In 2020 we tried to do the top portion of the Monumental Loop and to say the least, it was much tougher than expected. We decided to make a go of the Monumental Loop 2.0 this year and was pleasantly surprised.
The first day was a little cool when we headed out and we had to get from the college to out of town. This led us through some nice canal shoulder riding to get out of town. We stopped at Shorty's as recommended by the locals for a quick lunch stop before hitting the beautiful flowing single-track that we followed for about 7 miles before hitting dirt roads to get to the state park at Radium Springs for camp. There is a section of hike a bike at the end of the single-track where you have to watch which way you go. Do not go in the creek bed as it is a dead end. You have to push up the little trail over the hill to get on the right trail before hitting the roads. I learned pretty quickly I had brought a knife to a gun fight with my fat bike. The other riders had regular mountain bikes with 2.3" tires. This was perfect for most of the route. They left me in the distance with ease as my 4" tires simply had too much rolling resistance to keep up. That night at the state park, we made a camp fire from wood bought from the camp host and ate supper before darkness hit. It did get cold that night, but no wind and a good shelter to get the tents under made it a comfortable night for the most part. I remember falling asleep to dogs barking in the distance.
The second day we got up early and ate breakfast so we could pack up and roll out early. On our plate for the day was a ride to Hatch and eat a late lunch at Sparky's. I love Spark'y as it may be the best green chili burger in existence. We got to town about 11:30 am, a few hours before I had planned. We had to modify the route a little due to a private property sign on a road we needed to take to stay on route. This is where I would suggest to stay on the old route from the state park to Hatch because it is all on county roads and not pavement and at Hatch go back to version 2.0 for the rest of the route to Las Cruces.
We decided at lunch to try to get to the next water source, 17 miles from Hatch to make camp on BLM land. We really didn't know what was ahead, but were eager to find out. We ended up climbing about 8 miles on pavement to get to the turn on BLM land. After turning on the county road head back south, we decided to camp at a nice flat area by a gate. We could tell by the landscape we had a long climb the next morning. A couple of guys came by in a 4 wheel drive vehicle and said "You're going up that pass, on that road, on bicycles?" They thought we were crazy and we'd heard that plenty of times in our bike careers and we all seemed to shrug it off. I did keep it in mind, but not too worried. We gathered wood as was our new routine, built a fire and sat around camp telling stories until it got too cold to hang out. It was supposed to get in the low 20's that night, so we took our water bottles in our tents with us to hopefully keep from freezing. I remember falling asleep with coyotes howling in the distance.
We awoke to a bitterly cold morning with about a 20 degree temperature. I finally was able to make myself get out of my zero degree sleeping bag to make a fire and coffee. Luckily our water didn't freeze, but even the water in my insulated bottles had partially frozen and turned to slush. The hot coffee and fire helped our spirits and have a good outlook for the day even though we didn't know what was ahead on the road.
We rolled out about 8:30 with the temps in the low 20's and it didn't take long to warm up climbing like we were. There were baby head sized rock sections in the road we would have to hike a bike through randomly. This is the only section I was glad to have a fat bike. We made it to the old ranch house where there was a cattle tank and we broke ice to filter water. The cattle were so happy we broke the ice, we had to keep them at bay while we filled bottles. They seemed aggravated, but compliant. For several miles, we did the same thing, walk and push and ride a little bit. We got to a section and I looked at the Garmin and it showed the elevation went straight up. The next 3 miles or so was solid baby head rocks and up the side of a mountain with no switchbacks, just straight up it seemed. It was brutal. It took 4 hours to get to the top of that climb from camp. We were so relived to get to the top and take a break but I was worried about the downhill side of it, which by the was was worse. We pushed downhill for a few hours and I could feel it wrecking my feet. The mountain bike shoes I use are great at hike a bike normally, but not on this stuff, I don't think combat boots would have been good on that stuff. Everyone struggled, dropped bikes and such. It was more than what the guys in the vehicle said the day before. If you've never done anything like that with a loaded bike, it is hard and takes all of your attention and strength. We finally got to rideable road surface about 10 miles after we left camp. We were all smoked but hopeful as to what lie ahead. Shortly after the rough section, we found the road turned to pavement and downhill for miles. It was so well deserved and amazing. We ended up riding pavement the last 30 miles to the vehicles and skip the last night pf planned camping so everyone would have time to get home and not be rushed and sleepy. We ended up with a 50 miles day the last day including 10-12 miles of hike a bike. We probably skipped 5-10 miles of dirt at the very end, but we were all thinking of a hot shower and warm room and bed.
Southern New Mexico is my favorite place to bikepack. I simply love the desert and it's beauty. I also love the Las Cruces area and appreciate the people that put the Monumental Loop together.