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  1. #1
    mtbr member
    Join Date
    Mar 2012

    Trip Report: Zuni Mountains and the El Morro Valley (also posted in New Mexico forum)

    I also talked about my gear setup here. And cross posted this in the New Mexico forum.

    How I spet my 44th birthday...

    This was a solo overnight trip in the Cibola National Forest (specifically the Zuni Mountains located in western New Mexico). The forest land is accessed here north northeast of El Morro National Monument from the El Morro Ranches subdivision North Gate. We own some land here (the "Base Camp" listed elsewhere) and this is my second exploratory ride into this area. The first was a few weeks ago where I covered some of the same route.

    I used my wife's iphone for GPS. I have been trying out a few apps and have found the Trimble Outdoors free one to work very well. Signal is spotty in this area, so the phone needs to toggle between cellular signal and the GPS network depending on what it can access. Despite this, I was able to view myself in real time on an aerial whether I was in cell range or not. Very nice. As with many such apps, you can take pics, videos, etc. and link them to a specific geographic location. Unfortunately, I left the phone on when I slept and it was dead the next morning. So, I was only able to map and take photos for the first half of the trip. I have added images from my earlier exploratory ride to fill in what I missed.

    Tarp, paracord, stakes, long underwear top, 40 degree bag, therm-a-rest pad, raincoat, first aid, food (cold: bars, sesame noodles in a bag for dinner, pbj sandwiches), iphone, bike tools, water, bb pistol (mostly for noise), lighter/matches, compass, map, bug spray, Dr. Bronners soap, toothpaste/toothbrush, TP, a few wipes, bandanas and...2 beers .

    Bike: '94 Gary Fisher hoo koo e koo w/rigid fork, WTB Mutano 2.4 up front, Kenda Lopes 55 2.35 in the back. I was very pleased with this tire setup.

    Bags/Racks: old Blackburn aluminum rear rack, Nashbar rear paniers, under seat bag, water bottle cages on frame and fork (1 liter bottled water containers work great in these cages and are cheaper than bike bottles)

    Wore a Camelback Rogue (1.5l).

    How it gets packed
    All bike tools go in my Camelback along with snacks and the bb pistol, sleeping pad under the bars. The remainder is balanced between the paniers and the tarp bungied across the top of the rack (bungie used to hang panier as a bear bag at night). In the end I brought more water and food than I needed. I could have stayed out two nights with this set up.

    Forest Land Gate

    Trails are all old logging road two tracks in this area. Some are more traveled than others but none see much traffic at all. This is a popular hunting area in the fall, but otherwise, is very quiet. I saw one set of truck tires since the last time I rode here three weeks ago. Its a mixed bag of sandy, hardpack, and lots of rock gardens (some pretty challenging!). Rock gardens are two different varieties - some from volcanic activity, some broken up striated rock from when this was part of the North American Sea.

    From our land, the initial climb is pretty intense. The first day I climbed ~1500'. The next day, probably another 500 to the Continental Divide. The area in general is between 7000' and 9000' above sea level.

    Seen Along the Way
    Lots of interesting stuff to explore. Old logging cabins, some leftover infrastructure from old forest fires, and a number of springs. These springs are the result of volcanic cones that emerged within the mountainous uplift. The result are a series of mountain meadows many of which have springs in them where water from further up the watershed is seeping through the volcanic material. Also saw lots of evidence of mountain lions (three piles of scat n three different places) and lots of mule deer and elk scat. No signs of bears, but there are plenty of them in this area. The Cibola National Forest has the second largest population of mountain lions and black bears in the US.

    A muddy spring filled with thirsty butterflies

    I used a very simple camp setup I spied elsewhere on Its just a simple tarp strung over a guy line and staked out to create a roof. It was very effective, though I did not get rain. Still, I was very confident I would be plenty dry (and I was expecting rain on this trip). For food, I brought all cold items. This area is in a Stage 2 fire restriction anyway, so no stoves or open fires. Saved on weight as well, so it all worked out. I brought pbj sandwiches, bunch of Cliff Bars, some pre-made sesame noodles for dinner (in a zip-loc bag) and some chocolate with espresso beans (since I couldn't make coffee).

    Ultimately, I overestimated the amount of water I needed and I even had enough food to make it a second day had I wanted to. Still, had it been less overcast ad hotter, I probably would have consumed a lot more water. As it was, I stayed very well hydrated which made for a great night's sleep and an easy rising early the next morning.

    Food high in a tree-safe from bears

    Sunset at the top of the world!

    Back at Base Camp
    Back with people at our land. Its been fun to begin exploring up into these further reaches of the Zunis and this place provides a perfect jumping off point. Next bikepacking trip, I'm bringing company!

  2. #2
    Cumbria, England.
    Reputation: D45yth's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Nice report! It would freak me out thinking there were bears and mountain lions wandering about while I was asleep. I get sick of the weather here in the UK but at least we don't have wildlife that can eat us.
    You didn't see any RV's with strange fumes coming out of them did you? Ha, I watched the whole series of 'Breaking Bad' a few weeks ago.
    - The seasons blow away, but the love is just the same -

  3. #3
    mtbr member
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Thanks D45yth! Ah yes, Breaking Bad. I know a number of people who work on that show or have had scenes shot at their house/place of work. It really is well done and captures pretty well a certain aspect of New Mexico (and Albuquerque, where I live). But really, its not generally like that. You should come visit to find out. And no RVs up where I was...

    I've camped around bears most of my life and am not concerned so long as I take appropriate precautions (like the bear bag hung high in a tree far from your tent). I've seen bears and I've had them wander by my tent a few times, but never had an engaged encounter. They don't really eat people or any meat for that matter. They only attack if they feel threatened or think their kids are in danger by your presence (which is not really an issue if you are sleeping)

    Mountain lions hunt at specific times generally (dusk and dawn) and usually down in the valleys and canyons. One of the reasons I camped high. But when I'm riding, I'm fairly noisy and pretty large looking, so I don't worry too much about being jumped, though I've heard of that happening. I do keep my eyes open...

    Still, I had my pellet pistol with me. It won't kill anything, but makes a loud noise and stings which would probably be good enough for a lot of situations. I have been meaning to buy some bear spray (a pepper spray like product) but just haven't done it yet. Plus, they're like $50!!

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