El Huevito’s Winter Solstice Campout

Well, it won’t be a white Christmas for us this year…

But how could we begrudge the distinctly unwintry weather enjoyed during our Solstice Family Campout, down in southern New Mexico’s Organ Mountains – so named for their distinctive, cylindrical granite flutes that jut out from the parched expanse of the Chihuahuan Desert.

Although by no means a ride of Herculean proportions, it was a thoroughly enjoyable one none the less – a 40 mile loop from Las Cruces, using segregated city bike lanes, gravel roads, and a service lane back into town. As much as anything, it was a chance to spend time together – and a bite size pit stop en route to El Paso, TX, where we’re spending Christmas. (For anyone unfamiliar with regional geography, Las Cruces lies north of the border town of El Paso, which itself is just a concrete wall away from Ciudad Juarez in Mexico… Of most interest to bikepackers, EP is within a bus ride’s distance from the Sierra Madre’s mighty Copper Canyon…)

But back to the campout… Our one night under tarp was spent in BLM desert, in a clearing along the Sierra Vista Trail. No shortage of fine views either – the glittering lights of Las Cruces before us, and the Organ Mountains behind, the last ripples in a range running to the east side of the Rio Grande’s rift valley. Earlier that day, we’d ridden up into the Dripping Springs Natural Area and enjoyed sunset views across the valley, the crepuscular light catching on dust devils dancing across the desert floor. The next morning, we hopped on Bayler Canyon Road, stopped in at the quirky, homely Space Mural Museum, before battling into a headwind along the service road next to Highway 70 (also a designated bike route) into Las Cruces to complete the loop.

Given the warm weather in southern New Mexico (T shirts in December!), Nancy took charge of Sage-toting duties, thanks to her trusty Troll and the Yepp Maxi child seat she uses around town. Knowing I’ll be soon returning the Jones Plus I have on loan (review forthcoming on Bikepacking.com), I figured I’d make the most of this superbly plush bike, and tow our Tout Terrain Mule, packed high with gear, sustenance and water.

That’s it for now… Happy Festivitizing!

Oh – if you’re viewing this on a reasonable size screen, click on the pictures below for more expansive, 1200px images

If you would like to keep up with where I am between tardy blog entries, I keep my While Out Riding Facebook page more regularly updated – along with posting extra photos and gear ponderings. Occasionally, I post pictures on my Instagram feed. And if you haven’t overdosed by then, there’s also a While Out Riding Tumblr edition, featuring many images that don’t make it onto the blog. 

Thanks to Las Cruces locals Jesse and Eugene for their local knowledge and route ideas! 


Nancy’s doing the heavy lifting, thanks to the Yepp Maxi and her trusty Troll.


Tarmac turns to gravel…


Organ Mountains – a National Monument since just 2014.


These days, Sage is about ready to take over camera work.


Winter Solstice is almost upon us…


Legs are burning… last bit needs a little push.


Just in time for a glorious sunset…



Then it’s time to roll back down towards the desert floor.


A barrel cactus, one of the more stocky characters of the Chihuahuan Desert.


Scoping out a campspot on BLM land, along the Sierra Vista Trail – a trail that, incidentally, can be used to link Las Cruces to El Paso’s Franklin Mountains via desert singletrack and rugged jeep roads.





Excuse the plug… I’ve been contributing recently to bikepacking.com, a wonderful site dedicated to all that is bikepacking. If you’re not familiar with it already, check it out!


And indulge me in some gear talk. As a cold sleeper, the new Thermarest NeoAir Xtherm was declared a resounding success by Nancy.


Morning routine.


Santa’s little helper. These ultralight Eagle Creek Pack-It Cubes are another recent, valued edition to our family gear list – we each have our own colour, making packing fun and easy.


All stowed away.


Next, the tent…


This is a serious job.


Folding away poles – Sage’s favourite task. Woe betide anyone who attempts to usurp his role.


Finally, Sage treats Mother Earth to a trumpet fanfare of thanks for a great campsite.


And to the prickly pear cacti, for being kind to our bicycle tyres.


Back on the road.


Nothing beats a child seat for ride along chitchats and good times!





Where Sage goes, the trumpet goes.



Looking out towards the Robledo Mountains, named after a Spaniard who was sent to colonize the upper Rio Grande valley.




Jones Plus and Tout Terrain Mule.


