Guajolote Flat and Walker Basin

February 11-12, 2012

It's been years since we biked one of our favorite backroads south of Patagonia. On our last trip, we were spooked by an apparent encounter with a coyote and a couple of drug mules. Miles from nowhere, an elderly Hispanic gentlemen in a pickup truck covered with American flag stickers asked us if we'd seen any purple ribbons in the trees. "I'm supposed to pickup up a couple of guys," he explained. About half an hour later, he returned with two ruddy-faced passengers and their very large backpacks.

Near the end of the loop at Bagby Ranch, a Blackhawk helicopter came screaming overhead a few hundred feet off the ground. At the border checkpoint on our way home, agents surrounded our vehicle. "So," said the officer, leaning on the window, "did you see anything interesting today?" We described the incident and the officer shook his head. "Yeah", he said, "I don't think they made it back across the border."

We have avoided Guajolote Flat ever since, and only got the courage to return to the area accompanied by our good — and equally well-armed — friends, David and Rogil. Much has changed in the intervening years. A fire swept through the area last spring, frying most of the vegetation, and increased traffic from the Border Patrol and their prey have scoured out huge moguls, making the route a lot less interesting for mountain biking.

Still, it was good to see the area again, and with David's keen eye for historical detail, we found much more evidence of the area's past, including stone foundations of several buildings and the remains of a kiln. At Bagby Ranch, we were greeted by a flash mob of livestock, including a very friendly horse.

After David's birthday dinner at my favorite restaurant, the Velvet Elvis, we returned to a primo camping spot at a high spot along Guajolote Flat, where we were buffeted by winds all night long and greeted by a glorious sunrise.

Over breakfast at the Gathering Ground, we hatched a plan for the day's outing, and headed toward a trailhead in the nearby mountains. We figured we'd drive as far as possible, and switch to our bikes or our hiking boots when the road ran out.

But the road kept going, climbing many miles high into the foothills through seas of yellow grass, and then dense stands of Ponderosa pine. It dead-ended at a delicious waterfall with several dippable pools (if you define "dippable" as a water temperature of 48°F). Yup, the boys went in!

The air temperature was only in the mid-50s, but the sun was dazzling, and we enjoyed our lunches while we contemplated further explorations of the area.

Rogil and I decided the boys should drive back down the mountain, while we enjoyed a thrilling bike ride. Just a great weekend, all around, and looking forward to many more in this amazing area so close to home.

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