With New Mexico’s pandemic protocol still on lockdown and new restrictions rolling in each week, we’ve been looking to our backyard of Northern New Mexico for quick-n-easy jaunts to break the monotony of riding the same ol’ trails in our home town of Santa Fe. Our most recent outing brought a small group of us up to the Hopewell Lake region of the Continental Divide Trail for a short but sweet singletrack ride and fire road climb through tunnels of golden changing leaves. Read on for some notes on beautiful autumn riding…
Part of my motivation to ride this section of singletrack on an unloaded bike came from our recent tour of the CDT a few weeks prior. The entire time we were touring the CDT, I made mental notes of the regions that would be a perfect fit for my partner Cari to ride. After spending her entire life as what one could describe as an outdoor recreationalist, we recently got her a mountain bike. She’s been accustomed to riding singletrack and somewhat technical terrain with me over the years, on her Elephant NFE basket bike, but we both felt like it was time to get her a proper full suspension to make the experience of riding singletrack more enjoyable, and yeah, safer. She turned 43 this year, so we went all out…
The problem is, due to the pandemic, all bike companies are so low on their stock that it presented challenges to plan out a review – we were apprehensive if she would even like riding MTBs and felt like a bike review would be safer – so instead, we ended up buying a Revel Ranger frameset and building it up with parts I had from various component swaps over the years.
This ride was her second-ever legit mountain bike ride and let me tell you – Cari will actually be penning a story about this whole process, so don’t let me speak on her behalf too much – it was a beautiful time out in the woods. Hell, this was exponentially better than my second-time riding a mountain bike: steep hiking trails on Jay Peak in Vermont with my cousins in the mid-90s!
To add to the enjoyment, our friends Scott, Kim, and Kyle made it out after completing their adult responsibilities for the week and it suddenly became a good size group for some relaxing riding. We were all in awe of the beauty surrounding us.
Never to be the one to say no to a good weekend of car camping and MTB riding, I was thrilled to take Cari out to this beautiful area. The stage was set against the beautiful backdrop of changing leaves and ideal conditions with daytime temperatures in the 70º range and nighttime lows around 30º. Perfect for a campfire, breakfast skillet, and some end-of-day golden hour riding.
Plus, I could break out my “huntin’ jumpy”, a vintage duck hunting onesie I bought from my buddy Jimmy in LA a few years ago. As you can imagine, this thing is warm and it’s become my favorite cold-weather car camping attire.
Speaking of warm… Unfortunately, we’ve had a dry monsoon season this, so the trails were very dusty. All that tack from an earlier than normal snowfall a few weeks prior had dried up.
The joy for me was getting to spend the day pedaling and leaf-peeping with Cari while helping her navigate the various terrain and challenges that come with riding backcountry trail networks. Everyone in the group shared their beginner stories and while the intimidation of riding primitive singletrack didn’t subside, it helped Cari feel like she was not alone in her apprehension. Creating these environments is of the utmost importance for new riders. I was worried if we rode anything more technical than this, it would scare her away from the sport for good. The CDT continues south from this loop but it gets substantially more technical on the descent into the Vallecitos river.
Over the years, I’ve really enjoyed the leisurely pace of a car camping mountain bike outing where the focus is more on soaking in the scenery, disconnecting from the demands of running a small business, and really focusing on capturing the moments of what it means to enjoy downtime in the outdoors. We are very privileged to be able to do this sort of outing at a moment’s notice.
Cari and I have spent the past few years incorporating backpacking, hiking, trail running, bike camping on gravel roads, rockhounding, and other activities into this routine and now I’m looking forward to being able to ride mountain bikes alongside her as well.
Many thanks to Scott, Kyle, and Kim for the hangs and to Kyle especially for contributing to this otherwise anemic gallery. Your work is always appreciated, my friend!
Here’s our route, which I’ve been told is referred to as the “Hopewell Gold” loop by the locals…
A quick note: please, before traveling to New Mexico, read up on the current Covid-19 restrictions before traveling here. Our numbers have spiked in recent weeks and our governor is doing her best at controlling the spread of the pandemic. You can read about the travel restrictions at NewMexico.gov