Tag Archives: mountain-biking

Canoe Camping on Lake Minnewanka, Canada


Who knows what the weather will do on a weekend in May in the Rockies.  You have to chance your luck if you really want to get out there, and after a long cold winter in Calgary you really do want to get back out in summer camping mode.  It was a last minute decision after a glass or two of wine with my outdoor enthusiast mate and before we knew it we were off too MEC to go and pick up our Canoe and Sea Kayak.  The deals are great and you can hire a canoe for $50 for the whole weekend.  After securing the canoe to the car, we were off.

It’s one of the things I have always wanted to do but have never got round to it and it was not going to disappoint.  The only concern we had was whether we had enough food and whether the wind would be up on Lake Minnewanka.

We got lucky as the lake was pretty calm and despite the forecast of rain in the morning we set out for the first campsite LM#8  along the lake.  There are about 4 campsites which are typical back country affairs and everything you need.  This one allows you to hang your food up and apparently this particular site tends to close in the summer as it is at the base of Alymer Pass which is a bit of a bear haven.

The lake was dammed in 1895 and a few times after that so scuba divers have plenty to look at with the old town still sitting under the water.  There’s a great hike around the side of the lake and a popular trail with mountain-bikers but be aware that one part of the trail is closed July 15th until September because of the amount of bear attacks in the last 6 years.  This is essential grizzly habitat.

Messing about on the water

Messing about on the water

The following morning we had tranquil water and we glided back but this lake is known to very choppy and many people have found themselves stranded waiting to get back or having to be towed…so be warned.

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By the time I make Albuquerque…it’ll be time to go to Sante Fe


For a place that has alot of songs about it Albuquerque is not much to shout home about. The town is a bit of a sprawl and I was unimpressed by the historic old town which was a handful of streets selling all that damn turquoise jewelry and bad clothes. However, the sunsets were pretty amazing and the full hook-up High Desert RV park we parked up at was cheap at $18 a night and backed onto desert scrub which made for some great sandy jogging. So after a minimal sampling of the town’s delights we hot the road to go and see the much more dramatic and beautiful Sante Fe.

Santa Fe

Sante Fe, nestled in the foothills of the Sangre Christie mountains seems to have everything, a stunning landscape, access to great hiking, biking and ski trails and endless sunny days. This is a city that looks like no other due to the zoning codes of 1958 that rules that all new structures are based on the pueblo style adobe structures which are essentially mud and straw. So the center of the city and the structures up into the mountains are for the most part beautiful organic, natural structures that just sit in the landscape beautifully. This is a green city with tree lined streets and a beautiful European style feel to it where people hangout having coffee, go to the museums and check out the endless art galleries lining the streets. We happened upon the Lisa Kristine Gallery with some of the most evocative photo’s I have ever seen of indigenous people from all over the world in dramatic landscapes and settings. Sante Fe still has it’s sprawl and speaking to one of the locals it seems that those that live in the zoned area boast about never ever going down to Cerrillos Road which is the pure americiana with mall after faceless mall. But having spent a week there I found it to be one of the few places in the US that I think I could live. We camped up in the pine forested mountains in Black Canyon Campground which is only 8 miles up the mountain from the plaza. It was a treat to be out of the RV parks and into the forest campgrounds where you have space to breathe, watch the light sparkle through the pine, make campfires and be a little closer to the wildlife. The campground is situated really close to the trails, in fact there is a great 1 mile loop out the back of the campground that served as a great jogging trail (if you did a few loops). The Chamisa trail which is a 5 mile round trip was a real treat too for either hiking, biking or jogging but unfortunately for us some cold weather weather came in for a few days. There is so much to do around Sante Fe, with Bandelier National Monument only an hour away if you want to see some pre-historic cliff dwellings that are some of the oldest remains found in the US today.

