Trip Reports » G.E.T. Part 2 – Wahoo on the CDT
When we last left our heroes (ha!) they were exhausted but well sheltered and fed, having met up with Lee’s wife, Joan. Well fed is a bit of a stretch, I guess, since we had no stove and no food to cook, anyway. We had never really planned on meeting up with Joan in a support role, so no one had thought of what things would be good to have in camp.
Lee was serious about his three naps – he got up a few times to eat but was quickly back in his bag, snoozing. I read an entire Tail Winds and walked around a bit.
It didn’t seem like a good idea to continue on with this northern route. Our adventures thus far had proven it an unlikely route for a GET-cyclist. If more trail were built it might be worth it, but I had a hunch we were missing out on some good CDT on the “southern” route.
So, we had the support and we exercised our option to use it. We piled in the car and drove off down to Beaverhead work center. Though the coke machine was working, I’m sure it’ll be broken by the time any dehydrated GDR racers get there.
We then proceeded on the southern GET-route, along NM 59 to the Continental Divide. Given the ominous weather (it came down pretty good for a few minutes at the Divide) and Lee’s fatigue, we decided to do a day ride south on the CDT, then head for TorC to rest and refuel. So Lee and I continued extremely unloaded, heading backwards on the CDT / GET route.
What did we find?
So well constructed and so fun to ride that it’s worth detouring south off NM 59 to loop around and ride it. We looked for a supposed connecting trail at Stiver canyon, but found none. The Lookout Mountain road looks like the best bet.
At one point I was dodging trees at 20 mph, and not losing much elevation to boot.
Thunder started cracking and we scurried into the car off to Winston (funky place) and Truth or Consequences. We were all shocked to see fresh snow at 6500′ coming out of the Black Range. Even in T or C, which should be hotter than hell this time of year, it was maybe 42 and overcast.
TorC: good grub, a solid night in the motel, and a rainy and overcast dawn. It took a while to motivate, but we eventually did find ourselves back on the CDT ready to head north.
We debated about taking camping gear, meeting up with Joan, et cetera, right up until the last minute. In my mind we had already lost the self-supported flow of the trip, so I was more or less ambivalent about it. In the end Lee decided to ‘risk’ it and try meeting up with Joan again at the end of the day.
For me that means a difference of maybe 3 pounds to my overall load (it was still cold and rainy enough that all clothes came with). 3 lbs is not much, but is noticeable–especially when pushing your bike up a steep hill. I regretted not just bringing my camping gear “in case” pretty much as soon as we got out on the trail.
Worries did not last long, however. The trail was fast, fun, and easy. The terrain is ridiculously well suited to mountain biking. For miles the trail floats along the actual Continental Divide, dodging trees and with only the occasional steep hill.
a thousand to one shot – tree landing precisely on a very well constructed cairn
Near Dolan Peak things get a little steeper, but beautifully benched trail took us right around both Dolan and its northern brother. We were soon on our way to the crux of today’s ride: Wahoo Peak.
On the map this section intimidated me. Steep climbing on singletrack leads to the Wahoo ridge. After that there is no trail – just a fenceline swatch. Though we were descending most of it, there were several climbs and many, many contour lines to cross.
I expressed some concern about making it to the prescribed meeting place before sunset. But as we dug into Wahoo things were a little too easy. The monster hills, all taken at fence-slash-fall-line were no monsters at all.
I pulled out the maps again and had a DOH! moment. These are 20 foot contours, not 40 foot (like they are for almost all areas I’ve ever been interested in). Suddenly my conceptual world was twice as friendly.
I smiled as we found virtual singletrack along many portions of the fenceline. We walked a couple of the steep ups, but boy was it rideable and boy was it fun.
We rounded the corner of Wahoo peak itself, and beheld an impressive view.
It goes without saying that several cries of “WAHOOO!” were heard as Lee and Scott made their way down the 1300′ fenceline descent. I rode every last bit of it. Even as vegetation changed and got thicker, there was always a way to skirt around it, slalom style.
After a tiny bit of trailfinding, I got us on a rideable cow trail dropping into Duck Canyon. I wasn’t expecting much here, but rideable and very fun cow trails proceeded down canyon to the trail #60 “trail head.” With a tiny bit of pruning (riding unloaded there was no excuse for not having loppers!) this trail would be but fun and fast.
Brett has put together quite a route out of the Black Range. After Duck we found ourselves on vague little 2-tracks that were incredulously free of rock.
