Mission Debrief: Cabezon Peak 2022
In late April of 2022, we returned to Cabezon Peak near Albuquerque, NM for a 2-night | 78-mile mission. Our crew consisted of Jesse Martin, a local custom leather bagmaker and friend of the Trail Warriors, Odis Franklin and Mick Sudano of the Trail Warrior Project. We started the morning early by driving the route in reverse to cache several gallons of water near the area we intended to camp. We weren’t sure of available water and wanted to play it safe. The wind was already getting wild. We inserted near a Public Lands parking area west of San Ysidro and started the ride on a very windy morning with sustained wind around 30-40 and gusts over 50 mph. Since we were riding primarily northbound on the first part of day 1, we had a strong tailwind for the better part of the day. Halfway through our mileage goal, we headed west as the winds picked up and started changing direction. We stopped to investigate a windmill on a side road that was visible from our route. Riding back to the main road, I was leaning downhill but being blown to a complete stop in the headwind.
We located our camp area and water supply around 22 miles into day 1. Stashing our bikes for a bit, we set out on foot in different directions to recon a place to set up tents that might be out of the howling sandstorm. We found a low spot between the scrub cedar that promised to be about as good as it would get. The camp was set early in the day as continuing further would cut into tomorrow's riding, and there weren’t too many camp options after this point. We were unable to enjoy a campfire during this trip due to the burn bans and wildfire danger in the area. So we sat out for a bit and caught up with each other. I found a deer antler that was gladly strapped to the front rack for a return trip home as a souvenir. After camp meals and as the sun was approaching the horizon, we all disappeared into our fabric shelters for the night. It was an early night for sure. The combination of the wind and inability to make a fire made a 12-hour night sound pretty good. We had all downloaded episodes of Outer Range from Amazon earlier in the day and were all binging with earbuds since none of us were in the same spot of the show. Later in the night the wind finally gave it up. I stepped out at one point and took in the great view of the Cabezon silhouetted against a canvas of stars.
Day 2 provided an early start and a scenic sunrise. We figured if we rolled at dawn, we could beat some of the wind forecasted later in the day. The heat was supposed to get to work in the mid-afternoon so we hoped to beat that back to camp as well. The first part of day 2 begins with a couple of punchy but short climbs up gravel roads. After a mile or two we were welcomed with several miles of downhill cruising to help soak up the morning as we chatted. We only carried the water we would need to ride for the day since we had our cache waiting for us before nightfall.
There are only about 8 miles of paved riding along this route. That paved stint runs through the small community of San Luis where we stopped to look at an old church and take a break. The mild weather and comfortable temps meant an easy pace since we had plenty of time to complete our mileage goal. We naturally began spreading out a little, each person having their own experience and struggling where they needed to. At the top of a long climb, or bottom of a good descent, we’d wait for each other and regroup over a snack before departing again. It was definitely starting to warm up but at least the wind wasn’t bad.
After a few hours, we finally reached the summit of the trip. The highest point in elevation of the ride always makes me feel like it’s all downhill after that, and it felt like it was. We had only a couple of miles left in our mid-30 mile day and we shortly arrived back at camp. We planned this but carried all our gear regardless. We wanted to have everything just in case an unexpected route change prevented us from camping in the same spot both nights. This route is referred to as a “lollipop”. When you look at it from the map view, it appears to have one way in and out with a circle in the middle. Day 2 was the circle and we had returned to the top of the stick.
Day 3 was a beautiful day to be riding a bike. Winds and temperatures were perfect and we enjoyed a mostly downhill return to our exit point. We tried scouting some of the water locations that aren’t shown on the RWGPS map throughout the ride. There is some water here although I wouldn’t count on any of it being permanent. The water was in several scattered cattle tanks that may or may not be full throughout the year. We cached our own the morning we started and used what we cached. As we packed up bikes, we could see the smoke plumes of an active wildfire in the Ponderosa vicinity northwest of our endpoint. We hadn’t seen much smoke up until this point but from the vantage point of the parking lot, we could see how close we were.