Ram's Head, White Hollyhock Hills

I can see why the iconic Georgia O’Keefe adopted New Mexico as her home and painted the landscapes, the bleached bones and the hearts of flowers for many years out at Ghost Ranch just north of Sante Fe. New Mexico with it’s history, the colour and shape of the land, the trees, the flowers, the light and the big starry nights do start to take a hold of you. And from the words of Georgia herself…

“It is not a country of light on things. It is a country of things in light.”

How to get there

You can fly to Albuquerque and hire a car to drive an hour north on the I-25

Where to Stay

We stayed at Black Canyon Campground however there is a bunch of camping and accommodation options to chose from from boondocking in Walmart to these campgrounds http://wow.gosantafe.com/campgrounds/

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Big Bend, Terlingua, Texas and Mountain-biking


We all have pre-conceptions about a place especially as a foreigner in a distant land, but arriving into the US from Mexico and finding ourselves in the beautiful far flung outpost of Terlingua, West Texas I had most of my pre-conceptions thrown out of the window. Driving to Big Bend national Park was the order of the day to escape the not so pretty Presidio, Texas. A great place to cross the border back into the US from the Ojinaga, Mexico border crossing (Toll road most of the way from Chihuahua City) due to the Loma Paloma RV Park 6 miles from the border, but that’s about it. Terlingua on the other hand is a place you want to hang your hat for at least half the year as many of the current residents do.

Terlingua

On your way to Big Bend National Park you might find yourselves like we did parking up at one of the RV parks outside Big Bend but if you are in this area then make the trip along the road and follow the signs to spend a little time in the not so ghostly ghost town of Terlingua whose name is a twisted version of Tres Lenguas or three languages (tongues) that were spoken by the locals of the village back in the 1800’s.

This is an old mercury mining town close to the romantic and dangerous Rio Grande, established in the late 1800’s and situated in Chihuahua desert surrounded by Chisos mountains and huge cavernous skies. With the closure of the mines in the 1940’s the town was abandoned of it’s workers which by 1905 was over 1,000 mostly Mexican miners. The miners lived on the eastern side of the town and I was told that the stone structures they built are the ones that are more complete. The old graveyard is still there with the local historians working through the graves trying to identify them. The simple yet beautiful naturalistic buildings that were left behind have been slowly rebuilt by the people that have been attracted to this area. Through the 60’s new blood arrived in the town and with the establishment in 1967 of the first Annual Terlingua Chili-cook off this became a town for partying and was christened the “Chili Capitol of the World” by the Chili Appreciation Society. Today there is a mix of people who like to enjoy the great outdoors with river rafting, hiking, biking of all kinds and to hang out in the porch of the old Starlight Theatre to play blues and enjoy the cool evenings under the stars. But there is enough going on here for those who still like the occasional party and I hear from the locals that any excuse to dress up in fancy dress is jumped at.

Another resident explained in her words, “When I came to Terlingua I realised that rather than talk about yourself you talk about each other, so I adjusted”.

This has some benefits and some downsides but when strolling down the road peering at the unfeasibly large pair of great horned owls planning their evenings activities and being checked out by the local coyote I was stopped by the judges wife who handed me the local newsletter. In May there were three benefits for local people who found themselves in a state misfortune of some kind either through illness or just plain old bad luck. In Terlingua people rally round and do what they can to help and they are proud of it.

KosmicCare“What do you do around here for fun”? Well there is the biking for starts. If you like road-biking then this is a dream location, the roads are undulating enough to give you a serious workout and they are quiet. If you like motor-biking then…ditto – the road from Presido to Terlingua is an absolute must. From the ghost town itself there are back roads and some sweet single track for mountain-bikers in the Lajitas and Contraband trail system. To get the low-down pop along to incredibly helpful and just plain old nice people at Desert Sports they will tell more than you need to know to get out there to ride. In fact these guys are the hosts of the Mas o Menos 100k race on every winter, a race that takes 4 days through rugged terrain. During the winter when the river is high then these are the people to go to for your river trip as they offer smaller trips finding the less busy spots along the rivers.

