The Gila Wilderness
Well, it is official, I have fallen behind in updating the Daily Trail. The last 6 days of travel took me off the beaten path and up into the Gila National Wilderness area. Up there, no cell phone towers or wifi stations existed. On top of that, I struggled to keep my phone charged so I was not even able to write each day. The net result is I am behind and trying to catch up with all of my daily updates. The daily trail will pick up tomorrow.
Yesterday I landed in Silver City after a fantastic descent from the Continental Divide. Pictures of that moment would have been nice, but by that time my camera battery was dead. You will just have to trust me that it was a pretty spectacular drop down into Silver City, with one of the largest strip mines shining brightly in the distance, and this town of 10,000 people spread across the valley floor.
Over the past 6 days I managed to cross Emory Pass, over 8200 ft of elevation and the highest point on the Southern Tier route. I then worked my way up into the wilderness area, crossing the Continental Divide for the first time and then crossing over a 7200 ft peak before a heart stopping descent into the Gila Hot Springs. The descent was so steep that it made my brakes smoke and burned my hand as I was taking off the trailer at camp that night. Up in that area, the USFS has done a wonderful job of providing really sweet primitive camp sites that are clean, safe, and often still have a bathroom, which can be quite a treat.
From there I worked my way up to the Cliff Dwellings, a series of caves that were created around 1200 AD and sit high up on the ridge line above the Gila River. You an see images of the dwellings in the images that I just uploaded to the Bike Around America gallery. I spent the day up there just meditating and taking it all in. It is really an incredible sight to see what these primitive people were able to create out of stone.
I spent the night in one of the Gila USFS sites and then the next day made my way to the Hot Springs. All I can say is wow, these were awesome. For 5 dollars I got a camp site right next to the river and full access to three springs, all of varying temperature. The grounds of the camp have been done up in a very eclectic sort of art deco which made the springs not only relaxing but truly visually stimulating. That night, relaxing in the springs, watching the moon cross the sky and the brilliant display of stars was simply breath taking. It made it very hard to leave the next day, and were it not for my complete lack of food, I would have stayed another day.
Knowing the amount and size of mountain passes that I was to cross, I strategically began to limit the amount of food I was carrying in an attempt to reduce the weight of the BOB trailer. I can debate the usefulness or event the intelligence of this strategy, but I won't, since in the end I did survive. However, it was close, and the day before I rolled into Silver City I was down to a snickers bar, coffee and 4 fig newtons. Lets just say I think I cut it a wee bit close.
The ride out of the Hot Springs was just brutal. I now had to go back over the same 7000 foot peak, a seven mile uphill stretch on the insanely steep side, then go down it, and immediately climb back up a farm road that for over 2 miles was graded by someone who obviously hated cyclists. I then crossed over the Continental Divide again, and then up and over another 7000 foot peak, all in the same day. My legs quickly forgot how good they had felt after their hot springs soaking. The final night was spent in another USFS camp, where a young family from El Paso took pity on me and provided me two hot dogs and then eggs and bacon the next morning. So even though I was down to nothing, I was once again shown how Spirit looks out for those in need.
Rolling into Silver City I found the local bike shop, always a great place to meet people and get the lay of the land. I had packages waiting for me, but it was Sunday, so at a minimum I had to stay one night, and I did not have a place to stay. The folks at the shop quickly hooked me up with William, a kind gentleman that has a guest house he provides to wayward cyclists and hikers. The guys at the shop then took to ogling over the Fargo, a bike they had been dying to see. My rear wheel spokes had come loose, so before I knew it, the bike was up on the stand and things were being taken care of, all for what turned out to be a ridiculously cheap rate. More people came by the shop and the Fargo continued to be the star of the show, with several of the passers by taking it out for a stroll. I tell you, this bike is just the bomb!
I have now had the chance to edit some images as well as a video I made of the journey down the 8200 ft Emory Pass. Next up is picking up packages and swapping out gear, then I should hit the road by Wednesday, heading straight for Tuscon and my friend Stan who I met up in Alaska 2 years ago.
I am pretty excited to be back in more populated territory, something that will only increase as I move towards the west coast. I am looking forward to opportunities to get in front of kids and parents and elevate the discussion of Childhood Obesity; the push to get kids back out into the world of Nature; and the benefits of living a simple life. As always, if you know of organizations that would like to host me for talks and presentations, please drop me a note.
Please do not forget that your donations to JustGive.org are Tax free donations that go directly to specific organizations that are working hard to help our youth get fit and educate parents on healthy life style choices. Making a trip like the Bike Around America tour is not easy and requires some level of funding to cover repairs to the bike and to replace broken gear. If you have the ability, any donation you can make to help me continue the tour are so very greatly appreciated. You can use the Pay Pal button at right to help support my efforts.