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  1. #1
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    Into the Gila. (xp 29")


    Crisp, clear, bluebird dawn.  Cold breath vaporizing out of sleeping bags into arid, warm, low desert air.  Clear vistas to mountains distant and near.  Moist soil, good friends, laden bikes, empty trail.





     





    Time to ride.












    Shortcut to the goods.










    The bikes feel awkward at first--more than the added load of overnight gear can account for.  Coming from a deep-frozen and snow-covered world, it just feels odd to ride with so little effort.  Almost as odd as nekkid skin caressed by morning sun.



    In January?  Pinch me.










    Actually, wait.  Not yet.












    Skippy was mentally overwhelmed at the outset of his virgin overnight bike mission, but soon settled into a groove.  Just like ridin' a bike, kid.
























    Desert sentinels loomed, friendly, or maybe just indifferent.  Perhaps on a blue sky day like this everything seems friendly.


































    The trail was an intermediate paradise.  Neither technical nor boring, it required a bit of attention but left plenty of moments for attention to wander.












    My attention kept getting pulled above and to the right.  "Scott!  I wanna go over there!"



    "All part of the plan!" came his reply.












    Like the rest of us, Skippy allowed his attention to drift away from the trail tread.  Unlike the rest of us, Skippy hadn't filled his tires with desert-proof goop.  Thus we had ample opportunity to relax, eat, and snicker in his direction while he paid the price once, twice, thrice.












    Scott led us up and to the right, where the views, scenery, and light all seemed to be pulling our winter-weary carcasses.











    This here view made it all worthwhile.












    Vast desert, little us.












    And on we climbed.













    Greg is visible at right-center, for perspective.































    No one was sure what this saguaro was trying to tell Scott.  We decided to act as though we hadn't noticed.  Meanwhile, That Guy fixed yet another flat.



























    Drooping shadows matched my fading legs.












    Scott sings Skippy up the hill.























    Please continue to refrain from pinching me.












    And still we climbed as views increased, here looking south toward Mount Lemmon.












    Greg and Scott seemed to have boundless energy, while Skippy looked as rough as I felt.












    And still we climbed.












    Sunset loomed, the trail remained eminently rideable, my legs were hollowed out husks, and still we couldn't see the top.










    Not that I was in any hurry to be elsewhere.  Wrapping around a fin and into this inner gorge was a surreal, stop-and-take-note moment.  Am I really here?











    Is Scott really there?












    Greg?  Izzat you, here, now?










    I've always maintained that living in the Arizona desert must make one weak--no snow to shovel, nor bracing mornings to head out into, no dead car batteries to force a readjustment of one's day, mood, priorities.



    And I stick to that.  But I'm also glad that the Arizona desert is where and how it is, giving those of us with some semblance of real winter a relatively easy and worthwhile escape.










    Eventually the climbing ceased, or at least we reached a flat place with room enough for four sleeping bags.  And there we stopped, dropped, ate, and crashed, not necessarily in that order.




    Thanks for checkin' in.





    (and no, I have no idea why the pic format is proper fooked with the forum update. anyone?)

  2. #2
    Give it a crank
    Reputation: Mtn-Rider's Avatar
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    Wow! Those are some great photos. What an awesome ride!

  3. #3
    NMBP
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    Once again, very nice photos.

  4. #4
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    Screwy forum ... Let's try this again.

    Beautiful photo's ... Where did you enter / exit the trail ?

  5. #5
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    Thanks Mike. You always inspire with your images (both typed and pixeled).

  6. #6
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    You guys are so tall and skinny and are those 36" wheels? ;^)

  7. #7
    Young, Shawn Young
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    Great pictures as always!
    "Im just going to explore a little bit..."

    Dont make me be the bad guy...

    Do I need a pass to ride this trail?

  8. #8
    mtbr member
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    and no, I have no idea why the pic format is proper fooked with the forum update. anyone?
    You can change the forum display option from "Fixed" to "Wide" and the pics should display pooperly. Worked for me....

    Awesome pics as always Mike, definitely got me itching for another AZ road trip - thanks for posting!

  9. #9
    This place needs an enema
    Reputation: mikesee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by evdog View Post
    You can change the forum display option from "Fixed" to "Wide" and the pics should display pooperly. Worked for me....

    Awesome pics as always Mike, definitely got me itching for another AZ road trip - thanks for posting!
    Great tip--that was it.

    For anyone else that's seeing the pics all squished, scroll to the bottom of this page and on the very bottom left is a dropdown with 'wide' or 'fixed' options. Wide is what you want for big peeks!

  10. #10
    two wheel whore
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    Wow great pics!

  11. #11
    Look out!
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    Those are some stunning photos. Sigh, at least another month of winter before I can even think about getting out on dirt. Thanks for sharing.
    Ride the bike.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by evdog View Post
    You can change the forum display option from "Fixed" to "Wide" and the pics should display pooperly. Worked for me....

    Awesome pics as always Mike, definitely got me itching for another AZ road trip - thanks for posting!
    Thanks for that tip, i was about ready to give up on mtbr and chalk it up to getting to old to read the new mobile format.

  13. #13
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    I have rode the Gila on my Motorcycle here in NM, I thought that Gila National Park was in NM. Nevertheless, great pixs and looks like it was a blast.

    Mark
    2012 XXL Carve Expert

  14. #14
    This place needs an enema
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    Out of the Gila.


    Dawn came about when I was ready for it, bringing light clouds that thickened as the day progressed.  













