Friday, March 12, 2010

Time For Some Southwest

Spring break is here and that means my first big trip of 2010 is nigh. I will be heading to El Paso, Texas to see relatives and for a brief but glorious part of that time, I should be hitting up Franklin Mountain State Park for a couple of mountain bike rides.

The area is part of the Chihuahuan Desert and isn't like the Sonoran desert area of Arizona. You don't get the majestic Saguaro cactus out here. What you do get are lots of spiny, spindly plant types that are armed with some razor sharp needles punctuated by the tall and easily spotted yuccas which can be seen all over the mountain. Most of the ground cover here is shrub-like though. This lends an air of vast space to where I will be riding. You can see a long ways when you are on top of the ridges.

Another feature of the area that always stands out for me are the rocks. Small rocks, medium sized rocks, and big rocks are everywhere. The trail surface is always covered in rocks. And they "clink" in a unique way due to their volcanic nature. In fact, you'd think you were running over broken pottery at times just by the sound of the rocks. It makes me laugh at times. To me it just seems unreal. Of course, I am accustomed to black earth under my tires, so this place I am going to is pretty unusual in my experience.

The park is fairly high as well. The park is next to the Intermountain Highway, which tops out at 5100ft at the pass and Franklin Mountain itself is just shy of 7200ft. So, here I am, a flatlander coming off a tough winter going to a higher elevation. Yeah..............suck! Wheeze! kaf! kaf!  I can hear it already. But, I have ridden there before, so I kind of know my way around a couple of the trails there. That helps. Still, this place is a tough ride. The rocky jeep road I always end up coming out of the park on is a killer incline. Hike a bike will be part of the days event when I am out there, that's for certain!

Finally, El Paso and the surrounding area is a place of tons of sunshine and no where to hide from it. Coupled with its low humidity levels and you are messing with a recipe for bad dehydration. I'll be packing lots of water in the Ergon BC-3 when I ride out there, you can bet on that! That and some bandages. Yeah, I once was riding out there and got a wee bit off-line. A spiny desert plant reached out and touched me sending a thorn right through my Sidi Dominators and into my pinky toe. Can you say "hot foot"? It was all I could do to stop without causing further calamity!

So, next week may be a week of light posting. I'll try to check in, but it may be at odd times. Hey! I am on vacation after all!


George said...

Bring a comb or afro pick with you too, those do a good job of foliage removal. In a pinch, you can use 2 rocks. Desert vegetation is hostile.

John said...

I once stalled out (or ran out of leg strength, however you want to look at it) coming out of a steep wash in Tucson Mountain Park and stuck my right foot in the middle of a cluster of prickly pear. Thorn through my shoe and sock, about a quarter inch under the toenail of my second toe. Couldn't pull it out with my fingers, so I had to summon some flexibility and use my teeth.

Harsh lesson learned: always carry a pair of needle-nose pliers or a multitool when riding in cactus country.

An Afro pick is also very useful for removing cholla balls...