Most of us were awakened by a very zealous rooster who was quite serious about announcing sunrise. It was 39 degrees out at 7AM but it warmed to a comfortable temperature by 10AM when we started off. We were all pumped and ready to go and after spinning through town we started up a short but steep climb dubbed “breathe hill” to a ridgeline . The name became quite apparent while I attempted to clean the hill as my weenie sea level lungs tried to figure out what to do with the thinned air at 7,700 feet.
After our thin air introduction we were cruising through a pine forest along a ridgeline when we had our first encounter with a Tarahumara Indian. Their trademark apparel of brightly covered dresses make them easy to spot, but the fact that you see them out in the middle of no where would often surprise us. The rolling forest soon gave way to steeper climbing that was often interspersed with sections of griprock. The views to the valley below were impressive with many monolithic balanced rocks perched on the edge of a granite bench. We were soon up on the top of a mesa where we cruised on a combination of sparsely forested fire roads and singletrack.
It was in this area that we had our first mechanical of the trip. Joey had lost the cap for the air valve on his fork before the trip so he purchased an ornamental valve cap that typically would be seen on “Pimp My Ride” wheels. He did not check the height of the cap so when the turned the handlebar too far out on this ride it snapped off the air valve with a very distinct “Poow” that instantly turned his front end into a low rider. So a bumpy ride was in order for “Bling Bling” Joey for the rest of the day. We snickered as we rode off as I laid out plans for a breakthrough video called “Pimp My Bike”.
Later on in the ride we came to an out-and-back option that involved a very technical downhill. You could take either a mid-morning siesta or do the out and back. I opted to check out the downhill. The downhill was quite steep and rocky with plenty of ledges, drops, tight switchbacks, and various other technical features that raised my “pucker factor” every few seconds or so. It was an awesome descent in a “I might just die today” kind of way. It was every bit as technical as Southern California’s Noble Canyon and one portion had the feel of the drop-in onto Fruita’s Horsethief Bench.
The trail eventually took us down to the Rio Conchos where Hirim, Enrique and I took a break before we headed back up to where we came from. Ouch!, was the first word to come to mind on getting back up the hill. Even as a hike, it was tough for most of the way up.
After regrouping we cruised across the mesa for a while until we descended into the Valley of the Monks. The valley was absolutely incredible with massive rocks spires along the griprock slopes of the canyon walls. This was our lunch spot and the van was already there with lunch all ready for hungry riders. After throwing back some tasty grub, most of us either walked among the monks or scoped and rode very interesting lines with the bikes. Unlike Utah’s Gooseberry Mesa, you will find no little white dots here so "Scout and Ride" was the name of the game. I could have spent days here but eventually we had to move on.
From the valley we cruised through open meadow land followed by a series of faint singletracks to a fireroad which led us to Lake Arareko. While by no means a large lake it was still picturesque. After a brief rest at the lake, we rode through a farmland meadow to a very interesting singletrack along a fenceline up to a ridgeline saddle and down into another meadow just outside of town. In this meadow was a church, a school and a few small homes. I am not really sure of the logic of the school being here, but I'm sure there is an interesting story behind it. From the meadow it was a quick dirt road spin back into Creel. That night we had an exceptional dinner and conversation and while some found some night life, I was in a coma by 10pm.