top of page

Survival Situation

    The Trail Warrior Project embarked on the annual Monumental Loop on February 9th after postponing it a month due to a polar vortex hitting the area. The weather looked promising in February with sunny skies in the forecast and highs in the mid 50's and lows in the 30's. This looked like the recipe for a great excursion in the desert surrounding Las Cruces.

    We initially had 16 sign up for the trip, but due to changing the date, we ended up with 7, which is still a large group and our largest group to date for the TWP. We also had another milestone, we needed all 5 of our bikes and gear for this trip and we were excited to share this with our fellow adventurers. 

    This year's expedition was going to be something we haven't tried before. We normally only do either the North or South loop of the route, but this year we decided to do the entire loop, which consists of 250 miles of desert riding with a mix of singletrack, sandy/gravel roads and pavement. We planned on doing the entire thing in 5 days with a break in Las Cruces on night 3 before heading back out toward El Paso for an overnighter on the southern loop.

    Thursday everyone met at the hotel parking lot and packed bikes and gear and hung out talking about the trip. The next day was a little cool, but the sun was brilliant and we warmed up quickly as we ambled our way through town. Soon we found ourselves on canal gravel roads following the Rio Grande outside of town and finally made it to some of the best single track I have ridden on. After making our way through the single track, we ended up on some nice gravel roads and a little pavement before getting to the state park for camp. We had a great time with a huge campfire and telling stories of how everyone's day went on the bikes. The weather was still looking great with a small chance of a morning shower in spots, but nothing big when we went to bed.

    The next day's plan was to get to Hatch for a world famous green chili burger and then make our way to camp in the mountains West of Hatch. When we got up, the skies were clear and there were calm winds, I looked at the weather forecast and it showed a few tiny clouds in the distance heading north of us that were actually snow clouds, but nothing to worry about it seemed. We broke camp early and headed towards Hatch and as we progressed, the temperature kept dropping. It was a little below freezing with a decent wind. The light mist was freezing on our gear when it hit, but it wasn't enough to worry about yet. We hit Hatch right around noon and went in to get warm and our bellies full before heading to camp. As we were eating everyone noticed the weather seemed to be deteriorating outside, I checked the weather before heading out and it was a full on snow and freezing rain situation and camp, but it looked like it was going to blow through well before we got there and was going to clear off. We all decided to go ahead. I let the faster guys go ahead and told them we would meet at camp later. As we rode out of town, climbing huge rollers and going at a turtle's pace, the weather kept getting worse with bouts of freezing rain and regular rain and a constant hard headwind. The temperature dropped from 37 to 32 on the last hill, we were all soaking wet and I was starting to shake from not being able to generate enough body heat riding. Finally a few miles before turning off to camp and with darkness approaching quickly, I remembered a business in the middle of nowhere and we saw it open. We went over and asked if we could get warm and they did let us get inside for a bit. By the time we got there, it was a complete white out from the snow. We were still at least 2 hours from camp and it was almost dark. The kind trail angel that let us get out of the weather let us camp under a carport out of the wind for the night. We quickly pitched tents, threw hand warmers in sleeping bags, cooked a hot meal and drank hot coffee to warm our core up. Joe was a survival instructor for the Air Force and went into survival mode making sure we got dry and warm and teaching us what to do at the same time. It was amazing seeing Joe in action. 

    I was worried about the other group since they had separated, I tried calling and no cell service on their end as it went straight to voicemail. We do carry GMRS radios, but the range can be tricky on them especially if there are hills. I went around the side of the building and called them on the radio, to my surprise I got a response. It was staticky, but we could hear each other. They had made it to an old ranch house and had to hunker down in there for the night. They were in the same situation, but quite a bit higher in elevation. I was relieved to know everyone was safe for the evening and could rest. I told them we would see them back at the hotel the next day.

    We awoke to a beautiful snow covered desert and clear skies. We planned on heading back to Cruces on pavement as we knew the mountain pass would be too treacherous with all the snow at that elevation. That pass is about 10 miles of hike a bike on baby head boulders and would be a good way to break a leg or ankle. We made it back to town about 5 pm with a nice tailwind and sunny skies all day. The other group made it to town at the same time coincidentally and we rode through Cruces for the end of the Northern Loop on Super Bowl Sunday. We finished the evening off with a super bowl party and plenty of stories to tell. 

The other group did the entire North Loop, including the Hike a Bike section. They were all in good spirits, but glad that day was over. I've done that route in perfect conditions, it would be really tough in the snow and cold. We will have another write-up from that group with details on their version of the route soon. 

    You never know what the day holds and you need to be prepared for any kind of weather. This is 2 out of 3 times the Northern loop has got me. One time it was my legs and this time it was the weather. I love the Northern Loop and next year, I'll get it and do the whole enchilada. 

116 views2 comments

Recent Posts

See All


Welcome (back) to southern NM! Great write up on your adventures in our humble neck of the woods. While the snow is very rare for us, you being “blessed” by it and getting to see the rare sight of our Chihuahuan Desert blanked by it is awesome.

The only thing the chile snob in me noted about your write up, was your reference to the green “chili” (yikes) burger. As a snobby born and raised southern New Mexican, chili belongs in Texas (our weird brother to the south) while chile goes on our burgers (yum!).

That being said, I hope you and your crew come back to NM soon and do a lot more adventure riding in our humble state.


Dee Squaretop
Dee Squaretop

Holy Cow, Odis!!!! I thought about you and the other riders as I had the ride noted on my calendar. Was quite expecting the get a call from you but that's ok. You had another eventful ride! I do love reading about your adventures.



bottom of page