Dawn came about when I was ready for it, bringing light clouds that thickened as the day progressed.
Gone were the bluebird skies and our collective lighthearted mood seemed to have departed with them.
Sleep was good and I could easily have done more of it, but a raging thirst + light dehydration headache demanded action. Why not pound some agua, then roll over for more zzzzzz's?
If only it were so easy. Our esteemed leader had assured us (himself included) that there was water aplenty in a little known/little used cache at the top of the climb. Feeling uneasy about it, but wanting it to be so, we'd taken him at his word. But but but...
When we arrived there, shelled from the all-day climb, we found but a fraction of what we'd hoped to see--not quite enough for even one of us, much less all four. Not to mention what karma would have in store for us if we took every last drop, leaving none for others that might arrive in dire need.
Them's the breaks, as they say.
So we went to bed thirsty, slept thirsty, and woke thirsty. Our only realistic option was to reverse course and head back down to the Gila, or a spring not far from it. To a man we were bummed at not getting to complete Scott's proposed loop, but there wasn't really a choice to be made--we were collectively just too parched.
Death-defying photography in these parts. I took one for the team.
Skippy in his element--pointed down.
All but Scott were amazed at how high we'd climbed, how much country had passed beneath our wheels.
The addition of descending speed didn't really change the flavor of the trail--still mild tech with plenty of chance to savor that which surrounded us.
The thickness of the skies and unexciting light caused us to appreciate the scenery closer underfoot.
Well, most of the time.
Unbelievably, Scott was seen eating more than once on this day. Shocker. (inside joke alert...)
Skippy didn't say much all day, merely hinted that he wasn't really feeling on his game. To which I ask: Whom among us didn't feel in over our heads on their first true overnighter?
Weird, he's doing it again.
After watering up at a spring we crossed the Gila proper (boatable flows even!) and worked our way up and out the other side. Destination: Ripsey.
At the split for Ripsey Skippy bade us adieu and (mostly) coasted down the road back to the cars. I was bummed to see him go but he wouldn't even enter a discussion about continuing.
I've been tantalized by Scott and Chad's pics of Ripsey for so long that there was NO WAY I was coming this far and not laying tire to it.
And honestly? I was a bit disappointed. Sometimes that happens when the pleasure is too long deferred and you build things up to unrealistic levels.
Which is to say that it was good, challenging trail, it just didn't knock my socks off the way I thought maybe it might.
It did NOT lack for tough switchbacks to throw ourselves at.
Distant views were there for the taking, but the leaden skies and lack of direct light somehow made them less... ...engaging?
Or, maybe the trail and views and light were just *fine*, I was just too shelled to appreciate them?
Entirely possible. Downright likely even.
The trail ended without fanfare, dumping us unceremoniously over one of those weird shin-high stock gates and into an empty parking lot. We coasted down the road to our campsite to find Skippy.
But not just Skippy--more like Skippy Supreme!
The man had licked his wounds clean, driven to the nearest town, loaded up with hot pizza and root beer, and arrived back at camp moments before us.
With hot pizza! And root beer!
And there was much rejoicing...
The meal was as wonderful as any hot meal I've had in recent memory, a testament to the way a simple bike ride can readjust one's priorities.
Thanks for checkin' in.