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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I finally went on my first bikepacking trip. Fortunately I have a solid background in backpacking, so I wasn't completely terrible at it, but I was definitely pretty terrible at it. Also fortunately, I was solo, so I wasn't inflicting my poor decisions on anyone but myself, and I'm fairly good at laughing at my foolishness (I have a lot of practice at it).

The first hurdle, before I even left, was the logistics of water, since there is exactly none in the Carrizo Plain National Monument in southern California, and I drink a lot. But I got lucky with finding some roomy cargo options inexpensively, and I'm not afraid to leave the tent at home if there are no mosquitoes or rain, so I was able to squeeze 7.7L (17 lbs right there!) into my load. And that also had other weight-influencing ripple effects, specifically not bothering with dehydrated food, since then I'd just have to carry more water for it anyways. But I usually suffer through heavy loads while backpacking for extra comfort at camp, so the extra weight didn't intimidate me too much, and I continued on with my planning.

Excessive amounts of overanalysis later, I was finally on my bike and on the road. Then off the road; less than 20 minutes in I mistook this dry wash for a forest service road.

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I'm not real familiar with desert travel. Where I am from anything this flat and open is a road. but it's also not this soft. Even my 3" tires weren't enough to float on it fully loaded.

But I wasn't too far off track. The real road paralleled the wash and I was quickly back on it.

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For a while, anyways. I took a wrong turn somewhere (looking at the map in retrospect I know exactly where and when), and the road turned into overgrowing double track, which turned into a moto trail, which turned into a game trail, which turned into nothing somewhere back there.

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Somehow I didn't meet any rattlesnakes in there.

Dummy that I am, instead of turning around, I decided the road I wanted was definitely right over that saddle up ahead of me which definitely wasn't more than 5 minutes of hike-a-biking away. An hour later I was up here, trying to figure out how to get down there.

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A little unwelcome, unpleasant freeriding later I was back somewhere on some road. With that uncertainty I worked on slowly drifting north until I intercepted Soda Lake Road and headed south along it. In spite of the steady headwind wearing me down I was able to get a little artsy along the way.

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With sunset approaching I picked a campsite. The reward for traveling heavy was a truly decadent dinner of homemade chicken tortilla soup and a couple cold beers.

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I had clear skies all night and, miraculously, nearly no wind.

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I've woken up worse places.

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A quick breakfast and repack, then a quick climb, and it was all downhill from here (more or less).

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There was a definite Old West feel out there.

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Lots of gentle rolling terrain along Elkhorn Road kept the riding interesting.

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Back on the valley floor my plan was to follow the service road along the power lines back to Soda Lake Road, but after about 500' it turned to deep, soft, fine, dry silt that was like trying to ride though tar, and this time I was smart enough to concede continuing was a bad idea and turned around.

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I had started the day with a wonderful tailwind, and for a brief moment it teased me that is was going to flip at the same time I was and continue helping me down the road, but it decided to keep steady as I turned into it, so my final memories of the ride aren't my best memories of the ride, but at least an hour of fighting it made getting back to my car and off the saddle a true pleasure. But overall, the trip was great, and even the suffering was enjoyable.
 

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nice read, and enjoyable pictures.

Desert travel is definitely a different beast.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
Thanks everyone.

It doesn’t look too hard from here.
I see what you did there, but I still agree. And the further in the past it gets the easier I remember it being. 😄

Good dinner indeed.
I skipped the chocolate milk this time, but it's definitely still in my mind to bring on a future trip.

Dessert travel is definitely a different beast.
For sure. The majority of my overnight adventures are in the high Sierra where you can hardly go a mile without falling into a crystal alpine stream. I only carry a liter of water at a time while backpacking. So I enjoyed the new challenge. My math was pretty good, too. I got back to the car with less than 1L of the 7.7L I started out with. And I did cache 2 gallons in anticipation of possibly staying out another day to ride up Caliente Peak (though I ended up deciding climbing 3000' over 12 miles into a 10 mph headwind with a rig sitting at 75+ lbs was a little more misery than I was interested in this trip).
 

