Sleep In The Dirt

Training for Iceland along the mighty, muddy Rio Grande

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We had just tackled a long, sketchy hike-a-bike descent and Jackie is worried. I had estimated that our route was supposed to intersect with the muddy Rio Grande an hour or two ago, and we are out of water. It’s hot, and if I’m honest with myself I’m a bit worried as well. I can see that big mud hole of a river in the distance, and our route isn’t going to intersect with it.   

Jackie and I are headed to Iceland later this month and had decided to make a trip out to New Mexico to fine-tune our bikepacking rigs. We had some new product and bags to try out, and I wanted to see how it all packed and carried on the bike over rough terrain similar to what we will experience on Icelandic F-Roads and singletrack. After a few hours on Google Maps, we picked out a route on public land west of Santa Fe, NM. It looked as though we could knock it out in 3 days and 2 nights, but there were no water resupply points, except for the mighty Rio Grande River. I figured it’s muddy water could be filtered, and it was better than carrying 30+ liters of water on the bikes for 3 days.

On the way out of Santa Fe we came across the La Cieneguilla Petroglyph Site and stopped to revel in some ancient history.

Like we figured, the route was rocky and technical. Plenty of hike-a-bike to go around, but I’ve always figured the good routes are the ones that most people don’t go on. And we ran into no one. No humans for miles. Steep ascents and beautiful desert scapes, with occasional cattle grazing on the public lands. The heat worked us over, and 5-6 hours later we were intent on finding a spot to rest our heads for the night.

That night the rain came. I had taken off the fly of our Copper Spur right before bed, expecting a dry night. I made a mad dash to collect all our gear, put on the fly, and keep everything dry. The morning came quickly, and revealed a bluebird morning. Coffee, breakfast, pack up the rigs. Time to roll.

Technical terrain was the subject of the morning. Rocky outcrops and steep descents around every corner. Morale still high and smiles in abundance – till we ran out of water. I could see that river in the distance, but it was increasingly clear that our route wasn’t going to bring us to it. It had come time to make the decision to leave our bikes, and carry backpacks, bottles, bladders and the filter to the Rio. An hour later I’m opening up the gravity filter and realize it’s missing the “clean” bladder. Minor inconvenience – we’ll use other bladders and bottles. It’s an epic of a couple of hours filtering enough muddy water to get us back to civilization the next day, but we get the job done and continue in the 95 degree heat. Hike that bike a bit more, and we get to second night’s camp.

The second the tent is up, the rains come again.  I welcome them, slide on the rain jacket and begin cooking a mean batch of lentil noodles, olive oil, pesto, sausage and parmesan.  Bellies and hearts full, sleep comes quick.

Day 3 came like day 2 – bluebird.  The short jaunt over the dirt roads and back into Santa Fe was quick and painless, and I felt thankful for a partner in my life who relishes the adventure of life. She walked away from this trip with a few bruises from crashing, and a toe full of cactus needles.  But the smile on her face outshined all the pain.  Iceland up next…

“Life, and business, should be full of freedom and fun.” – Andrew Chasteen

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