Zen On Dirt

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Recovery: Grand Canyon Style

If I had a single ounce of sense in my head, I would have pushed to leave the Grand Canyon the day after our Rim-to-rim-to-rim. Why? Because I know myself.

I know that when presented with big and beautiful landscapes, all I want to do is to play in them, regardless of my level of sore/tired. One could say that I have very little self control. And one would be right. You know the age-old experiment of giving a kid a marshmallow and telling them that if they don’t eat it for 10 minutes, they’d get two?

I’m the kid who eats the marshmallow. (On a side note, there’s a super-good Invisibilia podcast called the Personality Myth that talks more about that experiment and how the results are completely misinterpreted by our current culture.)

But we didn’t leave. Mostly because I didn’t want to leave. Instead, we moved the Scamp out of our campsite at Mather, and headed to the nearest lodge to Internet some (Quote of the day from some random dude who walked up to us: Is your Internet working? Mine isn’t, and it’s ruining my freaking day. (Seriously, I can’t make this shit up.))

Scott lured me into pedaling out to Hermits Rest, which was at the end of a long road that was only open to shuttle buses. When he mentioned that there was a snack bar at the end of the road, I was all in. He bought me donuts and coffee. I’m easily bribed. Plus, we could put our bikes on the bus for the ride back.


Once back, we took the Scamp to our free camping spot outside of the park and went back into the park so that Scott could hike down Grandview trail for a little bit.

‘I’ll just come and watch the sun set and read my book in the car,’ I declared as I put my running shoes in the van.


FOMO. Freakin’ FOMO. In all actuality, my legs didn’t feel too bad, and we went less than a mile down the trail, so I could make a case for it not being an entirely stupid idea…and it was sooooo beautiful, I don’t regret it one bit.


Canyon glow.


The following morning, we went back into the Village area to try to find functional Internet again, this time at the research library. Turns out, free wi-fi is very simply shitty at the Grand Canyon. Period. But it definitely didn’t ruin my day. Instead of fretting, we went for a little pedal on the Coconino Rim section of the AZT to see if we could spot any fall colors.


And we may have also hiked down the New Hance trail for a little bit at sun set.

My legs were feeling “recovered” by now in the sense that they weren’t sore. I knew that I didn’t have deep energy reserves, but I knew that I could put in a solid slog if I really wanted to. And I really wanted to get lemonades down at Phantom Ranch. I love the novelty of rides and runs that involve food in cool places. Like riding the AZT to Colossal Cave to get ice cream.


Scott, the more rational and logical half of our duo talked me down to just going to the Tonto Trail. It’ll be new trail, he reasoned. He’s also smart enough to know that I’m highly inclined to do stupid when I know that my time in a place is running out.


We went down late afternoon after a morning of fighting Grand Canyon Internet trying to get some work done. Once again, did not ruin my day.


I’m usually pretty against riding/running the same trails over and over, but I make an exception for the Big Ditch corridor trails. Their wide enough and non-techy enough (most of the time) that I can actually look around while still moving. This is still a rarity when running for me, I tend to end up flat on my face when I start to admire my surroundings.


I knew that this was my time to say goodbye to the Canyon. We were planning on leaving the next morning, and most likely, won’t be back until next spring. Six months is a long time to be away from a lover as passionate as the Canyon.


We cruised happily along the Tonto, seeing no one until we hooked back up with the Bright Angel Trail. There, at Indian Gardens, we ran into a kid (18? 20?) who asked us how much farther the trail went.

‘Well, you can go all the way down to the river,’ I told him.

‘Would that be considered extreme?’ he asked.

‘Umm…yes? It’s a ways down.’

He continued down. We continued up. I guess we could have told him that you could go all the way to the other rim. Or that you could go all the way to Utah on trail if you really wanted.

We emerged from the Canyon with 20 minutes of daylight to spare. I sort of wonder what happened to the kid.


We showered at the campground ($2 for eight minutes, best deal in town, especially when it’s not warm enough to heat up a solar shower) and headed over to a lodge for some grub. Lemon meringue pie. It wasn’t a lemonade a the bottom of the Canyon, but it was a darn close second.

The following morning we packed up and headed out. I waved bye to the Canyon at the final overlooks. The days are getting short, the nights are getting cold. It was time to make miles south.

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A full moon Grand Canyon R2R2R

I’m not really sure where the idea of running the Big Ditch under a full moon had come from. But from the second that it appeared in my brain waves, I knew that it had to be done. Kait had agreed to it in May, once the temperatures dropped in the fall. We thought little of it until Summer started to come to an end and I brought up the subject of setting a date. Limited by full-moon-ness, Kait racing the Coconino 250 (which she absolutely smashed) and her leaving for Australia for Single Speed World Championships, our timeline was tight.

