Riding the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route: Part 1 – Arizona and New Mexico

Heading East on the Geronimo Trail

Yes, I know the GDMBR technically doesn’t start in Arizona, but at least in my opinion it should. Logistically Douglas, AZ is much easier to get to than Antelope Wells, NM and while services are limited, it does have a Super Walmart and a pretty good Mexican restaurant. As for getting there, the option I’ve used in the past is to fly into Phoenix on Jet Blue, because they only charge $50 for a bicycle up to 99lbs and take the $40 Transporte Directo shuttle to Douglas. As for a cheap place to stay once you arrive, the Motel 6 in Douglas is clean, not too noisy, and under $40. All this aside, the best part of starting in Douglas is the Geronimo Trail, a mostly dirt road that stretches nearly 80 miles from Douglas Arizona to Animas New Mexico.

Now on to the trip; while riding the Great Divide had been on my list for a long time, the motivation to do it this year came from Jeff. He’s a teacher, so while planning the trip we made an early decision to ride from south to north, which allowed us to start in late June and maximize his summer vacation time. The only downside to this plan was late June in southern Arizona is really hot for a couple of northerners from Vermont. After a canceled flight, some shuttling around (thank you to Jeff’s sister Laura and her husband John) and a packed van ride, we finally arrived in Douglas and the start of the Geronimo Trail.

I rode the Geronimo Trail a couple of years ago, but this time, after riding over the mountains and descending into New Mexico, Jeff and I turned left on Cloverdale Road and headed towards Animas. From Animas, it’s about 30 miles of pavement riding to Hachita and the intersection with the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.

Notes:
  • Water, there’s not a lot of it. Jeff and I both carried 6 liter MSR Dromedary Bags, in various states of fullness, through the long dry stretches to supplement the 4 liters we had on the bikes.
  • Once out of Douglas, there is no reliable water source until Animas. As I found out in the past, Border Patrol usually carries gallons of extra water and if you flag them down and ask, you can usually fill up.
  • Water is hard to come by in Hachita as well. We asked a homeowner in town and she was happy to let us tank up. The family were also fans of the Tour Divide and gave us the updates on the race.
  • The mud in New Mexico is notorious and can slow your pace to a crawl, if not a stop. If rain is in the forecast, be prepared.
  • Sadly, at least when we went through, the soda machine at the Beaverhead Work Center is out of order.
  • Jeff and I followed the 2015 Tour Divide Race GPS track, which deviated from the standard Adventure Cycling route in a few places, listed below.

Alt. C) Optional (but de facto): The 116-mile ‘Chaco Alternate’ is a TD-legal, ACA-official alternate segment between Cuba and Grants, New Mexico. The main route is impassable, potentially dangerous when wet, so riders have the option to follow the Chaco Alternate (paved) route. See ACA Map 5-B for cues.

Alt. D) Optional (but de facto): The 40-mile ‘El Malpais Alternate’ is a TD-legal ACA-official alternate segment between Grants and the Pie Town Rd., through El Malpais National Monument. Zuni Canyon (main route south of Grants) is commonly closed for fire danger. See ACA Map 5-B for cues.

I’m still processing all the photos from this trip and the rest of my summer journey back to Vermont, so in the interest of time my posts are going to be photo heavy, but light on words. I hope you enjoy.

 photo Transporte Directo_zps0i1cplfj.jpg
Gear fiddling and shuttle waiting at Transporte Directo
 photo Leaving the USA_zpsgl84vefs.jpg
Beginning the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route at the border crossing between Agua Prieta, Mexico and Douglas, Arizona
Crossing a Bridge on the Geronimo Trail
Crossing a Bridge on the Geronimo Trail in Arizona
 photo P6264983_zpss3qhavpe.jpg
Hiding from the sun and the coming rainstorm along the Geronimo Trail
Things Are Getting Ugly
Peanut butter mud on the Geronimo Trail. Fortunately this was the worst of it, at least for this section, and the groveling only lasted about an hour.
 photo MampMs Melt in the Bag_zpsynrlvsid.jpg
They may not melt in your hands, but in triple digit temperature they turn to soup in the bag
 photo Coronado National Forest_zpsrqbzt61g.jpg
Entering the Coronado National Forest along the Geronimo Trail
 photo Travel Caution_zpsufpa1e4x.jpg
All we saw were a few ranchers and the border patrol
 photo Looking Back on the Geronimo Trail_zpshj8iezyz.jpg
Looking west from the Arizona / New Mexico state line
 photo Road to Animas_zpsc0o4kdoc.jpg
Heading left towards Animas
 photo School Bivy_zpslmemk4tx.jpg
Bivy at the Animas School
Heading North
Heading north into the wind and out of Separ, New Mexico on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.
 photo Beef Country_zpseaqvwrol.jpg
Vegetarians and cows beware; Grant County New Mexico is beef country
The Buckhorn Saloon
The Buckhorn Saloon in Pinos Altos, New Mexico
Descending From Pinos Altos
Descending from Pinos Altos, New Mexico on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.
Sunset in the Gila
Sunset along the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, in the Gila National Forest of New Mexico.
 photo P6305094_zpswqjkgzwi.jpg
Crossing the Continental Divide in New Mexico
Miles Without a Turn
Miles without a turn
 photo The Toaster House_zpspa6uevyz.jpg
Inside the legendary Toaster House in Pie Town, New Mexico
 photo Nita_zpspamjbzz1.jpg
Nita, owner of the Toaster House and Trail Angel for all those who pass through Pie Town
Climbing in the Rain
It’s not all dirt along the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.
Hobo Camping
Hobo camping out front of the National Forest headquarters in El Rito, New Mexico
Vallecitos Post Office Mural
Bike shot outside the old post office in Vallecitos, New Mexico
Riding Past a Cabin
Riding past a cabin in the San Juan Mountains of New Mexico
Endless Climbing
Endless climbing in the San Juan Mountains of New Mexico
 photo P7075158_zpsueco7t4h.jpg
Hike-a-bike in the rain heading up to Brazos Ridge; this is shortly before the mud ceased our forward momentum and the drag-a-biking began.
Sunrise on Brazos Ridge
Camping along Brazos Ridge in New Mexico after a long hike a bike through the mud and rain. No, it didn’t stay like this for long, the rain returned.
 photo Entering Colorado_zpszgfwvzsi.jpg
Entering Colorado and the Rio Grande National Forest

Thanks for visiting and stay tuned for Part 2 – Colorado

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