All night the stars turned in the cold black sky. The wind picked up, and blew hard throughout the night. It made the wood in the rafters groan and move, it raced over the landscape, bending the dried grasses and pushing through the canyon. It howled through the fittings of the windows, it soughed through the big pine tree outside the door. Inside, I heard it in my dreams as I lay in the warm bed, piled under the covers, cozy and small, hearing its bigness. In the morning, it was still rushing, the light and sky cold with it, and I was loathe to move out into it. Eventually, I turned on the heater and pulled on my clothes to get ready for a day of adventure.
The day began with breakfast at Alma Grill, our summer favorite that was no different now in late fall. This time our order was taken by a young girl, a 10-year-old, who was very efficient. I think her family owns the Grill, and the food was as excellent as it was the last time we were here, in June. Today we were in full dirt riding gear, and after breakfast, we topped up the gas tanks on both the small dual sport bikes because we were headed up NM 159 toward the ghost/mining town of Mogollon.
Last summer when we were here, we promised ourselves that we would come back with the small dual sport bikes in tow and try to ride the whole road. Today was that day, and as I had not ridden my little Yamaha for at least six months, it was pleasurable to re-discover how much I love to ride it. Once Little Beast was warmed up, she was happy to be out on the road again.
We headed up the twisting road, up and up, into Mogollon. It got colder as we climbed, and I was glad I had put on several layers of clothing, including heavy Danskin tights under my motocross pants. At first, my hands got really cold, but that is because I refuse to wear heavy gloves and only had my usual dirt riding gloves. We rode out of Mogollon where the unpaved part of the road started, and we started up the long climb that would eventually take us to around 9,000 feet, and toward Reserve, NM.
Up and up we climbed, and the grade got steeper. Is that snow? I asked myself incredulously as we went around some of switchbacks. It was. The night before last, about 1 in. of rain had fallen according to the lady where we were staying, and at this elevation, it had manifested itself in what we would soon find out was a fairly heavy snowfall.
We were really climbing now, and the snow was increasingly present, but what was really amazing was that within about a mile of me first noticing the dusting on the side of the road, the snow soon thickly covered the road! It was about 2 in. deep at this point, but the tricky part was that it had melted underneath, then frozen into ice. We stopped on the grade, agreed to go on, and planned to ride in between the tire tracks that had been made by a pickup that passed us. That plan worked okay for a little while, but then I started to slide and fishtail as the tire bit into the snow and hit the ice.
I lost momentum, and then all I did was spin my rear tire. The grade was so steep that I couldn’t just let out the clutch and go forward, and if I tried, I just went sideways. Soon I got off and tried to push it, but my boots went through to the ice and I couldn’t get anywhere. I was stuck for the moment.
Meanwhile, Hal had gone up a ways, and around a curve, but I figured he would soon find the same thing. He did, and came walking back to see where I was. “Well, the same thing happened to me, and all the bike was doing was sliding around,” he said.
So, we agreed that we were probably going to just turn around again and go back down to Mogollon, but he had to walk back up and get his bike first. That took forever, and for a long time as I waited, he didn’t come down. So then I had to start walking to see if he was okay. When I met him, he was pushing his bike. Evidently, it was just too slippery to even attempt to ride. There was no use getting hurt. He did agree to let me shoot video of him coming down the last 100 feet, so I went back down to my bike, got my camera out, and shot video. I also took photos while I waited of snow-covered forest, and the snow packed into the “knobbies” of my bike’s tires.
Amazing. I certainly had not anticipated running into snow today, especially not enough snow to make us have to abandon our idea of going all the way to Reserve on fire roads.
Our ride down was much quicker, and we did stop to take more photos. Near the bottom I shot photos of two puddles of water that were surrounded by crushed ice, and this was at 2 o’clock in the afternoon!
The areas that were in shadow were actually quite cold. I was only warm because I had walked in the snow and had moved the bike around by pushing it a few times, and then we had ridden through one stretch of road that had a southern exposure so the sun was warm there. Near Mogollon, however, it was deep forest and shadows, cold even in the middle of the afternoon. When we finally got back down to where the 159 intersected with the 180, I was kind of glad, but at the same time I was frustrated that we still hadn’t gotten to ride this road all the way north to Reserve.
We returned to our “base camp,” had a cup of tea and a snack, then went out again on the bikes.
This time we found a fire road that turned out to be kind of boring, but some of the scenery was nice. We rode by a deep canyon that was full of trees that had borne golden leaves about a month ago. “See?” I said to Hal. “We are about a month too late.” We took this rocky road, which was NM 4, west to Sunflower Mesa, which was unremarkable except that among the golden stalks of what had been thick grass were the dried stalks of what had probably been sunflowers last summer. It must have been pretty then, a sea of sunflowers.
The sun was lowering rapidly as was the temperature, so we turned around and rode out the same way we’d come in. We stopped for a couple of photo opportunities, and as we once again made our way back to 180, we were completely in shadow. Here are a couple of shots that Hal took, making the most of the unexpected opportunity.
Night draws down fast here, and we got back “home” just in time for it to be deep twilight. Not without seeing our favorite herd of deer, though, and once again they eluded our attempts to photograph them.
We got the bikes put up for the night, shed our gear, and got it organized for the trip home tomorrow. Then we walked back into town for dinner, which we’d been looking forward to all day. The Blue Front was packed, and we got in just in time. The place was filling up because there was a dance planned for 8 p.m., and you could tell it was going to be the event of the week for young and old alike. All the boys and young men were dressed up, which meant they had on a new pair of jeans and their best cowboy shirt and hat, and the girls had on pretty dresses. The older ranchers were dressed in their Saturday night best as well. We left them all to it and walked back to our rooms to settle in for the night and be warm.
Tomorrow we go home already, and once again our time in Glenwood will have been too short.