[ Parker, AZ ]
It was an exhausting eleven-day haul from Pahrump to Parker.
NV to AZ via CA. Two hundred and seventy-three sandy miles of exhaustion & isolation unfolding in an extraordinary, repetitive churn.
Over the course of days—not many—my daily backcountry routine quickly becomes normal. The remoteness and the quiet no longer surprising, I’m on my own—the wind and sand, prickly flora and constant sun as companions. It never rains. Long, tedious, taxing ascents on difficult roads blur together, punctuated by improvised mid-day shelters and vain attempts to fuel starving, overworked muscles. Each day’s exertion amplifies my body’s cravings for salt, fat, and sugar (any sort of sugar!).
As the evening sun dips towards distant mountain ranges, I prepare for another night in the wilderness: read the terrain, select and clear a site, pitch the tent, make it home. Sometimes I have enough energy in reserve to prepare a meal. Most nights I’m lucky if I manage to brush my teeth, take a few photos, and study the next day’s route before sleep overtakes me. (As it waxes towards fullness, the moon can be infuriatingly bright.)
Mornings I rise shortly after first light, removing thorns and needles from tires, tubes, and my own incautious digits. Breakfast is always eaten cold: a granola bar, peanuts, maybe a hard-boiled egg if any remain. Then it’s time to strike camp, put everything back on the bike, and forge ahead quickly—before the sun is too hot.
Often these days pass without a single sign of civilization—no one to see, either nearby or miles away. No cars, no dwellings, no distant trains or interstates to manufacture noise- or light-pollution, no settlements. On rare occasions, such as the traversal of Ward Valley, even the sounds of air travel virtually disappear. Access to phone or social media networks is impossible.
This sort of isolation is both exhilarating and unsettling, and the brief stretches of pavement are jarring in comparison: loud, dangerous traffic; aggressive drivers, easy pedaling, heat amplified and reflecting off the surface; the wonderful sound of my bike’s fat, knobby tires humming on the asphalt.
And so it goes.
Of course these descriptions are not unique to the Pahrump-to-Parker segment of my journey; they could apply to almost any day I’ve spent in the desert backcountry. As I move out of the Mojave and into the Sonoran Desert, you can expect more of the same, only with more rattlesnakes and nastier thorns and needles. And maybe a Gila monster if I’m lucky?
I know I’ve spent much longer than expected here in Parker, and have been pretty quiet. Mea culpa, but I had so much to do! I allowed my body to rest, repaired my bike, waited on packages to arrive, celebrated Mother’s Day from afar, did my best to edit photographs and sort through video footage, and even went sight-seeing with new friends who drove down from Pahrump just for the occasion.
Tomorrow morning early I will head out into the backcountry again, to repeat the patterns outlined above. This time I’ll be riding generally north and east towards Chino Valley and then Sedona—roughly two hundred and eighty miles. The first eighty-plus miles look to be among most isolated so far, and the entire segment is more or less uphill, with more than 20,000 feet of elevation gain. Good thing I’ve taken the time to allow my body to recover, eh?
I hope you all had a great Mother’s Day. Please enjoy the attached photos and captions, and please leave a comment or two: it REALLY helps keep me motivated when the going gets rough. (Really!)
Until then, be good to yourselves.