    Gone were the bluebird skies and our collective lighthearted mood seemed to have departed with them.













    Sleep was good and I could easily have done more of it, but a raging thirst + light dehydration headache demanded action.  Why not pound some agua, then roll over for more zzzzzz's?





    If only it were so easy.  Our esteemed leader had assured us (himself included) that there was water aplenty in a little known/little used cache at the top of the climb.  Feeling uneasy about it, but wanting it to be so, we'd taken him at his word.  But but but...





    When we arrived there, shelled from the all-day climb, we found but a fraction of what we'd hoped to see--not quite enough for even one of us, much less all four.  Not to mention what karma would have in store for us if we took every last drop, leaving none for others that might arrive in dire need.





    Them's the breaks, as they say.





    So we went to bed thirsty, slept thirsty, and woke thirsty.  Our only realistic option was to reverse course and head back down to the Gila, or a spring not far from it.  To a man we were bummed at not getting to complete Scott's proposed loop, but there wasn't really a choice to be made--we were collectively just too parched.










    Death-defying photography in these parts.  I took one for the team.







    Skippy in his element--pointed down.







    All but Scott were amazed at how high we'd climbed, how much country had passed beneath our wheels.







    The addition of descending speed didn't really change the flavor of the trail--still mild tech with plenty of chance to savor that which surrounded us.


















    The thickness of the skies and unexciting light caused us to appreciate the scenery closer underfoot.







    Well, most of the time.















    Unbelievably, Scott was seen eating more than once on this day.  Shocker.  (inside joke alert...)







    Skippy didn't say much all day, merely hinted that he wasn't really feeling on his game.  To which I ask: Whom among us didn't feel in over our heads on their first true overnighter?







    Weird, he's doing it again.















    After watering up at a spring we crossed the Gila proper (boatable flows even!) and worked our way up and out the other side.  Destination: Ripsey.































    At the split for Ripsey Skippy bade us adieu and (mostly) coasted down the road back to the cars.  I was bummed to see him go but he wouldn't even enter a discussion about continuing.







    I've been tantalized by Scott and Chad's pics of Ripsey for so long that there was NO WAY I was coming this far and not laying tire to it.





    And honestly?  I was a bit disappointed.  Sometimes that happens when the pleasure is too long deferred and you build things up to unrealistic levels.  





    Which is to say that it was good, challenging trail, it just didn't knock my socks off the way I thought maybe it might.





    It did NOT lack for tough switchbacks to throw ourselves at.







    Distant views were there for the taking, but the leaden skies and lack of direct light somehow made them less...   ...engaging?







    Or, maybe the trail and views and light were just *fine*, I was just too shelled to appreciate them?





    Entirely possible.  Downright likely even.










    The trail ended without fanfare, dumping us unceremoniously over one of those weird shin-high stock gates and into an empty parking lot.  We coasted down the road to our campsite to find Skippy.





    But not just Skippy--more like Skippy Supreme!





    The man had licked his wounds clean, driven to the nearest town, loaded up with hot pizza and root beer, and arrived back at camp moments before us.





    With hot pizza!  And root beer!





    And there was much rejoicing...







    The meal was as wonderful as any hot meal I've had in recent memory, a testament to the way a simple bike ride can readjust one's priorities.





    Thanks for checkin' in.





    MC

  15. #15
    NedwannaB
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    Spectabulous write up and pix. Thanks Mikesee.
    Wait,who did he tell you that?....

  16. #16
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    Desert-proof goop?

    Great write-up, Mike. Fantastic pictures.

    Like the rest of us, Skippy allowed his attention to drift away from the trail tread. Unlike the rest of us, Skippy hadn't filled his tires with desert-proof goop. Thus we had ample opportunity to relax, eat, and snicker in his direction while he paid the price once, twice, thrice.
    What are you using for your tubeless set-up in the desert?

  17. #17
    Scott in Tucson
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclostf View Post
    What are you using for your tubeless set-up in the desert?
    Both Greg and I had straight up Stans in our tubes. Mike used a mixture of Stans and something else. I've had really good luck with just Stans. As long as I can keep from slicing sidewalls...

    Great photos all around, MC. Sorry Ripsey was disappointing. Might have been the lack of lighting. It's still a magic place to me, even on an overcast day. I've fought hard to get there many times, though, and it may have seemed a bit too easy to get there on this trip...
    Author of TopoFusion GPS Software. MTB+backpacking = bikepacking.net. Ride Diary.

  18. #18
    This place needs an enema
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    Quote Originally Posted by Krein View Post
    Both Greg and I had straight up Stans in our tubes. Mike used a mixture of Stans and something else. I've had really good luck with just Stans. As long as I can keep from slicing sidewalls...

    Great photos all around, MC. Sorry Ripsey was disappointing. Might have been the lack of lighting. It's still a magic place to me, even on an overcast day. I've fought hard to get there many times, though, and it may have seemed a bit too easy to get there on this trip...
    I use a ~50/50 blend of Stans and Tubeless Slime. Stans works well enough, but it dries out so fast in our arid environment. Adding the seemingly-more-stable Slime doubles and sometimes triples (depending on season) the service interval.

    Scott, re: Ripsey--I think it was me. Rough day, and I don't yet have the history with it that you do--just the one rough day. I'm willing to give it another chance...

  19. #19
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    Glad I clicked on this again. It's always a pleasant surprise to find more than one expects.

    Didn't know you'd added the second half of the trip. Stellar x 2.

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