A Big Bike, A Small Dog, and a Long Dusty Road

Adventure comes in all shapes and sizes.  Here in Arizona, it usually involves the search for a secluded waterway where one can attain a reprieve from the baking sun and wash off the dust from the trail.

When most folks think of the deserts in Arizona they imagine a parched landscape full of cacti and broken dreams.  They’re right, but there is also a thriving ecology closely packed around a surprising number of lakes and rivers.   And when you live at 7,000 feet above sea level in Arizona, it snows the night before you leave for a trip to the desert.

What else can you do, but layer up, press on, and keep a vigilant eye on the forecast?  As so many of us today are corralled into set schedules and pre-planned vacations, sometimes simply pushing on is all you can do.  Despite the snowflakes falling outside, my wife and I packed our Super Ténéré for a weekend’s adventure to take the back [read: two-lane, twisty-windy, dirt road, and generally awesome] way to Alamo Lake, AZ.  There’s a saying in Flagstaff that “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.” And this once again proved true as we jumped on a break in the snowstorm and pointed our bike South toward warmer weather, sun, and miles of twisty-windy two lane goodness.

Our route would take us on two lane roads from Jerome, through Prescott, and toward Bagdad (AZ!), and on toward the middle of nowhere, which as it happens, is near Nothing, AZ.  We were so busy enjoying this wonderful ribbon of tarmac, we missed our turn, and were ‘lost’, round 1.  After consulting the GPS, we found an alternate route; a 33 mile dirt road that was supposed to be a well maintained, smooth cruise.  Not so much. We were lost again, round 2.

Pretty soon, the washouts, sand, and several additional wrong turns had us re-thinking ourselves.  “Keep going. There’s a darn lake at the end of this.  How far have we gone?  Only Three miles! This is going to be a long afternoon…”

Perseverance won the day however, and before too long, we were cooking along in 5th gear on a wide, well-graded dirt highway.  Sometimes, all you need to fix the roads is to cross a county line.

As the miles ticked by, we started to get into the groove again.  Things were looking up, and we had plenty of daylight, plenty of fuel, and we hadn’t lost our mascot, Tortellini the turtle.  (Editor’s note:  Tortellini is known to fly out from his perch on the authors Ténéré from time to time.  This most commonly happens on rough roads or at high speeds. –Chad)  Before we knew it, we were looking for a campsite and changing into our swimsuits.  We had made it to Alamo Lake.

After a quick dip in the lake, some warm food, and making a campfire, we were watching another world-class Arizona sunset and reflecting on the day.

It seems like the farther I can get away from civilization, and the closer I can get to undeveloped wilderness, the more content I am.  The trivialities of life fade into the background as I soak in my surroundings.  I’m dusty, I’m hot, I’m exhausted and I’m away from everything that makes home so comfortable, yet I feel more content and more joyful than I do almost anywhere else.  After all, I’ve got my wife, my dog, and my motorcycle – what more could I ask for?

The Trailshot

Remember that one time your ‘quick’ morning hike/ride/<insert adventure here> turned into an all-day safari, and you ran out of water before you got back to the truck? Perhaps you passed by a source of water on your way back, and your mind decided to remind you of all of the millions of ways in which water would be awesome right now. But you can’t drink from that sketchy-looking pool of turbid water, because giardia. (Pro Tip: You don’t want giardia.) Well, thanks to MSR’s new Trailshot water filter, there’s now no reason why you can’t belly up to that water source and drink long and deep.

The Trailshot is the water filter that you really have no excuse not to always carry with you. It takes up the same amount of space as two energy bars in your pack, and weighs in at all of 5.4 ounces. This isn’t some single use ‘survival’ filter where you can only suck water into your mouth. This is a proper water filter that can be used over and over to keep you safely hydrated anytime you need to gather more water in the field. The Trailshot uses MSR’s hollow fiber filter technology that effectively filters bacteria, protozoa, and particulates from any water source. For the North American user, this is really all you need in a filter. However, if viruses are a concern—international travelers, I’m looking at you—you’ll need to add another step to your water purification process like some Aquatabs, or check out MSR’s Guardian filter that handles everything (bacteria, protozoa, particulates, and viruses). When viruses are not a concern, the Trailshot is the water filter that you should always have in your kit.

Using the filter couldn’t be easier: simply drop the pre-filter end of the hose into a water source, and start squeezing the filter body with your hand. You can drink right from the mouthpiece on the filter, or point it into a water bottle or hydration reservoir and fill it at roughly one liter per minute. A big advantage with the Trailshot’s hose design is that you can pull water from a very shallow source, where a water bottle-style filter would be very hard to use. Another advantage is with turbid water: a UV-light type filter is unable to effectively purify cloudy water, a task easily handled by the Trailshot.

Pro Tip: When working with really turbid water, use some form of container to allow the water to settle prior to filtering so that you’re not sucking as much particulate into the filter for better performance. If the Trailshot does get clogged up, giving it a few good shakes along the filter’s long axis will get it going again.

MSR states the Trailshot has a filter life of 2,000 liters, but your mileage may vary depending on how particulate-laden your field water sources are. Spare filter cartridges sell for $35, and carrying a spare never hurts.

Stay Out Longer

A water filter is a key piece of gear for anyone who wants to carry less water (and weight), or who doesn’t want to be limited by the amount of water they can carry. As long as you know that there will be water to collect in the field, you can carry only the amount of water you need to get from source to source. This is a huge advantage for ultra-runners, enduro mountain bikers, or anyone who likes to go fast and light. If you’re the type of person who must to see what’s over the next hill, or who wants to be able to take the long way home, the Trailshot is a great piece of gear to keep in your kit so you can stay out longer than intended.

Dehydration is no joke: if you’ve ever run out of water in the field, you know it isn’t a good time. For the space of two energy bars, a Trailshot in your kit can keep you and a friend hydrated from practically any field water source. Mine traveled all over the Southwest with me this fall, and even when it’s just along for the ride, knowing I have a way to safely gather water from the field is a huge confidence boost. The Trailshot retails for $49—a no-brainer for anyone who plays outside. Pick one up, and avoid that one time where you ran out of water.