Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Post Trip Summary: Details for Future Riders

This blog is about the bicycle trip that Jim and I took on the Great Divide Route and includes the posts we made while on the trip. We have created a second blog with thoughts and advice for other people thinking of riding the GDR, so if you are planning your own trip, you should go to a different blog instead --

When I was preparing for our trip, I read as many GDR blogs as I could find, trying to glean information. I got overwhelmed by too much content like this "on Tuesday we missed a turn and went up a long hill before we realized we made a mistake, then it started raining and we got cold, then we ran out of food and we got hungry." In an attempt to help others doing background research for their own trip we split off the information useful to cyclists into that other blog.

Post Trip Summary: The Birds

List of bird seen on the trip

We are dedicated birders, so we each carried a pair of binoculars and did our best to find and identify birds while we were riding and while off the bikes. Birding while riding we found to be more difficult than expected and so the variety of species we saw is certainly lower than we would have seen had we been on foot. In particular, we found it hard to locate the smaller species such as sparrows, flycatchers and warblers. We saw four new species that are "life birds". These are species we saw for the first time ever and get recorded on our Life List. It is an incredible treat to see a new life bird and it doesn't happen for us in North America very often anymore.

Birds marked post-GDR were seen between Antelope Wells and Tucson after completing the GDR. Some of these species may possibly be observed while on the GDR while others are out of range and thus could not have been observed on-route.

