may be the selling point for me on the bike. Nice work as always. Beautiful fish and pics.


  2. a combo made in outdoors heaven. boo-to the-yah.

  3. Very cool. A friend of mine is currently working on bringing my old Trek back to life for me. I can't wait to get back in the saddle.

  4. Thx gents! Ben- I can tell you're already making a mental list of places to hit. Get that two wheel drive!

    Ivan, appreciate the visit, you have fishable water up there yet?

    Jay- thatswhatI'mtalkinaboud! Get on out there!

    Mike 1percenter Heitman: I do neither particularly well, but have a fine time at both ;-)

  5. I'm with Ben! Looks like an absolutely amazing trip! Then again, your trips are generally pretty cool. I think this is the first I've seen of a bike/fish though. Go 1%!

  6. Great post Mike! My favorite way to ride/fish Hermosa is start at the lower trailhead and do an out and back. Skip riding any pave and you get 30 plus miles of ST and whatever fishing you can fit in. Top off at Steamworks and call it a day :)

  7. heya Chris- I saw a coupla parties heading up as I was sucking wind on a switchback. At the time I was thinking that might be good idea for next time, as I could tailor the length to suit my fishing jones.

    David- thx for checking in after the big move~

  8. Sorry I didn't ask these questions yesterday, but my newly rediscovered interest in mtn biking has me looking online at new (and used) bikes. My three bikes total that I have are all "old school" 21 sp 26" wheels from the '90s.
    Do most modern (current) full suspension bikes have lockouts for climbing? I never had any interest in full suspension back when I rode a lot (10 years ago) because the looked like the were very inefficient on uphill climbs.
    And do you have any thoughts on "29er"s?
    Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

  9. Hey Jay- I'll send you an email- mike

  10. Mike that looks like a fantastic trip, love both the article and the photos. It gets the mind ticking as to what other combo rides into the wilderness could be done. Although I just might have to try your Hermosa creek ride one year, as it looks to be heavenly.

  11. hey TR, I can imagine AZ has plenty of opportunities just waiting to be discovered. Look forward to reading about them! mike

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