It all started with Maria. She came into the shop and ended up falling in love with mountain biking and the idea of something bigger… by bike. Maria has an amazing excitement about her and she wanted to do some fun stuff with her new friends and bike from the mountains.
I needed to put together a way for women to learn about bikepacking and for other women to share what they know. We have a lot of local badasses who are more than happy to teach and share. I also needed a little getaway adventure myself.
Maria and I set a date and I rallied a small group of local gals. This would be a trial-run of sorts, so I didn’t want to open it up to all my regular women customers just yet. I hosted a clinic to introduce the ladies and also get a gear-list out and teach them about bikepacking. A few ladies had to get some gear items, which led us to refreshing our bikepacking gear section of the store and the start of online tutorials (coming soon.)
The weather forecast was getting grim, but we all agreed that it would be a good test. No one bailed and six of us showed up at the shop last Friday with incoming snow and hail. We had hopes that we’d ride out of it and down into some sunshine, but knew very well that we could have a entirely ugly freezing trip and night in the canyon. When six women clear their schedules we’re going to rough it and make it happen!
The start took us up and over the foggy southridge and into Garner Valley where a little sun opened up and I spun like crazy on my singlespeed across the valley. We took the Stagecoach 400 route up and over Thomas Mountain and into Anza Valley where the clouds danced around us. Stopping at Sunshine Market in Anza, the girls loaded up on last minute items (like meals they’d forgotten in haste!)
We spun out Terwilliger and up to the top of Coyote Canyon. A few last-minute adjustments to our heavy loads and we were descending the rocky road which dropped us into a little wind protection with the canyon walls. The canyon, normally a little sandy, was in the best shape I’ve ever seen it. There must have been a bit of rain come through the canyon in the past month as the dirt was hard packed and wavy with ripples from the flow. Only half of us had been down the canyon before and the newbies were visibly amazed at the beauty of the canyon floor and low sunlight on the walls.
We got to the cabin just before sunset, which was beautiful and exactly what we were hoping for. Some trail angels (thanks guys!) had stashed a little extra firewood and water at the cabin for us, which made our evening very pleasant by a warm campfire.
The temps dropped quickly and the wind picked up. This put us all in our bivies pretty early, but we all welcomed a 9:00 bedtime, especially under the desert stars. It was a cold night and some of the women were testing out very lightweight systems … which didn’t work that well. We got sprinkled on a little. Considering we were expecting a rain or possibly snow, it wasn’t bad at all! The cabin was a little of an icebox really, but when I woke up at 5:30 Krista and I were the only ones outside. Everyone else had ducked into the cabin to get out of the wind and looming rain and had varied amounts of sleep and comfort. I guess when you get out of a house with a senile dog, 2 year old and very busybody husband – sleeping in whipping wind and a little rain is just pleasant and you get about 8 hours of good sleep! (Sorry girls who froze!!)
I woke up at 5:30 and tried to nudge Krista who just informed me of the time and covered her head back up in her bivy. I then lit up the Esbit stove and made some VERY strong camp coffee while taking pics of the horizon lighting up. What a way to start the day. I even tried sitting my coffee next to Krista’s bivy and peeled the bivy open a little allowing the scent to waft in – not a chance.
The girls started stirring and I began portioning out (and watering down) my coffee for them. We put Maria’s Jetboil to the test cooking oatmeal and hot beverages for everyone as we talked about our evening and night and what we had in store for day 2. We got rolling at about 7:30 in the nice low light of Coyote Canyon.
We quickly hit all the rock beds which improve your technical skill in the matter of an hour. If you walk them all you’ll never get down the canyon, so you start rolling anything you can; thankfully, we all had big wheels! The upper willows was very overgrown; we did a little walking but also some bulldozer style riding where your wheels had a track but your hands just plowed the grasses on the sides as you rode through. Not being able to see the trail well, it required a little faith in the person in front of you and faith that the trail wasn’t going to drop into an unknown creek crossing or run you into a big rock. I’ve never seen the willows this overgrown. It added to the epic quality of our little ride.
After the willows, the canyon opens up to jeepers and offroaders. We descended the rock-crawlers’ rock gardens (which Laurie conquered for her first time ever!) then spun a while on the sandy roads of the lower canyon. I never mentioned it, in fear of being proven wrong, but things were just going so smoothly. We had no mechanicals or major injuries – yay!
The lower willows water crossing was deep, but knowing that we were almost out I rode through it and the girls followed. This was a first for Maria I think and she was elated. I saw her stop before riding through – probably wondering what the heck we were doing – and then just follow suit. We cheered her through and it was one last new exciting accomplishment for her trip. It was great spinning out the bottom of the road and chatting with the girls. They were all on a high and many of them had a new pride and energy from this adventure.
We grabbed some mexican food in Borrego Springs while waiting for the guys and unwound and shared stories about ourselves and where we’d come from. This group will surely all be friends for a long time. Thank you to Wendy, Krista, Ann, Laurie and Maria for making my weekend so much fun and so memorable. This is the start of a cool thing!