The logistics of Rim to Rim runs for dirtbags who don’t want to pay $80 for a shuttle can be difficult. But I’d figured it out for Kait and I’s run: She would meet Scott and I on the North Rim, we’d run the Canyon while Scott would drive Kait’s car back to the south rim, she’d drive home, Scott and I would camp at the campground, and walk the Canyon back the next day to our car, which would be waiting at the North Rim.

Brilliant, until we realized that Kait’s car was a stick shift, and while Scott may possess many skills, driving a stick shift isn’t one of them.

In my exploration of alternatives, I texted Kait, ‘R2R2R would be a really bad idea, right?’ Neither of us had really been doing all that much running, I figured she’d be smarter than to say yes.

So I upped the ante before she even had a chance to respond. ‘If we time it right, we could reserve a 5am breakfast of bacon and eggs and coffee at Phantom Ranch on the way back.’

Immediately, we had a plan.


She doesn’t look nervous, does she?

After drinking a little bit of Vihno Verde at the campground (why not? It’s going to hurt regardless of what we do) we boarded the 5:30 shuttle to the Kaibab Trailhead and watched the sun set behind the rim. We were headed down shortly after 6.


The beauty of Kait as an adventure partner is that I have complete trust in her ability to make sound and safe decisions, and to respect any decisions I would make in the name of safety. That’s a pretty powerful thing when headed into something as big as the Big Ditch.


But, I also had full faith in her to not quit for stupid. Which is also a very powerful thing. When you know your adventure partner will keep eating, keep drinking, and stop to address any issues before they balloon into something major, it takes a whole lot of stress out of big trips.


We were stopped to put headlamps on at the first bathrooms when an older gentleman came walking up the trail.

‘Where are we?’ he asked with some degree of desperation.

‘The Grand Canyon?’ I answered, mostly because I had no clue what our little plateau was named. I guess, in hindsight, I could have said, ‘At the first set of bathrooms’, but I could have also said, ‘Arizona’ or ‘Planet Earth.’

He looked at me with some level of frustration as he told us that there was a woman lower down the trail who was in distress and wouldn’t make it up. He wanted to know how far it was to the top, how long would it take him.

‘Depends on how fast you’re going,’ I replied. Again, frustration. ‘Between a mile and two,’ I tried again.

Eventually, we went down. We never saw a woman in distress, only several people still moving slowly upwards.


We made it to Phantom at 8pm and filled up on water. We had 9 hours to cover the 28 miles to the North Rim and back. No problem.

The Box Canyon was deathly dark, but warm. It was a welcoming place. A happy place. While the moon illuminated the tops of the cliffs around us, I doubted if the bottom of Bright Angel Creek ever saw moonlight. As the canyon opened up, we were able to turn headlamps off and walk under the illumination of the moon, only turning lights on for the shadows.

The exposed part of the North Kaibab trail was spectacular. Ghostly. Almost light enough to see colors in the rocks.

It was only after we crested the rim that we considered jackets and warm laters for the first time. And everything aside from short sleeves and shorts were ditched again long before we hit the Supai Tunnel on the way down. We had four hours until breakfast and 14 miles.

Cottonwood with two hours till breakfast. 7 more miles. The legs were getting tired. Feet an knees starting to complain. We knew we’d make it, but we also knew that it wouldn’t be with an excessive amount of time to spare. The Box Canyon simply refused to end, the final two bridges refused to come into view. I was comforted by the fact that even in the daylight, these miles seem to drag on forever.

At some point in time, when things really started to hurt, I pointed out that really, the worst thing that could happen to us would be to miss our 5am breakfast. Kait found this pretty funny, because there are a lot of things to go wrong in the Canyon. But in my head, missing breakfast was the worst of them.

Seeing two different sets of green eyes, which I’m 90% sure were mountain lions, definitely put a pep into our steps, even as we tried to convince ourselves that they were probably just deer.

And then bridges. Lights of the ranch. Sleepy campers and hikers lining up for grub, most walking on legs that looked as stiff as ours felt.


We made it with 15 minutes to spare. Considering that we’d been on the trail for nearly 11 hours, I’d call that pretty spot on timing.

