Last summer, we stood at an intersection of the CDT just off of Highway 12 in New Mexico. To our left, newly built and signed CDT that would take us to Hwy 60, 13 miles outside of Pie Town. To our right, the Ley map suggested an alternate route going to the Mangus Mountain Lookout and then hooking up with the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route 12 miles outside of Pie Town, leading to pie via dirt. We looked left at the smooth, flawless trail that disappeared over the hillside. We looked behind us at Wagon Tongue Mountain that had ended up having a spectacular descent down it, but not before a fairly excessive amount of cross-country BS. We looked at our minimal food stores, knowing that the CDT had 30 miles of unknown quality trail and a highway ride to Pie, versus the Ley route had a fairly established dirt road and 2-track route to Pie. We went with Ley, somewhat reluctantly.
When Silver City plans started to come together last week, it seemed like a given that this new section of trail would have to be explored. Anyhow, Scott desperately needed time away from the computer, and I’m an easy one to talk into going on an adventure.
We decided to ride the mysterious CDT north from HWY 12 to Hwy 60 and cruise over to Pie Town, spend the night at the Toaster House, eat breakfast and pie at one of the cafes in the morning, and then ride the GDMBR and Ley route back to the van the next day. An easy overnighter with minimal gear given that we’d get to spend the night inside.
We got a nice and early Scott and Ez start: 8:45am. But who’s in a hurry?
The first mile of trail was smooth, freshly built, and clearly used more by cows than humans. Our tires cut a clear layer through the dust. We kept waiting for it to go to shit, as so many trails we explore tend to do. Mile after mile, smooth, gradual trail, climbing to the pines.
It did eventually go to shit for a short period of time, but quickly changed its mind and went back to smooth, duffy, pine-needle covered trail, wending its way through the woods, sometimes so faint, we had to use our spidey-senses to follow it.
And then it would turn to crap.
And would get good again.
And get crummy.
And flow beautifully through the landscape.
Yeah non-motorized trails!
All in all, typical CDT, better than average in my book.
We enjoyed a full lunch at the top of a climb. Cole-slaw and a sandwich (Hatch green chile, avocado, tomato, red onion, banana pepper, green pepper, and mayo on home-made grilled bread, yeah, drooooool) and some iced tea. Because we’re civilized and all.
We reached the north trailhead surprisingly quickly. 30 miles in just over seven hours is pretty good CDT pace…
We saw a freshly signed segment of cross-country trail across the parking lot. It looked bush-wackable. We had daylight to spare. We looked right at the road that would take us to the highway. We looked left at the trail. We went left.
We’re such suckers.
After a mile of bouncing along on a tussocky field and seeing nothing to indicate anything would change in the next six miles, we waved the white flag, took a right, and made our way back to the dirt road.
Dirt to pavement and to the closed-for-the-night Top of the World store, complete with alien statue.
Pavement to Pie Town.
We met Jay and Mary who were touring the GDMBR north-bound, just recently arrived at the Toaster House. They’d made it to town to hit up the Mercantile before it closed and bought all of their mini pies. They were nice enough to share a peach pie with us to complement the frozen pizza that Nita stocks the Toaster House freezer with.
It was their first bike tour together (Jay had done Trans-am 10 years prior) and mentioned that they’d learned a lot in their first 400 miles. Broken spokes and a tight schedule were going to end their trip in Grants, but it seemed to me that they had the touring bug. It’s always fun to see people getting into the scene and figuring things out.
Breakfast was eggs, bacon, potatoes, and of course, PIE. New Mexican apple for me, Blue Moon (blueberries and peach) for Scott.
Bellies full, Jay and Mary headed north, we headed south.
Every time I get on the GDMBR, I thank myself for talking myself out of racing the Tour Divide every year. I’ve developed a complete intolerance to wide dirt roads, regardless of how remote or quiet. We saw two cars and one ATV during our 30 miles on road…the most continuous road I’ve ridden since riding into Canada last September. I only whined a little bit, I swear.
The 30 miles went quick, and we knew that the last 10 miles of CDT that we’d started out on the day before would be ‘mostly rideable’ in the opposite direction, so we cut over on a small forest road and rejointed the CDT. My smile returned.
There’s something about trails…
A brewing storm kept us honest and moving as we made our way back to the trailhead, noting the improvement in the trail firmness with only two sets of tire tracks on it. More people need to get out and ride this!
Mid-afternoon, we were back. 30 miles of new CDT checked out – some of it will definitely make it into our recommended route for the two intrepid adventurers who are ready to take on the route this summer.
It took me six months of recovery to forget the brutality of the trail as a whole, but with four days of riding on it with fresh legs, I’m fully ready to sing its praises and convinced anyone with mountain bike skills and a tolerance for BS to take a serious look at the route. It’s well worth the effort.