Snow 'n Mud Part 2: Antonito to Taos (with a little help), NM.

I seem to have a habit of getting myself muddy. First, there was the incident near Pie Town, New Mexico. Then, the attempted ride to Mirador, Guatemala. Not to forget, of course, those memorable miles on the road to Mompos, Colombia…

After weeks of Coloradan sunshine, it only took a relatively light sprinkle of rain to be reminded of the reason New Mexican mud is ideal for building adobe houses, and not for riding…

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Leaving our campsite on the outskirts of Antonito, we thought the worst was over after a windy night in the tarp.

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The advance party, Nick, Lael and Greg, had told us about a dirt road to Taos, some 13 miles south of Antonito. Follow BLM 120 for 14 miles, we'd been advised, then turn right onto BLM 130 for another 20, crossing the Rio Grande on the John Dunn Bridge, before climbing up to Taos.

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BLM 120 started off as an enticing, hardpack, rocky trail to nowhere.

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It was a perfect surface for fat tyres, completely free of traffic as it traversed the volcanic fields of the Taos Plateau.

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Storm clouds huffed and puffed melodramatically around us, but so far, left us alone.

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We'd checked the weather on Nancy's iphone, and had been promised a clear day, with rainfall scheduled later in the evening - time enough to make it to Taos. But that ETA quickly changed as the first droplets began to fall at 11am. Clearly the forecast storm wasn't listening to the weathermen.

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By this time we were too far across the plateau to want to turn back. Rocks had given way to smooth, hardpack dirt, a perfect riding surface. In the dry. Unfortunately, New Mexican Dirt + Sprinkle of Water = Adobe Mud. With a little speed, the trail was still manageable. Knowing time was running short, we raced on as fast as we could.

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Within a couple more miles, the fabled adobe mud was jamming itself under the arches of our forks, completely locking out the front wheels. It wasn't long before we couldn't even push our bikes without scooping out great handfuls of muck every few metres. We were literally stuck.

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Things weren't looking too good. There was still at least ten miles to go to the bridge. So close, yet - when you're dragging a fully laden bike - so far.

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For the record, the trailer was actually faring pretty well, with its single arm, mud-shedding design.

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As can be seen from the above exhibit, New Mexican is highly adhesive and SPD-unfriendly. We clomped about in wobbly shoes that felt like lead weights. We'd grown a few extra inches of height too.

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To make matters worse, the sky had taken on an angry shade of inky black. Abandoning any last lingering hopes of forward progress, we hastily pitched the tarp. Rain was soon beating down like a kettle drum, as we huddled inside, cooked up some food and mulled over the situation.

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Unfortunately, our chosen camp spot didn't have the best drainage...

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It was soon floating on a pool of murky water, which was icing over in places.

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When the rain abated, we hopscotched our way around the puddles to analyse the conditions. Our dirt road, so bone dry and fast just a couple of hours before, had morphed into this ugly quagmire of energy-sapping, tyre-grabbing mud. Nothing to do but return to the tarp and deal with the situation in the morning.

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Fast forward a stormy, snowy, windswept night, and our view the next day...

Upbeat footnote:

Luckily the photo above wasn’t taken from our tent, but from the lovely, toasty warm house of our Warm Shower’s host…

As darkness fell, the storm swelled and large flakes of snow began to fall, gathering around the tarp. We bedded down for the night only to be awoken a couple of hours later when, somewhat miraculously, two hunters passed by in their burly 4×4. With them came the offer of a ride to Taos. Hurriedly, in the biting cold and pelting snow, we pulled down the tarp and bundled everything into the back of the truck. The direct route via the John Dunn Bridge was by now completely impassable, so we backtracked onto the highway from where we’d come, slipping and sliding through a river of mud.

If not for our bail-out, we’d probably still be dragging our bikes across the Taos Plateau… Thanks guys!

Nancy and our Warmshower's host, Elizabeth, who kindly put us up as we to'ed and fro'ed between Taos and Santa Fe during the storm.

7 thoughts on “Snow 'n Mud Part 2: Antonito to Taos (with a little help), NM.

  1. gyatsola

    Sometimes taking the main road is the best! I’m sorry I didn’t realise there was a dirt road I could have taken, but seeing those pics, I’m a a little glad I didn’t know. Oh, and taking the main road to Taos meant I got to see the Earthships:
    http://downthegreatdivide.wordpress.com/2010/11/02/salida-to-santa-fe-down-the-rio-grande/
    Although apart from a very nice stretch along the Rio Grande, the road south from Taos was quite boring. Looks like I was lucky with the weather too, I was just a few days ahead of your schedule, but it was dry and lovely all the time.

    Reply
  2. Colin Baird

    Almost exactly a year ago I had the very same kind of thing happen on the South Downs Way at night! Rode 20 miles out fine but as I came back my tyres “snowballed”. Even with huge mud clearance on rigid forks I had to carry the bike whilst wearing my mud platform shoes!!

    Glad to see you got out safely. Have fun och ha det så bra från Sverige!
    Col

    Reply
  3. Carl Rubin

    Cass: am putting together a Surly Troll with Rohloff hub and my bikebuilder is less enthused about using a quick release model (even with two tugnuts) and prefers a bolt on model. There is a mt. bike thread about the rear rim moving uder braking w/ QR and 1 tugnut, but that thread also seems to say that if you use two tugnuts and the shimano quick release (which supposedly has exceptional holding power), all is well. You use the tugnuts with the quick release Rohloff do you not? If so, have you have any issues with the rear wheel not being locked in under heavy / long downhill braking? I like the convenience of the quick release but don’t want to sacrifice safety / reliability. Thanks in advance for any advice/experience. Carl

    Reply
    1. While Out Riding Post author

      Hi Carl.
      I’ve not had any problems with my QR Rohloff and a Shimano quick release skewer and one Tugnut. I’m not sure if I see any need for two. I’ve been mountain biking and accelerating/breaking under the load of a trailer too, and it’s never budged. You’ll need a longer than average quick release though, and I’d recommend a Shimano one as they clamp nice and tight.
      However, if I was starting from scratch with a Troll, I’d get a solid axle Rohloff for simplicity’s sake. Also, they’re more user-friendly when it comes to changing the cog – you can use a nut to hold the cog-removal tool in place.
      I’d probably still use a Tugnut, just because they make setting up the wheel a little easier.
      Hope this helps.

      Reply

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