There’s a storm coming.

There’s been a spate of stiflingly hot days in Santa Fe. It was a 103°F (33°C) last week – which is saying something, considering the city lies at a lofty 7000ft (2100m) in altitude. Fires have closed down the Hemys, the Santa Fe National Forest and the Cibola.

Refreshingly, last weekend’s outing coincided with the arrival of a storm. Perhaps it’s even the beginning of the much-anticipated monsoon season, tempering the heat and helping to douse the many forest fires that have sparked up around the state.

In terms of bikepacking, the best place to head right now is north. Our original intention was to make full use of New Mexico’s surprisingly comprehensive (not to mention free and bike-friendly) public transport system. Catching the bus up to Chama, we’d planned to sew together a part of the Redneck Epic (part of the NM Endurance Series) to some Carson forest backroads, en route to Taos – connecting up with the weekend Taos Express ($5) which shuttles back and forwards to Santa Fe on the weekends. In the event, we’d overlooked a New Mexican timetable quirk, namely that the public bus doesn’t run on Friday (or Saturday, Sunday and Monday, for that matter). Stranded at Walmart in Española (a strange place to be, believe you me), we killed some time trawling thrift stores until it was time to catch the bus to El Rito, starting from there instead.

My last few rides have been limited to overnighters. Two days out lent the trip more of a sense of journey, especially given the variety of geography, from high pastures to desert plateaux, with hot springs of the Rio Grande thrown into the mix. The drama of a storm (enter stage left) provided the finishing brush strokes to some classic New Mexican scenery.

The Middle Way

Bike-wise, I’m back on the Ogre, set up with a rigid fork, discs brakes and the Rohloff/Rabbit Holes. As hoped, it proved an effective means to navigate the quagmire that befalls New Mexican backroads come the first drop of rain. As a related aside, this recent blog post is definitely worth a read. It encapsulates succinctly what I admire about Surly’s philosophy, and why I’m pleased to be riding one of their bikes.


Española, in all it’s glory.


Blast from the past.


There’s a storm coming.


I’m all for V-brakes, but… there’s a reason they build houses with the local mud round here. After prolonged rain, it’s hard enough to drag a bike, let alone push it.


The Valle Grande Truck Trail.


Any minute now…


And to think. Just last week it was bleached blue skies…


Beyond the Truck Trail, our two track morphed into a push-shove-hike-a-bike, before giving way to lush singletrack.


A forest glade provides the perfect spot for Jeremy to try out his new tarp. More on that at the end of the post.


Crossing the Vallecitos River.


Wash. Purify water. Check the map. And ready to roll again.


A good find.


Fat drops imminent.

North of Plaza Cañon, we cross paths with Forest, mid Divide race.

North of Plaza Cañon, we cross paths with Forrest, mid Tour Divide (he’s riding a Salsa Mamasita with Rohloff hub, for those who are interested).


FR42. Nice.


Nearing Tres Piedras.


Wild irises.




Tres Piedras. Post apocalyptic.


Closed for business.


This one too.


Bullet-riddled map.


Storm chasing. Or running?


Crossing the Rio Grande at the John Dunn Bridge. A soak in the (free) hot springs awaits.


Coyote fence skyline. 

PS Unfortunately, after two punctures in close succession, we missed the bus by a whisker. Thanks to Zach and Anne for picking us up on the side of the road outside Taos!

The Lair 

After exhaustive internet research, Jeremy’s invested in a new tarp: the Lair, by Bear Paw Wilderness Design – who same company who built the bathtub floor of my Black Diamond Megamid. From the looks of it, it’s a really nicely thought out design. Quick and easy to pitch, the front beak can be adjusted in height depending on the weather. There’s a silnylon version for a reasonable $129, and a cuben one for $215. Extras include perimeter bug netting and a hanging floor.


Officially the Lair’s home for one, but I think it would work for a cosy couple too if conditions are good.


The beak height is easily adjusted depending on your whims – and the weather.


Line locks – but not dirty socks – included. These make for easy adjustments, and keep the tarp nice and taught. Overall, the quality seems good.


It packs down small too.


Just 5oz (142g) in weight for the lighter of the two cuben models, plus pegs and poles, makes for a very minimal setup.

Camera: Canon 5dMk2 with 40mm f/2.8 lens.



8 thoughts on “There’s a storm coming.

    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Although New Mexican skies are indeed amazing… I did run the pics through my usual tweaks in Lightroom. Namely, some extra contrast, a touch more blacks and clarity, a little less saturation and some vignetting.

      On the 6th picture, I dragged down the gradient tool to accentuate the darkening sky – but believe me, it looked pretty cool already!

  1. Alan C

    Are you taking a tarp or tent to Peru? I’d have thought a tarp might not be suitable for the lower lying terrain. Any thoughts?

    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      That’s one I’m mulling over. I have a Tarptent Moment and a Black Diamond Megalite at my disposal. The Megalite is cavernous, and I love sleeping in it. But the footprint is huge for one person. The Tarptent is freestanding, which is cool, and a good ‘inbetween’ – a single skin tent that’s fully enclosed. Good for critters and bugs. It’s light too, at under 1kg complete, but not so easy to pack, as some of the poles are integrated. I’m sorely tempted by a silnylon version of the Lair for $129. It opens up a whole new realm of travelling light – but I’ll probably end up with what I already own.

  2. Brian

    I’ve spent some time in Espanola, and yes I agree, not a nice place. In all my travels, Espanola is the only place where I have found milk curdled, spoiled, and overflowing on the shelves as well as moldy bread in the local supermarket. But it is the low-rider capital of the US!

    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Near El Rito. It’s marked as such on the National Forest map for the area, from what I remember.

  3. mikeetheviking

    Hey Cass, I would love to bounce gear ideas off of you.
    If you can hit me back on my attached email!




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