Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sacramento Mountains

Moved to Midland in part to be closer to mountains.  In part to have better job.  Went to mountains this weekend for first time since moving to Midland.  Left Friday night, drove about 2.5 hours to Brantley Lake SP in New Mexico, just north of Carlsbad.  It's neat to see the Pecos River through Carlsbad, which is surrounded by such dry country.  I've been in Carlsbad a few times before, first in 2008 with a work field trip.  I remembered some landmarks from that trip and was able to go right to the Chevron and the Wells Fargo across the street to get some cash.  The SP was fine.  Got up early on Saturday and headed west again and finally up the mountain, up the gentle eastern slopes of the Sacramento Mountains.  Cloudcroft, NM was my destination.  The Subaru wasn't too happy.  I didn't have much gear on board -- just the normal camping kit.  But I was pulling my trailer with my Honda 230 dirt bike.  It was a struggle to get up the hills at normal speed, and my gas mileage was atrocious -- around 19 mpg, including much flatland driving.  And I was driving at or below the speed limit, mostly around 60 mph.  When the Sub was new a few times I got around 30 mpg on longer highway trips.  In more recent times I average in the low 20s.  The Sub flipped to 90,000 miles on this trip.
At the parking lot: so far, so good. Sun shining.

Saturday didn't feel like a good day.  It was such a struggle to get up to Cloudcroft.  CC is a neat town.  It's a resort town, with rows of cottages on wooded hillsides.  It's a bit run-down in the way that towns get to be when they're covered in snow for half of the year.  We poked around in town then headed south toward Sunspot.  I found the pull off I wanted and we unloaded and got the bike off and going.  Then we set off down some rocky trails.  The riding was so-so.  I saw a proper trail heading down the mountainside so I veered off down that.  Immediately, I realized I was getting into more than I could chew.  The trail dove down the hillside and I thought "can I get down that?"  immediately followed by the thought "can I get back up that?". 
So I stopped, and tried to turn the bike around. The hillside was slick and wet with recent rains.  For every few inches I gained, grunting and pushing with all my strength, the bike slid down or sideways.  I was losing this battle as the bike inched toward a much steeper part of the hill with no trees to block a potential downward slide hundreds of feet.  The bike would then be unrecoverable.

I went back to the car and got the ratchet straps I use to tied down the bike on the trailer.  With these wrapped around a tree, I thought I could inch the bike up the hill.  I got it stabilized, and even moved it uphill a few inches.  But then I couldn't release the straps to start over -- the bike would slide back down.  I was at a loss.  I had nearly exhausted myself.  I couldn't push or pull any harder.  I needed help.
Stabilized.  Now what?
Back down to the parking lot I went again, thinking about driving up the dirt road to near the bike and trying to pull it up with the Subaru.  This would have seriously damaged the bike, but it was better than a total loss.  I was mulling this over when I saw two motorcyclists in the parking lot.  They saw me, walking back with a helmet but no bike or ATV.  I told them I was stuck and they came and helped me.  He was a big guy, and she helped too and it was still quite a task to get the bike up.  After thanking them I rode a few more trails but I realized that this isn't a place to be riding alone.  Luckily I was stuck just a few hundred feet from the trailhead and I wasn't injured.  On my short ride after getting unstuck I saw many other places I could've been stuck and it would've been hopeless.  So I decided, no more riding this stuff alone.

Right about this time a downpour started, and it continued to rain more or less the next 12 hours.  Sab and I visited Sunspot, NM and did another very short ride in a meadow up into the forest.  We went back into CC for dinner and eventually found a camp spot, which involved lots of driving around in the rainy dark. 

Sun telescope near Sunspot, NM.  Note approaching clouds.

Brewing storm.
Moto-hiking in a forest meadow.
Sunday morning we got up early (for my daily call from the field) and went into CC.  Got bfast and coffee at the merchantile on the highway -- the best place in town.  People are happy and friendly.  I guess they are glad to be in CC.  Then we went and hiked Osha trail.  I didn't have a cable to lock down the Honda, but I rigged up a couple of padlocks thru the back disc, after much tinkering.  After Osha I didn't want to deal with relocking the bike (couldn't drive with that setup), so we did one more loop through CC and took off.  It's about a 4.5 hour drive back home to Midland, TX.
Best I could do with what I had.
Osha trail (for the Osha plant).
Osha trail II.

Ready to depart for home.

  • ride with someone else, or even a couple of people
  • find a place to camp early, and camp with other people
  • have more than just 5 rounds for your handgun
  • always have a plan, and a backup plan
  • bring lots of food
  • bring beer
  • bring a lock for your  bike
  • get a new car/SUV with more power
  • check your (car) tires for wear
Umm, what are those strings coming out of my tire??


Valerie said...

Oh Andrew, sounds like quite the trip. Glad all ended well. About the strings in the tires, can't help you there, but I can tell you, if you have a Costco near you they have great deals on tires.

I enjoyed reading your story.

Plants Amaze Me said...

Well I'm not sure what to say - being your mother I will always worry about you. I'm not sure it is better to know what you are doing or maybe it is better to not know at all!
No, No, I definitely want to know. I really like all the pictures you included, it's not at all what I pictured in my mind after talking to you. I'll send money for new tires right away!!