We ate and went outside to sit on the benches to re-lube feet and prepare for the final push up. We endured some man-splaining about how there was enough moonlight to hike safely, and that it’s worth the extra weight to haul stainless steel water bottles down the Canyon because plastic bladders change the pH of your water. The second comment was in response to me mentioning to Kait that I found it interesting that thru-hikers rarely used bladders for water storage, instead choosing to use plastic bottles. (While I’m not disputing the fact that drinking out of stainless or glass has the potential to be better for you, I’m not going to haul anything but plastic when going light and fast.)

We dawdled long enough to be able to start without headlamps, and the long walk up commenced. We were definitely the last of the 5am breakfast crew to leave the Ranch.


By this point in time, there’s no question about completing the journey.


It was just a matter of one foot in front of the other. We just had to get through the Red Wall. We winced as we watched runners come down in the morning light, knowing that 13 hours prior, we looked just as fresh.


Scott came down to meet us and found me stoop sitting at the first set of outhouses. Kait had just dropped her pole from the deck, and we were contemplating the pain that would be involved to scamper down to pick it up. Scott got it for us without complaint.


He said we were moving well but had zero problem trotting in front of us to get the finish picture.


And done. A little bleary-eyed. A little tired. A little sore. A lot satisfied.


After food and a nap, Kait headed back towards Prescott. She had a plane to catch to Australia in 24 hours. I pitied her legs.

It’s rare to be able to line an adventure up so perfectly. Between setting the date and hitting breakfast dead on, there were a lot of things that had to align to make this double crossing happen as smoothly as it did. Neither of us were ready for it, in the traditional sense of you should probably have more than 50 miles of running in your legs over the course of the summer (ahem, Kait), but there was never really any doubt that amazing would happen if we committed to the trip.

One foot in front of the other. It’s always worth it.

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Two weeks in Moab: GO!


Just the thought of the place makes me happy. After six weeks spent there in the spring, I knew we were going to be back. There’s no place quite like it, endless wild-ness surrounding a town that really has everything we needed. Good internet, easy recycling access, and free camping (for now) in all directions. And the riding and running…it’s just so vast. Plus, it’s an area that’s big enough to support the level of recreation placed on it (for now), so there are seemingly minimal conflicts between bikes/motos/jeeps/hikers (for now).

There’s also a part of me that is realizing that the more other-worldly a place seems, the more I love it. The giant red walls of Moab, the rocky and desolate summits of Colorado, the giant deserts and prickly plant life of Tucson with the saguaro familes – if it doesn’t seem normal to most, I feel perfectly at home.

By the time we’d finished our Colorado errands, we had just over two weeks before I had a play date at the Grand Canyon. We had every intention of making the most of it…without blowing my legs out completely. Recovery is for people who can’t think of anything fun to do…right?

Acting on a tip and GPX file from Tom, we aimed for the Sidewinder trail in Montrose. We were promised exceptional riding and easy camping. img_7039

Transfer days are always a little stressful, especially when we don’t know exactly where we’re going or what we’ll find. The clearance on the Scamp/minivan combo in dismal at best, so we’re often not able to get into spaces that even a low-clearance car can…so we always have to take camping suggestions with a grain of salt.


Lucky for us, Tom was dead on both for amazeball-ness of the trail and on the ease of camping. It was easy, quiet, and we were pretty excited to have a new spot on our radar for our trans-Colorado drives that tend to happen at least twice a year.

We cruised on to Fruita in the morning, opting for a night of paid camping at 18 Road because Scott had only ridden one trail there…on a recumbent many years ago. There’s something silly fun about 18 Road…and now they paved the road out there, getting rid of those heinous washboards that always made me feel like my kidneys were going to fall out.


We went for a lovely evening ride, opting to keep it short in the name of trying not to show up to Moab tired.


When we woke to to the pitter patter of rain at night and clouds in the morning doing little to help the saturated ground to dry, we hi-tailed it to the coffee shop in Fruita for some Internet time and then on to Moab.

While our old spot was taken, we set the Scamp up at an equally awesome outpost, this one with even better views.


The first order of business was an evening ride with Julie and Dave. In the process, we learned a far more graceful way to loop the Sovereign trail from camp. The many advantages of riding with locals… We completed the evening with a fire and s’mores.


With only an afternoon to ride the following day, we cruised up for an evening lap of Navajo Rocks.


Outerbike was going on, and we’d heard storied of packed trails in the mornings. I’m pretty sure that by the time we made it out to pedal, most participants were back at camp/at their hotels drinking beer and eating dinner. We’re pretty good at the extremely late dinners/no real dinners in exchange for sunset rides and deserted trails.


I was determined to get some of my Bucket List items off of the list during this two week trip. One was to link up Willow Springs Road to Arches National Park, and then back on the bikepath. We detoured to check out some arches off of Salt Creek Road because, well, it was a weekend day and we were determined to spend as much time outside as possible.


