Bikepacking Santa Fe-Los Alamos Loop II

A second then third day in yellow dappled green and sometimes fulvid leaves clinging near unilluminable burnt trunk silhouettes. We find a spring and linger there, this the pace of not having an urgent destination, or maybe of moving through what is already the arrived place. Our plan is based on legend and rumor of incredible New Mexico single track, and we’ll find that eventually but right now the afterimage of the Las Canchas fire puts us amid dead treefall, trails washed away from the subsequent flooding and mud and sandslide, moved landmarks. We push out of the valley up to a ridge and continue on hopeful in our route, but knowing that it finds us, not the other way ’round.

Late into dropping temperatures, we descend again along a sinuous canyon road, whooping and shivering, Lael defying the high speeds as relaxed as if she’s on a Dutch commuter, Nick floating over gravel on fat tires that I am perpetually jealous of. Cass’s curiosity inflects his question: “So, Joe, are you saying that your Fat Bike is your default bike for all future tours? I mean, ones longer than this, months plus, where traveling with your folder isn’t such an issue?” “Uh huh.” Nick shakes his head and says he’s tired of answering daft questions about it, and, at any rate, he’s had his Fat Bike year and is ready to try different setups, all those configurations in between his vintage tourer and the axiomatic Pugsleyoverkill. He wants to do more with less bike, I get what he’s saying, though my feelings transpose it, thinking that the Fat Bike is a lesser machine for long smooth miles, and that that’s the time when one can cultivate the aesthetics of getting by.

We unselfconsciously talk about bikes on and off for hours, all four chiming in, Lael missing her small wheeled Cannondale Hooligan, Cass’s 2-9 revelations, trailers panniers zips on bikepack bags, Nick has a soft spot for forward looking capable retro hobo chic, triangulate on the perfect fast dirt capable machine for Coady.

We pass a white pickup truck, stop for photos and the driver comes up to us, asks where we’re headed. Cass pulls out the map and the driver shakes his head grimly, “that used to be one of the most beautiful sections around, but the fire wiped it out, you guys would be doing a lot of pushing.” Luck and the strangely reliable chance meeting of cyclists has Lee invite us to his home clinging to National Geographic cover views from a cliffside, he works for the National Labs—”explosives!” we raise our eyebrows—avid mountain biker, relocated down to Los Alamos after the fire but still visits his wondrous off-the-grid place on weekends. We’re cautious not to presume or expect or ask for much, but he’s generous, we’re a sympatico gang and sit around the camp circle out front, Lee shows off the Porche he’s restoring amid his own and his wife’s two-wheeled fleet, in the end we unroll our sleeping pads on the heated livingroom floor. We leave the next morning with promises to keep in touch, a new path on the maps, easy cups of coffee, easier grins.