©Bert Gildart: Here are some images from a bike trip Adam Maffei and I made to Font’s Point several days ago. The destination in Anza Borrego Desert State Park provides incredible views, but the struggle of biking there was a challenge, one which we could have simplified if only we’d been familiar with the techniques for peddling through deep desert sand.
Adam and I drove to Peg Leg, parked the truck, unloaded our bikes and then peddled three miles along the highway linking to a dirt road that then twists over sand and gravel for four miles to the famous overlook. We were flanked by desert cacti such as ocotillo, catclaw, and cholla.
We rode mountain bikes and at 70 psi our tires were properly inflated for road travel, but not for sand travel. What we should have done was to reduce the psi to about 25 pounds, thereby increasing surface area. When you return to the pavement you can re-inflate your tires using a CO2 cartridge or — with prolonged effort — a small hand pump. And because you will be riding through an area flanked by cactus thorns, which are sometimes difficult to avoid, you should change out your normal tubes for “slime” tubes.
Down here (remember, we’re from Montana), everyone knows what they are, but simply said, the tubes contain a slim that immediately fills in the type of puncture created by a desert thorn.
Despite a certain amount of naivety, we made it through, but there were several deep sandy spots over which we had to walk our bikes, for tires ground deep into the sand. But the payoff was extraordinary.
SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE
Not only is the view from Font’s point mind boggling, but it is also historic and is important from the paleontological perspective. In 1775 Pedro Font was the chaplain and navigator on Spain’s second expedition from Tubac, Mexico to Mission San Gabriel in California. The expedition was led by Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza, for whom this park was named.
Anza Borrego contains so many wonderful sand roads that it behooves bikers to learn the few techniques necessary for facilitating desert riding. Often you have the roads to yourself, but sometimes, as shown by looking closely in the middle image, you’ll see that you must contend with occasional vehicular traffic. No big deal, MOST drivers slow down, wave, smile, and go on by. But there’s always one… so sorry gentle reader but there may come when it is absolutely incumbent on oneself to express pent up inner feeling by “flinging out a wave.”
As well these incredible badlands harbor the remains of many prehistoric animals to include the ground sloth, short-faced bear, dire wolf, sabertooth cat, mastodon, mammoth, giant zebra, half-ass, camel, yesterday’s camel, llama, giant camel, pronghorn, elk, deer, shrub oxen, and the Bautista horse.
In other words, a trip to Font’s Point may well offer a little something for everyone. Next time, however, we’ll take along a tire pump, deflate the tires and then inflate them back to road pressures when we return to the road (Road bikes).
I’ve also change my regular tires out for slime tube tires, doing so right away because I had a flat. I was lucky because the flat was created by a slow leak. The culprit was a tiny ocotillo thorn and I didn’t notice the flat until next day. I was lucky, but I won’t be trusting to luck again. I’m now prepared.
(NOTE: My posting several years ago on Night of the Grizzly continues to generate comments. The Public TV documentary about Glacier’s first fatal maulings has recently gone national.)
THIS TIME LAST YEAR:
BOOKS FOR SALE:
4th ed. Autographed by the Authors
Hiking Shenandoah National Park
Hiking Shenandoah National Park is the 4th edition of a favorite guide book, created by Bert & Janie, a professional husband-wife journalism team. Lots of updates including more waterfall trails, updated descriptions of confusing trail junctions, and new color photographs. New text describes more of the park’s compelling natural history. Sometimes the descriptions are personal as the Gildarts have hiked virtually every single park trail, sometimes repeatedly.
Big Sky Country is beautiful
Montana Icons: 50 Classic Symbols of the Treasure State
Montana Icons is a book for lovers of the western vista. Features photographs of fifty famous landmarks from what many call the “Last Best Place.” The book will make you feel homesick for Montana even if you already live here. Bert Gildart’s varied careers in Montana (Bus driver on an Indian reservation, a teacher, backcountry ranger, as well as a newspaper reporter, and photographer) have given him a special view of Montana, which he shares in this book. Share the view; click here.
$16.95 + Autographed Copy
What makes Glacier, Glacier?
Glacier Icons: 50 Classic Views of the Crown of the Continent
Glacier Icons: What makes Glacier Park so special? In this book you can discover the story behind fifty of this park’s most amazing features. With this entertaining collection of photos, anecdotes and little known facts, Bert Gildart will be your backcountry guide. A former Glacier backcountry ranger turned writer/photographer, his hundreds of stories and images have appeared in literally dozens of periodicals including Time/Life, Smithsonian, and Field & Stream. Take a look at Glacier Icons
$16.95 + Autographed Copy