There may have been a little bit of scrambing involved while the bikes were ditched in the bushes. Bike shoes are great for scrambing…especially when the metal cleat slides along sandstone.


We stopped by Outerbike on our way back to see the Salsa booth and to ride their new Woodsmoke. If I were an n+1 bike type of person, I would totes get one of these for my quiver.

dsc05717The Courthouse Wash hike didn’t get placed on our Bucket List until Kurt told us about it earlier in the summer. Kurt seems to enjoy similar types of outside travel to us, so when he recommends something, it’s generally worth checking it. Or at least when patience for BS is high.


In our 14 mile traversal of Arches National Park, we saw exactly four people if you don’t count the cars driving over the bridge on the main road that we went under. Maybe it had something to do with the massive amount of willow-whacking that was involved. Totes worth it in the end, and we hitchhiked back to the start with two gals who were trying to nurse an old Toyota truck with a leaking radiator across the country. They were hoping that by giving us a ride, it would increase their road Karma and they could get to California. I hope they made it!


Jefe and Rachel were in town for Outerbike. We rallied for a night ride with them out at the Klonzo trails. As it turns out, slickrock that seems excessively marked during the day is barely followable by headlamp. Someone needs to go out there with reflective paint…that would be rad.


Back in April, I’d somehow convinced Kaitlyn that we should do a full-moon rim to rim run in the Big Ditch in the fall. We’d set a mid-October date, and I set about trying to get back into running shape. We headed out for a loop of Pipeline, Barney Rubble, Hidden Canyon, and Moab Rim, Scott on wheels, me on foot. Mostly new trail for both of us. Aside from the fact that I felt completely out of running form and my feet got mad at me, it went well.


Scott even offered to go get the car so that I wouldn’t have to close the loop on pavement. I refused for about the first half mile of paved running…then I sent him to go get the car. Pavement, what a joke.


Tired the next day, we headed over to Barlett Wash. If you’re too tired to ride anywhere exceptionally far, might as well ride somewhere exceptionally pretty. I pretty much found myself a rock to sit on while Scott rode in laps around the slickrock features. He’s easily entertained.


The next day, we had a brilliant idea of riding from camp to 7-Mile rim and Uranium Arch, then cutting over to Navajo Rocks, then 7-Up to Mag 7, and then down Gemini Bridges from Shadow Canyon.

‘Do I need a light?’ I asked as we were rigging.

‘It’s 1pm. No.’


Of course, nothing in Moab actually goes as quickly as you think it will. And there’s always sand at the most inopportune times. And then someone (ahem, me) might have dropped their camera and not noticed it for a mile leading to an up-hill backtrack.

Long story short,  I got the friendly reminder to always ride with a light, because when the sun goes down, it gets real dark real quick.


Sometimes it’s nice to get rid of Scott to go do my own thing, so when Pete wanted to go ride, I bid them happy Boy Ride and took off running. Given that we were headed in the same general direction, they caught me as soon as things started to go downhill.


I made it out to the overlook, and pondered running farther, but I knew I wanted to have good legs for the next few days.


Because Alexis and Denny were coming! And so were Probe and Blanca, forever optimistic pups. We love visits from Alexis and Denny because they always bring plenty of Vihno Verde and beer.


Back in the Spring, I wrote something about the plans for the summer being ‘Ride bikes in cool places with good friends.’ I think we nailed it.


We went for what turned out to be longer than planned lap around the Klondike Trails, with several new-to-us trails in the link-up. Moab really does have a ridiculous amount of riding to be had.


Given that the next day was a Saturday, we decided to go for the full Moab experience. Slickrock practice loop, up Sand Flats Road to LPS, LPS and Porcupine Rim, and then on to Milt’s for burgers and malts.

Wow. Just wow. Sometimes  feel like I have to check in with mountain bike culture to see how badly I’ve been left behind. I clearly have not kept up with fashion trends, brah-speak, and the tendency to race down a trail without stopping to enjoy the view.

And you know what? I’m okay with that.


I’d say that the general consensus the following morning was Tired. We started calling ourselves the Exaggerated Groans Club, as each time we started going again or had to power up a hill, noises of complaint could be heard.


We kept it short and in the backyard, which allowed us plenty of time to relax afterwards before Alexis and Denny had to head back to Logan. What a fantastic long weekend.