I was pinching myself and couldn’t stop taking pictures.
I believe Lee’s quote while we stood looking at that windmill, blasted with afternoon light, contrasted with heavy clouds was, “my god! This is New Mexico!”
After what seemed like an afternoon of descending, we popped out onto NM 52 and rode up to the booming megalopolis of Dusty to meet Joan. The GET route continues down the Monticello Box, eventually entering the Apache Kid Wilderness. We instead head north, but Brett had recommended checking out the Box and associated spring.
Warm water flows from Ojo Caliente, which we followed to its source. It was a spectacular evening.
We camped in lower West Red Canyon and set off in the morning, again unloaded, to climb over the San Mateo Mountains.
Climbing the graded road was easy, but it didn’t get us much in terms of elevation. Rejoining the GET on the Indian Spring trail was a surprising treat. For almost three miles the faint trail followed the drainage and was supremely rideable. I’ll again reiterate how much more friendly the terrain here is for riding (compared to AZ).
indian creek trail
Eventually things steepened to hike-a-bike, and when we entered a burn area things got a little nasty. But the final 1000′ push to 9600′ Grassy Lookout was on pretty rideable trail.
lee clings to what little tread there is
It was a solid effort (~4000 feet of climbing since camp). The last few turns above 9500 feet brought us into a higher elevation forest and something about the smell of the trees reminded me of the Wasatch. It was like being given an AMP pack for climbing. I had this strange desire to burn my legs and lungs out, no matter the cost.
Great fun. I climbed the lookout and started chatting up its occupant. He told us of the freezing rain and piling snow two nights ago (now all melted). He also remininced about his grand father who used to man this very lookout, but instead of reporting a smoke, he’d go jump on his horse and put it out himself. The good old days of the forest service, I guess.
We had enough daylight that I wondered about spending more time on the Mateo crest. There’s a trail that skirts the wilderness boundary on the way down. I didn’t have GPS for it, thinking we’d be bee-lining it for Magdalena by now. But with full stomachs and plenty of energy there was room for exploration. The lookout told us that the Big Rosa trail #36 was well signed from the main crest road, so we rode off to find it.
The extra miles on the crest were worth it. Elk, turkeys, aspens, firs, rarefied air. But there was no sign for Big Rosa trail. We backtracked, fiddled around, explored every minor logging excursion 2-track, but nothing looked viable.
Regrettably we turned around and rode ~5 miles (nearly back to the lookout) to our FS road descent. FS330 was surprisingly technical. I was assuming it was graded, but not so. A few other surprises included turning a corner and hitting the fringe of a zooming thunder cell. Suddenly the temperature dropped 20 degrees and we were scrambling to add layers. Usually descending 2000′ brings warmer temps, but not in this case.
Our entrance trail to Big Rosa did exist off FR330, and was well signed. I’d say it was maybe 5% rideable. Just too steep and loose.
But fortunately the ensuing descent was well worth the push up. Big Rosa canyon has been closed to vehicles and qualifies as “double track that rides like singletrack.” When they shut the road down they also added some drainage control. Translation – big jumps.
There was no sign of Trail #36 coming in from above, so we were convinced it doesn’t exist.
After 8 miles of descending (!) the canyon opened up and we got a view of the snow tipped Magdalenas and all the storm cells zooming around.
anvil enough to forge a sword or two
We got some constant sprinkles, but were largely spared any significant rain. It was bizarre to be more concerned with cold and rain instead of the usual – sun and heat.
I did some GPS route-freelancing on our way down to the next county road – NM 107 – with varied success. I saw potential “short cuts” and potential faint 2-tracks, similar to the ones I had enjoyed so much on the Wahoo descent. We found some, but we also found a labyrinth of locked gates and roads that were too vague to even follow.
Lee’s invincible Stans wheels started leaking at this point. Not much you can do with a sidewall cut, but he kept airing up as it would get low.
Finally after a few miles on NM 107, some 12 miles from our destination of Magdalena, he resigned to changing it. Not long after Joan came down the road looking for us. We hopped in and made it just in time for milkshakes at the Cafe.
We had planned on tackling the Madgalena Mountains, heading to Socorro, but we were both out of time and the fresh snow had not yet melted. So we took the “scenic route” driving back through Reserve, Glenwood and Mule Creek.
Another great GET adventure, and there is still much to be done.