Our introduction to bikepacking began when our buddy Mike said he’d fly out to Southern California to escape the frigid weather he was stuck in back east in upstate New York.
After browsing Bikepacking.com we settled on a fairly straightforward 70 mile route that circumnavigates the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. At 600,000 acres, it's the largest state park in California. Named, aptly, the Anza-Hapaha Overnighter (full details can be found here), we planned for 2 days of riding and 1 night. It seemed like the perfect introduction to bikepacking, nothing too crazy, and we could strap everything we needed to our trail bikes. We’d drive out Saturday early, hit the major climb of the route, and then descend down the backside into the middle of the desert as the sun set. Sunday we’d pack up and ride the remainder out with a small detour to the local general store to stock up on sour gummy worms.
What better way to pack than to sew some gear up the night before and test it out on its maiden voyage?
Water was our number 1 priority, even being ‘winter’, there’s no water to be found in the desert. Four to five liters each seemed about right, throw in a down jacket and some tights for the night, plus our sleep systems, and then split up our load when it came to communal gear like our stove and tent. This was definitely a grab everything we could possibly need and then remove items til we arrived at what we could actually fit on our bikes.
When it was time to set out I realized I had forgotten to download the GPS file and there was no cell signal. Luckily my riding partners didn’t download it either, since, “you said you would…” After a little bit of waving our cell phones around and tethering we got everything situated and were off. A few miles on a not terribly safe Highway got us onto the beginning of the doubletrack that makes up the majority of the route.
Oh shit. I think we’re off route.
Oh shit. I think we’re off route. Time to backtrack. It only took five miles for that to happen. Happy to have caught it quick, so we flipped it and descended back to the highway. We all start inspecting our GPS’s, hmmm… Actually, we were on route, so we flipped it again and started out for good.
In the world of bike racing, a single turn can haunt you the rest of your life.
This was the first notable insight that made me enjoy what we were doing. In the world of bike racing, a single turn can haunt you the rest of your life. And there’s definitely a place for that, I still enjoy riding as hard as possible and making myself and others suffer. But regardless of whether we rode in circles for 45 minutes or not, our plan always was just til ride into the night as long as our lights lasted. In that sense, we didn’t waste any time, we still did exactly as we planned, from there we rode til it got dark and kept going til our lights ran out.