What happens when you bring a group of W/T/F/N-B bikexploring strangers together over a rugged multi-day adventure through the Sonoran Desert?
A couple weeks ago a group of WTF Bikexplorers assembled in Patagonia, Arizona for the first of five nationwide rides leading up to the WTF Bikexplorers Summit in August. These rides are grassroots opportunities designed to build a greater connection within our community of WTF Bikexplorers while actually exploring by bike.
The first ride in the WTF Bikexplorers Ride Series took place in the Sky Islands Region of the Sonoran Desert within Southern Arizona. In your minds eye you may imagine a dry, dead, desolate landscape but the Sky Islands region is far from it. This eco-region receives its majestic name for the pine-oak woodland covered mountains encompassed within and isolated by desert and grassland lowlands, creating diverse habitat “islands” within a short distance and change in elevation. This region hosts some of the highest levels of biodiversity in plants and animals in the world and is far from “dead”. Even so, the land here is rugged, remote, and dry, with drastic changes in temperatures and very little groundwater all of which must be taken into careful consideration to properly prepare for 4-days of riding and 3-nights of camping through this environment.
The magical saga that unfolded as seven WTF Bikexplorers immersed themselves in the elements of this Sky Island Region goes like this…
We met up in the small town of Patagonia, Arizona, introduced ourselves, had a stranger take our group photo and quickly set out on our 4-day journey together. Any early awkwardness dissolved at our first shade break where home-made snacks carefully prepared in advance were shared and tasted by all. These shaded, snack-share breaks quickly became the highlight of the whole tour due to the creativeness in snack selection, preparation, and dehydration by members of our group.
The wind was strong but at our backs on the first day, delivering us to our camp destination at the Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch (AWRR) by late afternoon. AWRR is a cooperative partnership between the National Audubon Society and the various land management agencies in the area to protect a region encompassing 8,000 acres of Madrean mixed grass prairie, Madrean oak woodlands and their ecosystems through conservation, research, and education. To protect this region, AWRR limits public access to the private research ranch to Permit Use Only and luckily they were more than welcoming to host this group of WTF Bikexplorers. Our time at the AWRR was a unique opportunity to witness the pristine grassland prairies untouched by cattle ranching for over 30-years while also stimulating conversations of land use, conservation, and how we, as bicyclists, can experience these places in a responsible way. With access to a luxurious Camp Headquarters, that provided shelter from the wind to converse, cook, and to play an epically long game of Egyptian Ratscrew before we fell asleep beneath the desert sky and behind the old adobe walls of the ranch.
By the morning of the second day we were bonded as an eclectic troupe of bike tourers laughing our way through the now severe headwinds in an exposed environment. There was no cause for concern because we regrouped often in protected spots for more of our shaded snack-share breaks. When we grew tired of eating, we played hacky sack and laughed some more.
Throughout the following days, we enjoyed the landscapes spring story of new life unfolding in front of us. We feasted our eyes on the idiosyncrasies of life within this desert. We named flowering desert flora and pointed out all the jackrabbits, pronghorn antelope, newborn calves, furry caterpillars, and colorful horny toads we managed to spot. Daytime temperatures ranged from the low 60’s to the mid 90’s with evening temperatures diving into the low 30’s. These elements forced us to be diligent in selecting adequate shelter for camping. The severely high wildfire risk shortened the evenings and made more space for sleep and recovery for fun the next day. Nonetheless we moved as one group with support, knowledge, and experience to combat anything that was thrown at us with comfort and ease.
These WTF Bikexplorers came from California, Colorado, Oregon, New Mexico, Maryland, and Arizona specifically for this opportunity. We are artists, doctors, entrepreneurs, electricians, mechanics, and librarians. Our bikexploring experiences ranged from seasoned adventurers to total beginners and we had a blast together. Below is a list of our group’s favorite ride snacks on this tour and some sketches that were produced at camp.
- Curry Cashews with Raisins
- Dehydrated Teriyaki Pineapple
- Dehydrated Mangos (no sugar added)
- Sun Dried Tomatoes with Crackers
- Sardines with Green Chilies
- Cashew Cheese with Seitan Pepperoni Sausage
The registration for the WTF Bikexplorers Big Basin, California on June 1-3 is now open! Get out there and see for yourself what these rides are all about!
Ride Recap written by Sarah Swallow (@sarahjswallow)
Photos by Sarah Swallow
Sketches by Mary Lytle (@maryroselytle)
edit: *Maryland, not Massachusetts!
Thank you for the lovely recap, Sarah! The photos and your description capture the mood of the trip so well.