Posted by: Brendan | February 22, 2009

Friday Night Bikepacking

Bruce in Missouri’s Divide Race Bike project inspired me to hit the dirt…

This past Friday Bruce and I discussed some of the criteria for his Song 29 adventure bike- full length housing, water bottle placement, considerations for frame bags, etc. As I went back to work on his frame it got me thinking… hmm, Tucson Mountain Park is right there, just a few miles away! I closed shop with some daylight left and packed my gear in a frenzy. I stopped at a quickie mart on the way to TMP- The portable fare at the Circle-K cannot be beat. And who knew the good life could be so cheap?! I scooped up two snickers bars, a banana, and tall-boy PBR. It rang out to $3.57


I arrived at the main trailhead as the sun was setting. Not a single car to be seen. Perfect!


The start of the Yetman Trail. The valley beyond lay empty and ready for nightime fun. The singletrack here is wonderfully fast and fairly easy to read, yet rough and unforgiving if you make a mistake. It had a been a LONG time since I’d ridden a loaded bike off road- not so hard to get used to the handling, but next time I’ll take note to change shock pressures. The Song’s damper felt a little soft. As a builder, I suppose I should take my own advice and remember to set the pressures to “rider weight,” ie, person + gear.

I made my way toward my camp destination- the ruins of a small homestead, in an isolated valley. It’s off the beaten path, but there IS a path to it… but I won’t spoil the surprise for you in case you’d like to find it for yourself someday. It’s perfect for a quick overnight ride like this one; close as the crow flies but seemingly a hundred miles away from the city. Matt & I discovered it a while back, on a tip-off from a hiker who was training for the Bataan Death March. The approach to the site was an easy hike-a-bike made more difficult by dodging cholla in the dark. Cholla and I are not on good terms.


Arrival. The night brings a slowdown in time, as I’d hoped for. The desert night lives in the moment.

I layer up and find a good spot to sit a while- the nighttime critters are active.

Crickets singing, owls hooting… doves rustling in the brush. The PBR’s union-made contents fizzing…

The blackberry is at home. To tell time, like George Washington Hayduke‘s driving mileage, I gauge my evening under the stars with my opened beer can.

Full can: night is young. Empty can: make the bed. The time between filled wandering through the desert, scrambling up to a small nearby peak. Sometime around 1/3 full I found a beautiful promontory with a 270 degree view and decide to call it home for the night. After a sketchy downclimb I return with gear and set up camp.


ziplock bag tamales- at 1/4 full, followed by a long-savored Snickers bar.

Tearing a page out of the Divide Racer’s bible, I follow their gear philosophy: “Shiver through the night, haul ass all day.” I layer everything on (except the chamois) and settle in for the night, watching shooting stars and thinking good thoughts… I could hear coyotes on the hunt. No shivering yet.

Night passing. I awake from time to time to look upward… My therm-a-rest goes flat. I give it a few lungs and doze off again… smiling.

Later- Clouds move it, getting colder. I wake up shivering. I curl up tight and eat a Snickers bar to stoke my body’s caloric fire.

Colder- desperate, I roll off the pad, and wrap myself in the Tyvek ground sheet within the sleeping bag. This does the trick and I sleep well until sunrise.


The new day’s first light arrives with a sliver of moon on the ridge to my southeast. I’m giddy with excitement, but too cold to get out of the bag just yet…


The valley at sunrise. I’m out of bed and moving quickly to stay warm.


The promontory camp.


The remnants of one of two structures in the immediate area. I’d like to know what this history is…


The red Song 55 loaded up for the trip home, after a banana and a cold bag of instant oatmeal. The seat bag, one of my most prized pieces of gear, comes from Carousel Design Works. The dead-guy-orange bar bag is just a dry bag lashed to the bar with cord.

I made my way down to a wash and followed it until it met with the main trail. Singletrack- ahh!

Warm sunshine and fragrant creosotebush energized the valley…  I took a scenic route out of the park and saw two other people, hikers. One, a woman in her 50’s loaded with camera gear, stepped off the trail and panned several shots of me as I rode by, grooving on the singletrack and giggling in the morning light. I wonder how her pics came out?

I arrived back in the conrete jungle relaxed and contented. Just in time to enjoy the weekend. 🙂

My gear list:

40 degree down bag, therm-a-rest sleeping pad (I’m not tough enough to use the sunshade out here), small sheet of Tyvek home wrap for groundcloth

(innertubes + bike shorts stuffed in the dry bag = a fine pillow)

Smartwool lightweight top, bottom, and hat- Marmot superlight shell

Headlamp (fixed to helmet), multi tool, normal bike stuff

Carousel Design Works seat bag + dry bag… I can’t see any reason to go back to racks. It’s that good.

Tamales, instant oatmeal, 2 snickers bars, banana, emergen-c, 2 bottles of Hydralite, 70 oz water… PBR 24 oz Tall Boy

pleasant disposition- can be found on route if needed…



  1. I insist on a tour of TCM. Haven’t been out there yet!

  2. Cool. I have CDW gear on order. I can’t wait!

  3. Wow. It’s posts like this that really make me question why I live in Chicago.

  4. Great blog. Makes me want to start bikepacking. I do it all the time on motorcycles; I should try this flavor, too.

    So, when are you going to race the Divide? 🙂

  5. Despite the PBR you were living the ‘high life’!

  6. Very nice post. I’ll have to spend some time in the desert in the Spring or Fall in the coming years.
    I’m really looking forward to getting the bike you are creating for me and getting it broke in (maybe I’ll get broke in) with some big miles on it.

  7. Doesn’t get much better

  8. Fun stuff for sure y’all, thanks.
    Todd, I’m always livin’ the high life!
    Something tells me I’ll be bikepacking more in the near future… not Divide racing, though. Don’t get any ideas!

  9. that is awesome. I am doing one on the 7/8th North of Phx.

  10. I always loved how Hayduke measured distance.

    You should come up for our urban overnighter in two weeks.

  11. Ironically, I currently live in Missouri and am about 3 mos. from moving to Tucson. Can’t wait; not sure why I have lived here as long as I have. I think of Tucson as home at this point; the mountains are some amazing, esp. at sunrise/set.

  12. and maddie and i thought we were so original! but we brought pizza instead 🙂

  13. Still dreaming of a Siren and trip just like that.

    Saving my pennies, so I will stay in touch.

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