Sunday, October 28, 2012

Tour De Diligence: Day 2. The Bullrushes

We woke up at the camp area around Bailey's Cabin, set a few miles into Coyote Cyn.  We were at just over the 30 mile mark and that bit of riding into the previous evening had given us a good jump into the trip and rewarded us with a stellar night under the stars.

I had chosen to keep the shelter at home and go bivy and bag only.  I picked up an REI Minimalist bivy last year and had used it with a tarp in bad weather, but I had never used it all alone out in the open.  It worked very well, keeping the wind out of my bag, adding some warmth, and letting me keep some clothing inside for the next day.  We never even saw a hint of precipitation, so that was no concern.  Inside was my very lightweight Deuter Dreamlight 500 (as in grams) and a silk liner as back-up (never needed it).

I was on top of the recently purchased Exped Synmat sleeping pad.  I am a side sleeper by nature so the mini-thin pads do not work well for me.  This one actually is lighter and packs smaller than my old 3/4 Thermarest and is much more plush.

Everyone else was pretty much in a bivy or bivy/enclosure hybrid.

Breakfast all done with my DIY pop can alcohol stove...Gary's Panforte' Clif Bar and hot tea, yum...we broke camp and headed out into the wash.  We really were in a big wash.  Dry for the most part, Coyote Cyn is broken up into an upper section and a lower section that are both open to vehicles.  The middle section is closed to motorized use.

If we rode where vehicles had been, it was too sandy to make it most of the time.  But, if we rode off the tracks, what looked like a hard crust waiting to swallow us up was instead a hardpan conglomerate of clay and sand and rocks that was as hard as concrete and completely rideable.  It was slow going though but little did we know how slow is was about to get.

This is where the motos stop.
The hardest mud in the world.

Obviously it was not always so hard baked.  There were so many kinds of tracks it was like WIld Kingdom time.

Does that look like it can be ridden upon?  It can, but slowly.

Jason B. AKA the Minn. Hammer

It was about there that the idea of having Fat Bikes for this trip seemed to be a good idea.  That thought would continue for the next couple of days.  Meanwhile, the other fellas were having a bit of a bumpy day on those full rigid, drop bar Salsa bikes.  I was in hog heaven with the Salsa Spearfish and the 100mm/80mm of F/R travel.  Oh yes, how sweet it is.  I also did not get any flats, but we had one or two more on this morning.

So after a bit of time bumping along the more open wash, the walls began to close in and the canyon narrowed as the trail diminished.  Eventually we were following flags on Willow branches and our GPS tracks to stay on course.  It turned into a bit of a bash fest through the willows and Mulefat, typical So Cal stream bed flora, but soon it turned to this....

Yep...there is a rider about 10 feet in front of me.  Where's Waldo in itchy plants.

Still on track aboard the African Queen.
It also meant we were getting our feet wet as the springs were abundant here.  Very fun actually.  I dig this kind of stuff.

After another flat tire, we ran down a few miles of sand wash that was pretty rideable, even in the main track.  Speeds were coming up a bit till we hit the rocky section here, but that was very near the exit of the canyon and I could see the edge of Borrego Springs in the distance.  FOOD and cold water coming up!

Perfect terrain for a rigid fork and drop bars.  Took some skittles to ride that so equipped.
Ben exits with grace.
Giant burritos to eat here.  And to go.

Vagrancy is not a crime.

 We were properly fueled up and having a pretty good time by around Noon or 1:00-ish and we headed out into a pretty warm and windy day on a paved highway.  If we would have known, we would have figured out a way to carry more water in our socks or something as that would prove to be an issue the next day.

Our goal was to get to mile 111 today where the refuel would happen.  But in the way of that plan was this.

Tell me, do they ride bikes here or just walk along side them?
Sand.  Lots of sand.  Energy sapping sand and no 'hardpan to the side' option.  At one point though, we had enough slope/gravity/tailwind at our disposal to actually get up in a big gear and play 'Dakar Rally' on our bikes.  It was kinda scary at first cause you were always trying not to swap ends, but after a mile or so it just was normal and I got really good at the whole sand dance thing.  Pretty tiring though.  At the end, we just collapsed under a bush right next to the highway like some road kill.

Road Kill.

In the desert, beauty happens where you find it.

Soon enough we were back on the highway and I could see small buildings and motor homes.  I figured this would be water time, but was some odd Snowbirder encampment that had no store I could see.  Someone remarked that it was where motorhomes came to die.  Appropriate.  Man, I wanted a biiig drink of cool water.  Funny how that motivates you and steals your spirit when it does not happen.

We hit the entrance to Fish Canyon wash a few hours before sundown and pedaled in, once again dancing back and forth looking for the hard spots to ride upon.  The Midwest boys had never seen anything like this, all those canyon walls and such.  It was beautiful.  it looked like a scene from Star Wars only lacking the Sand People and the little hooded junk collector guys.

GPS, how I love thee.
Burrito refueling stop.

We rode on till dark, realizing we would not likely make our goal of the 111 mile refuel which was at the end of this canyon.  We were somewhere near the 90 mile mark and I was in favor of pushing on through the night, but that would have been unrealistic.  I did not know that, so i am glad I agreed to camp where we did.  We got up out of the wash a bit for safety and found a great spot to set up.  It was quiet and clear.  Starry, starry night.

I was still low on calories so I fixed a backpacking meal of beef lasagna and spent the last hours of the evening talking to Errin about his Tour Divide experience.

The next day would be a monster.

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