Sweating, grunting, groaning, and being eaten alive by mosquitoes and black flies, I pushed my loaded mountain bike up a steep hill on an old forest road. This wasn’t a dedicated bike trail, but there was no signage at the gate to indicate “no bikes” either. Even though I questioned my sanity, turning around was not an option. I hate backtracking. If I go back, I’ll never know what gems lay before me. And my past experience dictates that the hardest and most random routes can often yield the sweetest rewards. So I kept pushing 45 pounds of bike and gear steeply uphill, over rocks and roots, a pedal slamming into my shin, then my calf…ouch! That’s gonna leave a mark.
All of a sudden, the road leveled out and narrowed, a ribbon of smoothish dirt singletrack before me. Jackpot! It was blissful for at least a quarter mile, until I encountered squishy mud, followed by mud deep enough to swallow woman and machine whole. A bit of hike-a-bike-bushwhacking seemed to be in order. Ahhhh, next appeared a lovely rideable downhill and a bridge to a bit more dirt before the mud set in again. I was next confronted by another super-steep uphill section. As I and my trusty steed, rolling along happily beside me, crested the top of the hill, I was awed by the sight before me. I stopped and smiled, taking it all in.
Blue skies framed mountains in the background, and just in front of me lay an earthen dam and old concrete spillway. Between the two was a small expanse of lovely dark blue water, reflecting the sky. Green grasses sprouted up from the meadow in front of the spillway, and a light breeze blew all but the most tenacious of the biting bugs away. It was heaven. I put down the bike. I moved my body in various directions, assessing for damage, and found none. I then tended to the very serious business of exploring the area by foot and taking a much needed break. The way back to my originally intended route was nice fast ride down the actual public access, a maintained gravel road. I think my way up was infinitely more fun, plus I got to ride across the dam as part of my route, and I didn’t have to go up and come down the same track to make the side-trip to the reservoir. There were so many more amazing sights and moments on this, my first ever bikepacking trip. I can’t believe I haven’t done it sooner, and there will definitely be more of it in my future.
I traveled about 50 miles over 40 hours, spanning two overnights spent in my tent. My travel was primarily on dirt Forest Service roads, with some Class IV and trail thrown in to connect the dots and on side trips, and a bit of pavement near towns. I did actually ride most of it. If you’ve ever hiked or skied with me, you’ll know I find myself in some interesting situations because I want to find out what’s “over there.” Well, the same apparently holds true for mountain biking, and I imagine that eventually my skill level will increase to meet my knack-for-adventure level. And until that happens, well, I’ll learn how to push my bike up and down various terrain features without smacking the pedals against my legs. It’s all good Type II Fun, regardless.
Even though this was a short trip, it was a strong reminder of the joys I have experienced traveling long distances. A stop at a general store with a loaded bike (or backpack, or motorcycle) can turn a simple coffee break into an hour-long intimate conversation with a stranger. Likewise, offers for assistance, information on routes, or just a simple smile can warm a weary traveler’s heart like nothing else, and are found often on such journeys. And then, of course, are the more obvious rewards for a human-powered foray into the wild, of which the likes of John Muir and Edward Abbey have written tomes with which my sentence structure just cannot compete.
After several months of overcoming injuries, I have been working hard rehabilitating and am finally once again ready to adventure. This little trip brought me back to my Self, and I’m excited to make my home on the road, trail, and in my tent once more, to experience the world and humanity from a less conventional and more intimate perspective. 24 days to go! (But who’s counting?) Yaaahooooooooo!!!!