I've always wanted to do a bikepacking route in Texas, but the problem was, that Texas has so much private land and so little public land, I thought it would be almost impossible. Let's be honest here, every where you look in Texas has either "No Trespassing" signs or purple painted poles to tell everyone to keep off of their property. My friend, Ruben Holguin approached me a few years ago with an idea to ride from Big Spring, TX to Fredericksburg, TX on a bikepacking trip with a great idea, to tie the two places together with as many county dirt roads as possible while camping at either state/city parks or lakes. He even scouted the route and verified all of the water and resupply points. It was like hitting the jackpot!
We were super excited for our inaugural bikepacking trip inside the state of Texas using public roads. We have bike packed in Texas before, but it was in state parks, and this was different. I had done the New Mexico Off-Road Runner a few times and imagined this would be a similar style trip. It had all of the makings of a legendary trip, much like the Off-Road Runner. When you compare the two routes, the Off-Road runner is 400-500 miles, depending on where you end with around 20k feet of climbing. This route is a little over 320 miles and has a little over 10k feet of climbing. The exciting thing was, this one was in Texas!
The first day, we had a short 27 miles to camp at Lake Colorado City State Park. We met in town that morning for a late breakfast to load up on calories for the ride ahead and rolled out from Coahoma, TX a little after lunchtime. The only excitement that day was going to be the wind as a cold front blew in the day before and provided us with a constant cross head wind all the way to the lake. This would be the theme for the ride all week. We got to camp mid afternoon after a leisurely ride and set up camp. There is a great burger place at a truck stop about 7 miles back on the Interstate. We headed that way and had supper and maybe the best burger in the county!
That night, the wind died down and the sky was clear and lit up with start. We hung out and made a few new friends at the campsite next to us. We knew the next day was going to be long and temperatures were supposed to rise, so we headed to bed early so we could leave at dawn for they day ahead and maybe beat the heat.
Day two lived up to it's potential. Despite leaving early, we ate a huge breakfast in town on the way through at the convenience store where we turned south. We then proceeded out of town on county dirt roads and we knew water was supposed to be scarce that day. We did come across several places to filter water a ways out of town along a fence line. There were water faucets and even a few cattle tanks that we passed, but didn't get water. We should have as we ended up low on water before we got to Oak Creek Lake. It did get in the mid 90's that day and we weren't drinking enough water for sure as we were trying to ration it. There was a good place to eat in town right before the lake and it was a nice break in the day. We made camp at the lake and met a few locals and hung out with them as they brought us some much welcomed adult beverages. Right as we were about to head to the tents, another cool front blew in and howled for most of the night. I was trying out a new Outdoor Research Helium Bivy on this trip trying to save weight and was a little nervous about it, but it really was not bad at all, unless it was above 65 degrees and then it was like a sauna.
The third day was pretty uneventful as we had a shorter day and had some really nice roads to ride on before getting to Ballinger and stopping at the local Bistro and eating a late lunch and heading to the city park to camp. The city park was wonderful as it had a pool, a snack bar and a really nice campground on a river.
We rolled out of camp early the next day as we were going to be getting into hill country and about 75 miles of riding. The route definitely tested our mettle that day ad we were climbing more and water had to be rationed. We did find water at a cattle tank that was a life saver on an old back road that Jesse just happed to look over and see. We rolled into town exhausted and hot looking forward to a cold beer and a lot of food. We took the opportunity to rest and refuel. It was so nice to get to take a shower and wash our clothes. As you probably know, after a few days on the trail, you start to smell yourselves.
The fifth day took us through the town of Mason, where we ate a HUGE amount of Tex-Mex food. We only had 8 miles to camp on the Llano river at the Dos Rios campground for our last night on the trail. The hills were huge going there, but the views were beautiful I remember cresting a large hill and seeing a massive Texas flag in the distance down the valley. It immediately pumped me up and helped get up the rest of the hills to camp. The campground was amazing. We had it all to ourselves and we were overlooking the Llano. We had stowed a few beers from the convenience store in a bag and they were still cold when we arrived at camp. We grabbed them, headed to the river and went for a swim. Nice COLD water never felt so good! We cooked our food that night, but I guess we ate too much in town. Nothing tasted good. We stayed up late to look at the stars and enjoy the last night on the trail. One thing I've learned is that no matter how long the trip is, on the last night I always hear someone say they can't believe it is almost over.
The next day we had about 50 miles to the finish at Fredericksburg and it was not an easy route. We were deep in the heart of Hill Country and it has that name for a reason. The hills between Doss and Fredericksburg are no joke. The will humble you pretty quickly. We stopped at Doss after another day of head wind and ate a really great burger. An afternoon storm was going across part of our route and the cook was laughing at us because he said we would get wet, but the joke was on him as we were going so slow, the roads were dry by the time we got there. That storm gave up on us and went on. The hills were relentless, fairly short, but steep. They were like getting kicked in the gut. I had ridden them on a road bike several times, but on a loaded MTB, they were a little more rough.
We finished up that day and enjoyed relaxing at the hotel and the local bike shop, where Jesse ended up buying a really cool fat bike! The next day my wife picked us up and we headed home to our families. I always love these long trips, but it makes me miss and appreciate my family that much more each time I do it.