214 species seen

  1. Common Loon
  2. Eared Grebe
  3. Red-necked Grebe
  4. Pied-billed Grebe
  5. Western Grebe
  6. Clark's Grebe
  7. American White Pelican
  8. Double-crested Cormorant
  9. Great Blue Heron
  10. White-faced Ibis
  11. Trumpeter Swan
  12. Canada Goose
  13. Mallard
  14. Gadwall
  15. American Wigeon
  16. Northern Pintail
  17. Northern Shoveler
  18. Blue-winged Teal
  19. Green-winged Teal
  20. Cinnamon Teal
  21. Ruddy Duck
  22. Wood Duck
  23. Canvasback
  24. Ring-necked Duck
  25. Lesser Scaup
  26. Common Goldeneye
  27. Bufflehead
  28. Common Merganser
  29. Sandhill Crane
  30. Common Moorhen
  31. American Coot
  32. Killdeer
  33. Solitary Sandpiper
  34. Spotted Sandpiper
  35. Wilson's Snipe
  36. Ring-billed Gull
  37. California Gull
  38. Forster's Tern
  39. Turkey Vulture
  40. Golden Eagle
  41. Bald Eagle
  42. Northern Harrier
  43. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  44. Cooper's Hawk
  45. Northern Goshawk
  46. Zone-tailed Hawk (post-GDR)
  47. Red-tailed Hawk
  48. Swainson's Hawk
  49. Ferruginous Hawk
  50. Osprey
  51. American Kestrel
  52. Peregrine Falcon
  53. Prairie Falcon
  54. Ruffed Grouse
  55. Dusky Grouse (new Life Bird)
  56. Greater Sage Grouse (new Life Bird)
  57. Gunnison Sage Grouse (new Life Bird)
  58. Scaled Quail
  59. Gambel's Quail
  60. Gray Partridge
  61. Ring-necked Pheasant
  62. Wild Turkey
  63. Band-tailed Pigeon
  64. Rock Pigeon
  65. White-winged Dove
  66. Mourning Dove
  67. Eurasian Collared Dove
  68. Inca Dove
  69. Greater Roadrunner
  70. Barn Owl
  71. Western Screech-Owl
  72. Great Horned Owl
  73. Great Gray Owl
  74. Northern Saw-whet Owl
  75. Common Poorwill
  76. Common Nighthawk
  77. Elegant Trogon (post-GDR)
  78. Black-chinned Hummingbird
  79. Anna's Hummingbird (post-GDR)
  80. Calliope Hummingbird
  81. Broad-tailed Hummingbird
  82. Rufous Hummingbird
  83. Belted Kingfisher
  84. Gila Woodpecker (post-GDR)
  85. Acorn Woodpecker (post-GDR)
  86. Ladder-backed Woodpecker
  87. Arizona Woodpecker (post-GDR)
  88. Williamson's Sapsucker
  89. Red-naped Sapsucker
  90. Northern Flicker
  91. Downy Woodpecker
  92. Hairy Woodpecker
  93. Three-toed Woodpecker
  94. Pileated Woodpecker
  95. Ash-throated Flycatcher (post-GDR)
  96. Eastern Kingbird
  97. Western Kingbird
  98. Cassin's Kingbird
  99. Olive-sided Flycatcher
  100. Western Wood-Pewee
  101. Say's Phoebe
  102. Black Phoebe
  103. Gray Flycatcher
  104. Cordilleran Flycatcher
  105. Horned Lark
  106. Tree Swallow
  107. Violet-green Swallow
  108. Bank Swallow
  109. Cliff Swallow
  110. Barn Swallow
  111. Pinyon Jay
  112. Blue Jay
  113. Stellar's Jay
  114. Western Scrub Jay
  115. Mexican Jay
  116. Gray Jay
  117. Clark's Nutcracker
  118. Black-billed Magpie
  119. American Crow
  120. Chihuahuan Raven
  121. Common Raven
  122. Juniper Titmouse
  123. Bridled Titmouse
  124. Black-capped Chickadee
  125. Mexican Chickadee (post-GDR) (new Life Bird)
  126. Mountain Chickadee
  127. Chestnut-backed Chickadee
  128. Verdin (post-GDR)
  129. Bushtit
  130. Brown Creeper
  131. White-breasted Nuthatch
  132. Red-breasted Nuthatch
  133. Pygmy Nuthatch
  134. House Wren
  135. Winter Wren
  136. Bewick's Wren
  137. Cactus Wren
  138. Marsh Wren
  139. Canyon Wren
  140. Rock Wren
  141. Golden-crowned Kinglet
  142. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  143. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  144. Western Bluebird
  145. Mountain Bluebird
  146. Townsend's Solitaire
  147. Hermit Thrush
  148. Varied Thrush
  149. American Robin
  150. Loggerhead Shrike
  151. Gray Catbird
  152. Northern Mockingbird
  153. Sage Thrasher
  154. Curve-billed Thrasher
  155. American Pipit (post-GDR)
  156. American Dipper
  157. Phainopepla (post-GDR)
  158. Cedar Waxwing
  159. European Starling
  160. Cassin's Vireo
  161. Plumbeous Vireo
  162. Warbling Vireo
  163. Black-throated Gray Warbler (post-GDR)
  164. Common Yellowthroat
  165. MacGillivray's Warbler
  166. Northern Waterthrush
  167. Olive Warbler (post-GDR)
  168. Orange-crowned Warbler
  169. Townsend's Warbler
  170. Wilson's Warbler
  171. Yellow Warbler
  172. Yellow-breasted Chat (post-GDR)
  173. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  174. Blue Grosbeak
  175. Northern Cardinal (post-GDR)
  176. Pyrrhuloxia
  177. Lazuli Bunting (post-GDR)
  178. Canyon Towhee
  179. Green-tailed Towhee
  180. Spotted Towhee
  181. Black-throated Sparrow (post-GDR)
  182. Brewer's Sparrow
  183. Chipping Sparrow
  184. Dark-eyed Junco
  185. Grasshopper Sparrow
  186. Lincoln's Sparrow
  187. Rufous-crowned Sparrow (post-GDR)
  188. Rufous-winged Sparrow (post-GDR)
  189. Sage Sparrow
  190. Savannah Sparrow
  191. Song Sparrow
  192. Vesper Sparrow
  193. White-crowned Sparrow
  194. Yellow-eyed Junco (post-GDR)
  195. Eastern Meadowlark (post-GDR)
  196. Western Meadowlark
  197. Yellow-headed Blackbird
  198. Red-winged Blackbird
  199. Brewer's Blackbird
  200. Brown-headed Cowbird
  201. Great-tailed Grackle
  202. Common Grackle
  203. Hooded Oriole (post-GDR)
  204. Western Tanager
  205. Hepatic Tanager (post-GDR)
  206. Pine Siskin
  207. Lesser Goldfinch
  208. American Goldfinch
  209. Pine Grosbeak
  210. Red Crossbill
  211. Evening Grosbeak
  212. Cassin's Finch
  213. House Finch
  214. House Sparrow