Space Murals Inc. Museum.



Space shuttle crews throughout the years.



In lieu of an entry fee, a $5 Space Shuttle forms both renumeration, and a fine addition to Sage’s collection of toys from the road.


Riding the frontage road through the underbelly of Las Cruces.


Headwind = extra fun.




El Huevito, styling it up as always.

34 thoughts on “El Huevito’s Winter Solstice Campout

  1. Isaac Storm

    ” …the crepuscular light catching on dust devils dancing across the desert floor” Stellar group of words right there Cass! Seemed to have a bit more story than you usually post. I like it!

  2. Susie Moberly

    Fantastic photos as usual though Sage makes these extra special with his style and trumpet bless him. Nancy looks SO happy and fulfilled. Lucky lady and luck for you all to be enjoying a peaceful festive season during troubled times. Enjoy and keep us entertained with your blogs and photos. Simply wonderful Cass! Happy NEW YEAR soon enough X

  3. Randy Johnson

    40 miles with gear and a passenger? Counts as Herculean in my book.

    Great post. The “fanfare” pic made me laugh out loud.

  4. Cass Gilbert Post author

    Thanks kindly the comments.

    All the best for 2016 and the adventures (of all shapes and sizes) it brings!

  5. Tom Rousculp

    Wonderful story and photos! I love watching your family’s adventures and I’m keeping a personal eye on that #tykepacking tag as we’re getting out with ours more now.
    I’d like to share that picture of Sage playing the trumpet on our Instagram if that would be alright with you. Thanks for considering and happy new year!

  6. Ian Shaw

    Hi Cass,

    I just moved to Santa Fe and I’m working at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops. I’m an avid dirt road tourer/bikepacker. Are there any people or organized groups that you know of who do weekend excursions and are open to plus one?

    Thanks for any help, I’ve been studying all of your Santa Fe posts for a few months now but the guys from The Broken Spoke told me today I should contact you directly.


  7. Stan Engle

    I usually read up on your blog about once every two weeks, but I had forgotten for that last month and a half. So, I was surprised to see a picture of mountains on your blog that I get to see everyday. The route that you, Nancy, and your son rode is nearly the exact route I try and ride every two weeks on my Ogre. I hope you all had fun enjoying my home town. Also, you missed a major snow storm that occurred on the 26th of December.

  8. Michael Parsons

    What a delight to find your blog. I am not able to cycle as much as you but you are an inspiration. My upcoming trips are Hawaii, New York, Thailand and Vietnam. I need to find one or more people to cycle the Ho Chi Minh Highway in Dec 2016.

    1. Dave Morgan

      It’d be pretty cool solo too. It’s a bit of a trade off: companionship versus total freedom and selfishness. And you’ll meet people on the road anyway.

  9. Kelly

    I love your photos! So what’s the next plan? Did you make it to Mongolia? (I seen there was another post mentioning you might head there next).

    We plan on cycling through the USA later in the year, but I’m not sure whether we will make it to New Mexico, yet.

    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      I did – and had a fantastic time! And we’ve been on a family trip to Bolivia too! Now back in New Mexico once more. Sorry for the delayed reply (-;

    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Thank you kindly, Faisal!

      France is one of my all time favourite biking destinations!

    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Thanks! I use Lightroom to process pictures, and various presets. This said, the light in New Mexico is really special.

  10. Kate

    Hello !

    I really enjoy reading your blog. Your photo’s are fab. I’ve noticed your wife wearing skirts over leggings and was wondering what make/where she gets the skirts. It’s a fabulously practical idea, and I already have some great merino leggings. We work and live in India so the only way to get clothes is to trawl online then get a mate to send stuff out so being pointed in the right direction could save hours of my life !
    Best wishes,

    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Hi Kate. Here’s what Nancy has to say:

      “It’s a synthetic, REI branded skirt but I don’t see it on the site any more.

      This one in black looks comparable.

      In other photos I have worn an inexpensive stretch jersey mini skirt from H & M. I try not to support that company/fast fashion but knowing it would get hard wear meant I didn’t want to buy an expensive one.”

      So there you go. Hope that helps!

  11. Mike

    Thanks for all the great photos and adventures, I enjoy the strength in biking. Your blog always lifts me up and I feel young again. I am a avid bicyclist and ride as often as I can but your trips are so enjoyable . thanks


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