The locals, the people that live here now are not all from Texas let alone West Texas are interesting, engaging, open and very community minded. Now I say this with only having spent a few days in the area but having to leave was actually very hard. I found myself pondering whether I too could own a little piece of dry scrub and an old ruin that I could call home. As one delightful resident said to me, “You either get this place or you don’t,” and I definitely got it.

How to Get there

Driving – Highway 170 west of Big Bend

Where to Stay

We lucked out and stayed with some very kind locals and had the ultimate Terlingua experience but you can still have fun staying in the Ghost town at La Posada Milagro or camping at any of the RV campgrounds.

– Big Bend Motor Inn RV Campground, Junction TX 118 and FM 170 at Big Bend Motor Inn with full hookups & pull throughs. 800-848-BEND

– Terlingua Ranch Lodge RV Park And Campground, Full hook ups and tent camping. Swimming pool. Located 16 miles east of TX Highway 118, turn off approximately 12 miles north of junction FM 170 and TX 118. 432-371-2416

– Study Butte RV Park, Electricity, flush toilets and showers. TX Highway 118, Study Butte south of junction TX 118 and FM 170. 432-371-2468

– BJ’s RV Park, Full hook-ups, showers, laundry. FM 170, 5 miles east of junction TX 118 and FM 170, near Terlingua Ghostown. 432-371-2259

Places to eat

For a small place this is packed with fantastic places to eat. Try the Phat Cafe for $10 lunch in Asian fusion cusine or the filmic outdoor cafe called Kathy’s Cosmic Cowgirl for breakfast, Starlight Theater for dinner (check out Mondays for the two for one burger that can’t be missed especially with live music to boot) and for the late evening fun try The Boathouse or La Kiva, a bar built in a cave.

Other Stuff

Check out the documentary that was made of the town interviewing the locals- 24 hours in Terlingua

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Moab, Utah, USA


 

Boy oh boy where do I start with this funky little town. Moab, pop. 4779 is nestled in the heart of Utah on the Colorado Plateau and is a far cry from most people’s mental image of a Mormon city. The town is a geological mecca in the heart of canyon country, with most visitors coming here for purely hedonistic reasons. There are still the usual laws around alcohol with the state controlling the sale of liquor and beer with over 3.2% alcohol content but that’s just the way it is in Utah. Moab has a dramatic desert landscape where jutting red rock cliffs tower above the Colorado River. It is considered to have some of the world’s best mountain biking trails with oodles of divine and scary terrain but even a novice can experience the wonders of slick-rock in playgrounds such as Barlett Wash but the most popular one which is not for the fainthearted is Slickrock trail which put Moab in the map for the mountain-biking enthusiasts.

Mountain-biking is just one way to enjoy the landscape – the other is off road vehicles. If you wander down main street late afternoon you will see the most fantastic selection Map of Moabof jacked-up mud caked jeeps just returned from the one of the many off-road trails on offer to test your vehicle to the limit. And if you’re not into any of that scary stuff then you have all the national parks to explore. Utah is known as the National Park capital of the US. The scenery offers everything from wind-carved arches in Arches National Park just 2 miles from Moab to massive stone walls molded by the Colorado and Green rivers. Other parks nearby are Canyonlands National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park, Castle Valley, Fisher Towers, Capitol Reef, Zion National Park, Bryce National Park, Trails of the Ancients to name a few.

And of you are still looking for more entertainment there are endless festivals and happenings to check out. Watch this space for a review of the annual pumpkin throwing festival on Oct 27th. pumkin_poster_2007.gif

There are motels and campgrounds galore to suit budget and comfort needs. We are staying in Slickrock Campground having done a little too much primitive camping the last couple of months – hot showers and internet were a necessity. And to really get the Moab vibe, tune into KZMU radio which has some pretty diverse and cool shows to listen to.

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