The hellish ride to heaven, and then back
People that we meet are often curious about why we’re choosing to ride the track that we are, especially when there are easier or sometimes shorter routes to get to the same destination. As I’ve noted before, we’re following a bikepacking track that was formally established in 2015-2016, and one that a number of riders have already tackled. It was not plotted to be easy, nor the most direct route from point A to point B. On the contrary, the Baja Divide route criss-crosses the peninsula a couple of times, and the trails that it follows are anything but easy, especially for those relying upon pedal power.
The last stretch we completed was from Colonet to Vicente Guerrero. After putting in a big-mile day to get to Colonet, we spent two nights in a relatively fancy hotel. The accommodations, complete with extremely comfortable king-sized bed, set us back 800 pesos per night (45.00 US), and the excellent food in the restaurant, although much cheaper than what you’d source in a US establishment, was pricey by Mexican standards. That said, we earned it, and my legs were thankful for the rest.
We set off from Colonet with the intention of splitting the distance between it and Rancho El Coyote, 36 miles away. We knew that there was a big climb to complete before arriving there, so we hoped to knock off a decent chunk of that before camping for the night. As it turns out, we managed to ride (push) 27 miles, including a hellacious climb up to 2200 ft. That left us only 9 miles to El Coyote, a distance that we expected would be easy to complete the next day.
Our camping spot was as secluded as they come. We had an entire valley to ourselves. That is, unless we count the coyotes which we heard before retiring. The night was much warmer than ones that we’ve had previously, and our down jackets remained stuffed in their sacks.
When we awoke the following morning, it wasn’t long before the sun greeted us, a benefit to camping on the east side of the mountain. And unlike some of the previous days, we were able to start riding without our jackets. Yes, it was going to get hot, but we had only 9 miles to go, right? Well, as it turned out, they were the 9 miles from hell!
Yes, we had completed most of the climbing the day before, ascending from 300′ up to 2200′. Unfortunately, we still had another 800′ to climb, and that included countless ups and downs, some of which was on super-sandy tracks. If you watched the movie that I linked to in the previous post, you may recall them talking about sections of the Baja 1000 track filled with silt. Well, we experienced it. Big time.
We passed three motorcycle riders on the way to El Coyote, each of whom stopped to chat with us. Very cool guys. One of the riders, Michael, told us that he was living at Rancho El Coyote, and that we’d see him when we arrived there. Sure enough, as we dragged our whipped asses into the estate, we did find him there, and he promptly got us squared away with a place to camp, showers, water and wifi. The ranch has tons of character, and it comes complete with cold beer and a swimming pool. A true oasis in the desert. It was so awesome that we didn’t want to leave. Unfortunately, we were running low on both money and food, and so decided that instead of staying put, we’d push on the next day.
Our plan for yesterday was to ride only part of the way to Vicente Guerrero, 32 miles away. With such a relatively short distance to complete – we had obviously already forgotten our troubles with the pervious nine mile stretch– we took our time getting ready in the morning, chatting with Michael, and playing show and tell with our camping gear. When we did finally set off, the day was already heating up!
The first 6 or so miles to the Meling Ranch, the next stop on the route, lulled us into a false sense of calm. We even came across a relatively unused stretch of asphalt, something rarely seen. That calm was not to last for long though. In fact, it would soon be shattered!
When we checked the elevation profile of the ride from the Meling Ranch to Vicente Guerrero, it showed up as an extremely long descent. The devil is in the details though. While we did ultimately go from 3000′ down to sea level, it was not done without a ton of work. Every 100 feet of descent seemed to be followed by a 90 foot uphill stretch. Up at a ridiculous, get-off-the-bike-and-push kind of grade. To compound the steepness of the grades, a huge portion of the trails, both up and down, were strewn with rocks, perhaps a result of the race that was held a week earlier. I don’t know, but regardless of the cause, our pace was held in check, and our bodies and brakes got an intense workout. It’s a good thing that there are no people around because there was a lot of swearing going on!
In spite of the above, instead of sticking with our original plan to camp out somewhere on the way to Vicente Guerrero, we ended up traveling the entire distance. Why? Because I had my heart set on having a bit of shade in our campsite, and such a spot just didn’t materialize. Funny thing… no big oak trees in the desert.
After 9 hours of riding, and pushing, we covered the 36 miles or so to town, and made our first stop at a taco stand, nourishment that was so very much needed after the hard day. Our plan is to remain here for a couple of days, and to have our bikes checked over by the mechanics at FASS bikes, what is reported to be the best bike shop on the route. Our Tumbleweed Prospectors have been performing flawlessly, but they’ve also been bounced around a huge amount, and could likely use some professional TLC. While here, we’ll also be restocking our food stores, and making plans for the next couple legs of our trip. As hard as the previous sections have been, it is one that is coming up that is causing us the biggest concern: a 110 mile stretch without water access. That is going to be tough!
- Colonet to Wild Camping: 44.58 km, 9:11 hours
- Wild Camping to Rancho El Coyote: 15.02 km, 3:35 hours
- Rancho El Coyote to Vicente Guerrero: 59.33 km, 10:01 hours