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The Anza-Hapaha Loop

February 2021

With my knee still bothering me intermittently, my list of activities over the winter has been slightly constrained. Fortunately, biking seemed to be within the realm of possibilities. On top of this, I had just fixed up an old single speed hardtail that my buddy gave to me. Once it was dialed, I darted down to San Diego to bestow it upon its new owner, Jared. He was stoked to receive the bike, and hopefully equally stoked to break it in by circumnavigating California’s largest state park, the Anza-Borrego in two days.


We set off Saturday morning, parked off the 78 on Old Kane Springs Road, and started pedaling. With no water on route, we were each lugging about eight liters. We started up the mellow grade of the highway. The weight of our packs made it feel like we were trudging up the steepest roads of San Francisco on flat tires. 


Jared, being a family man, had little time for aggressive trips and pain-caves as of late, but was excited for the trip to “whip me into shape.” And whip it did; once we hit the dirt roads of the Mine Wash area we were greeted with steep climbs and deep sand.


The views were beautiful though, I am always struck by the scale and intricacy of desert landscapes. They are not the barren wastelands most people picture. All the life around you is extremely well optimized for the brutal conditions, which has the nice side-effect of producing some unique looking species of cactus.


Towards the end of the day we were confronted with a flat tire, and then another. And then our pump broke — well, it probably was already broken, it was about twelve years old. We made some friends who were also riding the loop, and they let us use theirs. 


We were greeted with another flat in the morning, made some more friends and used their air compressor, and then said hello to another flat thirty minutes later. I patched our most salvageable tube (which had 6 distinct gashes in it), and waited for the other bike packers to catch up. We aired the patched tube up in a last ditch effort, but it only held air for maybe five minutes. 


So, I stuffed the tire full of bushes to at least marginally protect the rim, and rode out the last thirty miles on a flat. Fortunately, with Jared on the single-speed, and me on the flatted bike, we were able to carry a very similar pace, having similar mechanical handicaps at this point.


The slog was long, but the landscapes we traversed were impressive, my favorite being the canyon on the way North from the Wind Caves. We made it back to the van, just after sunset.

Check out a video of the trip below:

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