Vacation Recovery, Not My Vacation

For some, vacation means a time to put up your feet and relax; to catch up on some sleep and spend time with the family. My dear friend and riding partner, Reilly, is not one of those people.

For Reilly, vacation means leaving home just two days after getting engaged for a nine day, boys only vacation in the desert. Arriving Friday afternoon just as my group of five got back from 8hrs of trail-work in the State Park, beers and bbq were had at Desert Sports. Our friend Ryan had come down with Reilly and Roland, also from Colorado, was in town. A most jubilant reunion was held you can be sure of that.

Saturday we rode what is known as the Perfect Circle. About 25miles of almost all single-track. Great group of riders, good times all around. Sunday the weekly Desert Sports mtb ride would be in the Big Bend Ranch State Park. With people taking a couple of options, the main group of us rode the Rincon Loop, including the Dome Single-track on the way home; about 31miles. Just another great day on the trails with dear friends. Bliss.


So great to be back riding mountain bikes in the desert with this guy. Love ya pal!

Back at Desert Sports for cold frosty’s, an overnight river trip was quickly planned for eight of us. Impressively, we actually got ourselves together without too much difficulty.

Reilly, Ryan, Nate, Roland, Billy, Stacey, Raph and I were on Rio Grande the next morning by 10:30am for what would turn out to be a marvellous two days canoeing through Santa Elena Canyon. Perfect weather, good water(about 250cfs), great group of guys and a ton of beer. Perfect.


Raph and Stacy, Reilly and Roland, early on day one on the Rio Grande


Camping at Entrance, we hiked up the mesa to the mouth of the canyon that evening. What a view of Mexico to the south! The next day, as we made our way down stream, we stopped to hike Fern Canyon; for several of us, our first time “birthing”.

Raph birthing in Fern Canyon

I spent a good amount of time in the stern of the canoe, learning from the best, Billy Miller. For Ryan, Nate and Roland, it was their first time down Santa Elena Canyon. Magnificent. Huge smiles on everyone’s face all day.

River shenanigans with Billy


Looking south-west towards Mexico, the Sentinel signalling the entrance to Santa Elena canyon.


Santa Elena Canyon reflections


Stacy in awe. A common occurrence for us all.


The legend, Billy Miller.

Back from the river trip Tuesday night, we dined at the Starlight Theatre on huge plates of food and more beer. We also put our plan together for the next three days. We mapped out a three day, two night, bike-packing trip that would link a variety of sections of trail in the region.

Isabelle ready to roll Thursday

Wednesday mid afternoon, Reilly, Ryan, Nate, Manu and I rode to Mike and Crystal’s home. We were joined by a few others for the ride, dining and laughing the night away as the moon drenched the desert in blue. The next morning, fully loaded, the five of us rolled out for a 46mile day. Mike joined us for the first 10miles or so before turning around.

Ryan takes in the sunrise as we get ready to start our bike-packing trip.

Heading towards the Lefthand Shut-up, the dirt roads climbed longer and tougher as the miles clicked by. The Shut-up–a natural canyon passage from within the Solitario to beyond–is a 4mile slog with lots of boulders and soft sand requiring plenty of walking and bike-carrying. Love it, mountain-biking baby!

Pearl-snaps. Essential desert bike-packing kit.

Ryan taking in the Lefthand Shut-up

Stopping at the Sauceda Ranger Station for water and snacks, we were at camp by 5pm. The Choro Vista campsite offered views of the Solitario, Fresno Canyon and even the Chisos in the National Park from a perspective I’d never experienced before. Remarkable, I was blown away. Fed and hydrated, we were all in bed shortly after the sun set, the sky dark with clouds. Sleep came easily.


Nate and Manu explore options for keeping warm Friday morning.


Sunrise from Choro Vista.

The next morning, following coffee and hot breakfast, we were on the bikes by 9am where we knocked out the rest of the Epic Loop. Just as we neared the East Contrabondo Trailhead, we met up with Rick and Mark. They joined us for the rest of the ride home through the Lajitas Trails. All told, another spectacular 35mile day, nearly all single-track.

Cold frosty’s at Mark’s house. Nearly home now boys!

That night would be Reilly and Ryan’s last in Big Bend, so a bit of a party was brewing at Desert Sports.

My day wasn’t done, however. I would be delivering a piece at the Word-Off, a local spoken word event. I joined the party once the event was through, though, it wasn’t a late night.

At five am Saturday morning, Reilly, Ryan and I said our good-byes. They would knock out the 15hr drive back to Denver that day.

Just like that, Reilly’s nine-day vacation came to an end. Exhausting just thinking about it. I need a vacation from Reilly’s vacation just to recover.

Well, maybe after the Burlesque Show/skirt contest/dance party at the Starlight Saturday night. Then there’s the Sunday mountain bike ride and then…

River crew. Huge thanks to Desert Sports for making it happen. Photo credit Reilly Frakes.

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