It’s hard to validate driving an hour from Santa Fe to ride bikes when the goods are easily gobbled up minutes from one’s doorstep. So why jump in the car and head out towards San Ysidro on Cinco de Mayo? Because some riding friends I met on trail a couple of weeks ago told me I should.
I met Manny and Jill on the Dale Balls a couple weeks ago. He was riding a Surly Moonlander fat bike, with some new Bud & Lou tires (currently the fattest of the fatty tires out there). Instead of passing, I rode behind them for a bit, marveling at how fat those tires really are. Almost a full inch fatter than the Husker Du’s I’m running on my Mukluk. Anyhoo, we got to talking, and they told me, “You have to ride White Mesa.” — A few weeks later, they invited me to join… So here we are, Hoot!!
The White Mesa Bike Trails are just off the 550 near San Ysidro, NM. They’re mostly on BLM or State Land, but do cross into the Pueblo of Zia (where right-of-way rights have been obtained by the BLM). The name “White Mesa” comes from the gypsum that surrounds the area and the majority of the bike trails. It’s hard to explain with words how amazing it is to be riding “white dirt”. Gypsum is actually a white mineral consisting of hydrated calcium sulfate, and is commonly used in cement, plaster, fertilizer, and drywall. The gypsum was formed as a chemical reaction when an ancient water body evaporated. So when you head out there, look around and imagine the area covered in water… and know that many fossils of ancient dinosaurs, plants, and trees have been found around here. In fact, the longest dinosaur ever discovered (Seismosaurus) was uncovered just a few miles west of the bike trails in the Ojito Wilderness, and is estimated to be 150 million years old!!
There are a couple options for riding the network, which is about 15 miles total. We chose to do Dragon’s Back / Inner Loop which takes you across the narrow spines and ridges of the Tierra Amarilla Anticline. You then drop down to some semi-sandy fire road/double track, and climb back up the other side for more “white-line singletrack”. Our loop was 9ish miles / 1,100′ climbing… and depending on your skills, the wind, and how many photos you stop for, takes between 1-2 hours. The trails have a great flow. A few tough climbs with some challenging sections, and exposure are rewarded with twisty roller-coaster descents. Beware of the wind! It was gusting pretty hard while we were on Dragon’s Back, and can be intimidating… but still rideable and more importantly completely enjoyable. I’d also be weary of rain. I’m no expert, but I’ve seen what water does to drywall… just sayin’.
Anyhoo, we had a blast. Definitely one of the most interesting areas I’ve ever ridden in, with 360 degrees of breathtaking views. If you’re in the area, it is a must. Thank you to Manny and Jill for letting me experience it with you!