Monday, October 8, 2007

Post Trip Summary: The Route, General Comments

It is very satisfying to have a route mapped ahead of you, and all the freedom in the world to move forward along that path. Get up in the morning, ride through the landscape until you're tired, find a place to set up camp, eat some dinner, and go to sleep. Over and over again. No schedule, no obligations, no worries. This feeling doesn't develop on a one or two week trip. You need enough time to establish the rhythm and sense of freedom. It is similar to the lifestyle and sense of freedom of the road we've had on our month long walks on the long distance paths in England and France.

The scenery is lovely. However, it isn't as lovely as what you will get backpacking where you can get out into wilderness areas away from the cows. None of the mountains were as nice as the southern high Sierra Nevada (our stomping grounds), not by a long shot. So if you want beautiful mountain scenery, get out your hiking shoes and backpacks and head to the high Sierra (or the Wind River range in Wyoming, or Glacier National Park, or your favorite high mountains). New Mexico was lovely, but not nearly as lovely as being on foot down in the slot canyons of the Colorado Plateau. However, as a whole package the ride through all those diverse landscapes was a beautiful and wonderful experience.

About those cows... This opens a rather large emotional/philosophical/religious can of worms. It seems that people have "messed with" every acre of land they can reach - put each acre to it's best economic use, be it mining, timber, housing, ski resort, golf course, strip mall, etc. If an acre doesn't offer any other significant economic value, then you can always put some cows out there and graze it. The ranchers we talked to were extremely nice people who are doing what everybody else does -- earning a living and raising their families. Each rancher and each cow does no more damage than the rest of us do when we go about our business of building a house and earning a living somehow. But grazing in dry climates alters the fragile top-soil and subsequently the entire eco-system. That's fine for any individual ranch. But when you see it on every single acre for a thousand miles in a row -- well it really hits home that we humans have left very few acres of land alone for nature to take her course. This was a very depressing part of the trip for us. The only significant grazing-free stretches were the parks in Canada, Teton/Yellowstone, a section in Gila National Forest in NM, and a section in Coronado National Forest in Arizona (off route). Those sections may have represented a total of perhaps 200 miles in our 3100 miles of riding - not much. Those were precious beautiful sections that we cherished.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Palo Alto, CA

We are back at home. Slept last night in our own bed. We are planning to post some summary information in the next few days -- gear we carried with notes about what worked and didn't work, notes about the bikes, notes about campsites or restaurants that future GDR riders might find useful, notes about transport to/from the start and finish.

But first we're going to wash the bikes and stock up on groceries.


Monday, October 1, 2007

Tombstone, AZ

Here at the library in the famous western shoot-out town of Tombstone AZ.

We arrived at the southern terminus of the Great Divide Route, Antelope Wells NM, last Thursday after 53 and a half days riding. We had a picnic lunch on the shaded lawn of the border crossing station and visited with the nice staff at Customs and Immigration and also with numerous border patrol agents.

We are now riding to Tucson, where we plan to pick up a rental car tomorrow evening to drive home. Between Antelope Wells and Tombstone we spent two days in the Chiricahua mountains (Coronado National Forest) which is one of the best birdwatching sites in the U.S. and was also stunningly beautiful. It was my (Amy) favorite place on the whole trip, even though it's not on the G.D.R. We saw great birds there, including the Elegant Trogon!

Prior to arriving in Antelope Wells, we stayed in Silver City NM with friends of my sister - Richard and Stacey. They were delightful hosts and gave us a great sense for what the town is like. We had an unexpectedly good meal in town and reprovisioned for the last push to the border.

We'll write more when we get home, but for now we need to get on our bikes and pedal on over to Tucson.

Best to all - Amy and Jim

P.S. Thanks to Rickson for posting pictures.