Big Bend Epic Trail

Pre Trip | Big Bend State Park

We just finished building up our new Surly Trolls, had our gear more or less finalized and wanted to take them all for a spin!

Day 1   |   3:00PM: 

The sun is screaming at us as we strap every kind of bag you can think of to our Trolls. We chat with some women who are part of mountain bike group that has just finished up for the day. She laughs as we tell her we’re going to leave in the midday heat, but we have to get some miles in before dark or we won’t be able to make the entire Epic Trail loop in 3 days.

We set off on the East Contrabando Trail. We periodically scramble under sagebrush and
I begin to feel the magnitude of the journey we are preparing for. This trip is our first fully loaded multi-day trip on our freshly built Trolls, by yours truly. So we’re a little nervous,
to say the least.

After a few hours of riding, we discover Madrid Falls, our first water source. We immediately wash off, but for some idiotic reason, decide not to refill our water supply since there is water at camp just ahead. Just as the sun is starting to sink, we lose the trail. We slip down the deep sands of the creek bed searching for the trail again in the dark.  

Big Bend is known for the least amount of light pollution in the country. Guided by the light of the moon, we finally ride the creek to Crawford-Smith House. We had completed a whopping 13.3 miles in 5ish hours...  

Now for our next challenge: finding water in the dark!

This proved harder than we had hoped. Although there was a map of the property on a historical plaque near the ranch, they did not feel the need to label the existing water source. After Eric ripped apart his shins searching for the spring in the dark through thorn bushes and cactus, we decided it would be best to wait for daylight to continue the search.

Day 2   |   8:00AM: 

We eventually found the water source – hidden a couple hundred feet up the creek.
Filtering 6 L. each took most of our early morning, yet another late start. Day two would bring some of the hardest climbs. We got to test our weighted bikes on lots of single track of mixed terrain: loose rock, dirt, sand- no kind of rock went untested. After our rough performance the previous day, we decide to take a left at Pila Montoya Jct. to get to Sauceda Ranger Station, which has a couple of buildings out in the middle of nowhere.

 The climbs were challenging, but with every hill the views looking back got more incredible! It was crazy to see the trail we had just come from the night before stretching out before us for miles.

Siesta   |   1:00PM: 

We arrive at the Ranger Station after some quick miles down a jeep track. We are thrilled to hear the station has showers and Snickers! 

As we make ourselves at home on the porch a friendly older man, Bob, strolls up baring yogurts and an orange. Bob plopped down on the ground next to us and we swap travel stories for a bit. He had bike bike toured all over the country, kayaked the Mississippi and was in the midst of planning another trip. I hope I’m in “Bob-shape” when I’m 55+! It was great to talk with a kindred soul so Eric decided to tell him our long-term plan; Bob was over the moon for us! After woofing down lunch, we blew up our mats and took a siesta right under the ranger station porch.

The sun started to dip around 4:00PM, so we set off again, we needed to at least get to Javelin Trail where there was suppose to be another water supply.

Vista del Chisos was the perfect campsite for the evening overlooking the Chisos

As we tucked ourselves in we noticed some lightening far off in the distance, but weren’t too concerned. Around midnight winds were out of control and our tent on the open pass was no match. After many mouthfuls of dirt spraying into our tent and no signs of the winds letting up, we decided to move.  Leaving everything in the tent we scurried down the trail in only our underwear to a lower part that would be more shelter from the wind; once again, it was nice to have the light of the moon in this, in retrospect, very comical situation.

Day 3   |   7:30AM: 

Finally, we get that early start we've been meaning to hit! 

The descent back down to the Fresno Canyon was steep, but once in the canyon the flow of the trail was awesome! You barely had to peddle and I finally started to feel comfortable with all the varying terrain.

After a quick lunch, we retraced the Fresno Canyon Road Jct. trail back and easily made it to Barton Warnock by 1:00PM. We were a bit remorseful we hadn’t taken our time and explored a bit more, but oh well, beer time! 

With the threat of both the sun and the dark we felt a bit hurried through this trail, but that was our own doing. It was great to finally get a taste of what we have in store for the upcoming years. It can be a constant internal struggle and mental battle, but we loved everything about it. So much in fact, as soon as we got home we sat on the floor to  re-evaluate our load, gear, and set up for hours.

It's official. We're addicted

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