Alexis had never been bikepacking. She also has her eyes set on the AZT 300 in an increasingly concrete manner. We’d been tossing around times to go out for an overnighter for a little while and ended up settling for a Wednesday to Thursday trip to the best place in the whole world to bikepack: The Gila. We planned to leave at noon, which after my 9 pm return home from Death Valley, gave me precisely 15 hours to unpack one bike, repack another one, and download pictures from my camera. And sleep. Sleeping is good.
Scott decided to join us, so when Alexis showed up with three giant burritos for dinner, we piled into the SportsVan and headed north to Picket Post.
It felt good to be back in familiar territory.
We climbed Picket Post in the late afternoon sun, heading up and over Orphan Boy, backwards on the old AZTR route. Scott pointed out where the trail used to go before the final miles were built. Remnants can still be found.
Traversing high on the ridge, the light turned the landscape golden. This led to overall happiness.
Dropping into Box Canyon, we lost the sun. While the Gila was flowing far too high to cross, we went for a short out-and-back to show Alexis the narrows of the canyon. Something about rocks and her really liking rocks…we taught her about Unicorn Dust.
We rode until the ground became saturated from water from the last storm before turning around and retracing our steps.
Climbing out, we did some sunset watching and burrito eating after finding a suitable camp spot.
I love watching people figure out bikepacking. Scott and I’s routine when getting to camp generally consists of sitting down on the nearest pile of rocks and pulling out food and watching it get dark. I generally put a jacket and a hat on to stay warm. Watching Alexis set up her little camp before it got dark made me remember the times that I’d fumbled around with my gear, unfamiliar with how it all went together, wondering what to bring, what I needed to be comfortable. Would my air mattress hold air? Setting up sleeping accommodations seems like second nature to me now, to be done without a headlamp if necessary when combat camping. The big gear choices these days are deciding what combination of sleeping bag/sleeping pad to bring for maximizing needed warmth to weight. And whether I want dried mangos or papayas.
Alexis introduced us to the Phases of Expertise. Phase 1 – beginner, Phase 2 – advanced, Phase 3 – Expert. When I pulled out blackberries to put in our oats for breakfast, she declared us Phase 3, at least in the breakfast department.
Packing up, we started on the 4-wheel drive extravaganza as a bypass to having to ford the river twice. New-to-me terrain, and beautiful to boot. You don’t find solid rock like this in many places around here, this road is a special one.
We dropped down to river level after spying a shortcut that would have put us even with Dale’s Butte on the trail. But alas, we needed water, we needed the seep. Last time we’d been to the seep, I’d been too busy making sure that the sunset went according to plan to hike down and help Scott get water (yes, I’m a good girlfriend). This time I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Water coming out of the ground in the middle of the desert is so cool.
Full on water, we rolled up through the Gila Canyons, stopping occasionally to enjoy the view and ask Alexis on her opinion on how certain rock features were formed. I’m Phase 1 – I’m learning to tell the difference between vertical and horizontal rock layers.
Lunch at the top. Traverse across the Inner Canyons. Drop down, down, down to close the loop before starting the final 8 miles back to the trailhead. We were back to the car 24 hours after we left it, solidly tired, ready for Greek food at Mt. Athkos in Florence. I think that the cooks there are definitely Phase 3 when it comes to making Greek food.
The ride was so simple. So beautiful. I love 24-hour bikepacking trips. Saguaro gives it two thumbs up.