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Disgruntled Peccary
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Most backpacking days involve carrying more in water than my entire base weight, by a factor of at least 2 (3-4L). Welcome to the desert :) Looks like it was a good trip though.

I still hate carrying water :D
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Most backpacking days involve carrying more in water than my entire base weight, by a factor of at least 2 (3-4L). Welcome to the desert :) Looks like it was a good trip though.

I still hate carrying water :D
Wow, you've really got your weight down. My problem is every time I cut 12 ounces from my base weight I add another beer to my pack, so I never make any net improvements. :rolleyes:
 

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Wow, you've really got your weight down. My problem is every time I cut 12 ounces from my base weight I add another beer to my pack, so I never make any net improvements. :rolleyes:
A byproduct of having to carry water, that and ordering a cuban fiber grace solo tarp in a moment of weakness after returning from a trip and deciding my shelter was 'too heavy'.

Carrying beer is a better solution.
 

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I also have an irrational fear of running out of water. Once I raided a gas station, bought 2 gallons, and pedaled quite awkwardly holding onto them with one finger on each hand while also steering, braking, and unsuccessfully trying to shift on a hill to hoarde them back at my camp. 2 miles away. At least it was paved.

Ended up using only about 1/2 gallon, I had to just pour out the rest. And crush and carry the empty jugs to a trash can.

🤷‍♀️ 🤦‍♀️
 

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Sleeping exposed in the desert would freak me out. How do you prevent a rattler or scorpion from joining you in your sleeping bag while you're passed out?
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Sleeping exposed in the desert would freak me out. How do you prevent a rattler or scorpion from joining you in your sleeping bag while you're passed out?
I gave them a thought, but with a projected low of 48° I figured they wouldn't be too active overnight. Rodents ruining my food was more of a concern to me. Every square yard of ground was punched with multiple holes, and every time I woke up at night I heard kangaroo rats around me. Fortunately there was a barbed wire fence near my camp I was able to hang my food from before I went to bed, and it made it safely through the night.
 

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For sure. The majority of my overnight adventures are in the high Sierra where you can hardly go a mile without falling into a crystal alpine stream. I only carry a liter of water at a time while backpacking. So I enjoyed the new challenge. My math was pretty good, too. I got back to the car with less than 1L of the 7.7L I started out with. And I did cache 2 gallons in anticipation of possibly staying out another day to ride up Caliente Peak (though I ended up deciding climbing 3000' over 12 miles into a 10 mph headwind with a rig sitting at 75+ lbs was a little more misery than I was interested in this trip).
I mostly ride in Pisgah, which is also quite wet and lush. Quite a few trails, however, run ridgelines and don't cross water often. Depending on where you are, you might need to do some actual work to reach the nearest water, but there's usually plenty of it. I once tossed a 2nd bladder in my pack plus a bottle, so I was around 7L, because I didn't have a filter I could bring. But nowadays, I have a pretty lightweight gravity filter with a Sawyer mini I can use, so I don't ever carry that much water anymore.
 

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Thanks for the share, @looks easy from here. It looks like a perfect trip. Desert bliss, while you can still get it...


How do you prevent a rattler or scorpion from joining you in your sleeping bag while you're passed out?
Zip it up?

Just kidding! I print a out few of these warning table tents and place them around my sleeping bag. I know they work – I've never had a rattler or scorpion try.

no!!.jpg
 

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Great write-up! Congrats. I'm thinking i may want to ride down there too on an overnighter (or 2). One thing i bought last year (have yet to use) is an Ursack. Having a backpacking background, you've certainly heard of them for bears (i use bear cans in my backpacking), but i imagine they can work well for rodents too, and of course they offer smaller sizes for just that purpose. And lightweight, which should be great for bikepacking.

eric/fresno, ca.
 

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Ursacks are OK for rodents, and that's what I generally use. I have a Ratsack, that I use for grand canyon trips. It keeps the coatimundis and the corvids out nicely (the ravens at GCNP are notorious for stealing food). We watched a couple peck at the mesh for a long time before they gave up.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
The whiskey would definitely go farther: all the way to the end of the trip, unopened. 😉
 

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Sometimes the best decision is to turn around. And often times the bad route decisions keep piling up on one another.
 
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