Back the day before the Ouray 50 this summer, while watching the 100-mile runners futz and get ready to start, I sat down next to a random woman on a bench and started talking to her. As it turned out, it was Melissa from Moab, who I’d been instructed to get ahold of in the spring to go running. Being intimidated, I hadn’t. And now, as luck would have it, I was talking to her. She firmly schooled everyone at Ouray, and I was looking forward to getting a chance to go running with her in Moab.


She and YoDeanHill took us on one of their backyard loops. There was scrambling, and fin running, and butt sliding. It was one of the best mornings of Moabing that I’ve ever done. There are people who’ve lived in an area forever and still don’t know anything outside of their routine (this was exceptionally prevalent in Montana during the CDT), and then there are people who take the time to explore all sorts of little nooks and crannies near their home. We were pretty lucky to get to follow along.


Pete wanted to ride that night and had offered to cook us dinner afterwards. We all brought lights with the hope that we’d only have to do the final few miles in the dark. img_7520

That’s a pretty good joke right? Scott, Pete, and Ez go for an evening ride with the hope of getting back at a reasonable hour…it brought flashbacks from the 24-Hours in Moab back in 2009 of riding in the sand in the dark and feeling completely out of control.


The next day, we did nothing. Well, we worked, and we ate, and we even pulled Scott’s bike out of the van to ride over to the bathrooms, but we needed a break. We’d almost made it two weeks without a day off.


I talked Melissa into another run the following morning. She had afternoon work, so we had to go early. As in, set an alarm early. Get out of the Scamp before the sun breaks the horizon early. The days are getting short! I guess in the end it was good. We were done in time for me to get an honest morning of work in.


And that was after digging out the last of the potatoes from Melissa’s garden. They were soon made into Cheesy Potatoes and Veggies and Breakfast Burritos. Someday, I’ll settle down and have a garden of my own. There’s a part of me looking forward to it…but that time is not yet.


Scott wanted to ride a lap of Bar M on the way home that evening. So we did. Our time was running out. We were saying our goodbyes.


With travel plans decided on for movement towards the Big Ditch, we had one more day to spend among the red rocks. In the interest of energy and my legs, we went wandering on some lesser known trails in the area that were labeled Beginner. We found giant slickrock playgrounds that were devoid of humans, sandy trails, and big views into corners of the area that I didn’t even know existed.


I was heartbroken at the thought of leaving. Sitting around camp that night, we played our ‘Gun is to your head, you have to setting down in one spot year-round. Tucson or xxxx?’ game. With every other place, except for sometimes Salida, Tucson wins. But this time, watching the last of the light fade on the La Sals and the purple hues lighting up the western horizon fade to black, we could make as strong of a case for Moab as we could for the Sonoran Desert. And thats saying a lot.

For now, we’ll keep being nomads. We’ll keep seeing friends as often and in as amazing of places as possible.  And, most likely, we’ll continue the Spring and Fall pilgrimages to Moab and enjoy every day that we have there.


A farewell to Colorado

Fall is a special time in Colorado. But everyone knows that. The temperatures drop, the leaves turn yellow, red, and orange. Snow starts to fall regularly on the high peaks. I view it as one last fiery goodbye, a sign that Colorado is telling us, ‘Thanks for the visit! I’ll see you again next spring when the snow starts to melt. Now get your butts to Utah!’

Historically, I feel like we’ve waited too long to leave the state, mostly because the list of things I want to do expands every year and I never get anywhere close to ticking off half the items on my to-do list. But, we’ve spent too many nights being cold in Colorado in the fall, we’ve often waited for the leaves to completely burn themselves out and fall to the ground, and then we get to the desert in and that cold winter air is already tinging the red rocks of Moab, Zion is cold, Gooseberry and Hurricane are past their prime.

To everything there is a season, and dawdling too long in Colorado forces us to miss other places in their prime.

When the leaves started to get good, we went to go take a look, to give the great state a final good bye. Our favorite spot for leaf-peeping riding is the CT between Leadville and Twinlakes. We thought we’d lost our chance at the ride when we chose to work for a few hours in Buena Vista in the morning instead of riding right away and watched completely unforecasted storms roll into the valley.


Luckily, we were patient, the skies cleared, and aside from getting splashed by the water that had accumulated on the fallen leaves on the trail, had a dry spin through our own special magic land.


There seems to be an urgency in the air among people, to see the leaves while they’re good. While I don’t fully understand why the rest of the seasons don’t get that level of attention and urgency (Quick! Moab is perfect! Go! The wildflowers are exploding up high! To the hills! The tundra is turning every magic color of the rainbow!), I’m more than happy to give the fall leaves their full due.


Everything is fleeting. Summer warmth. Fall colors. Even the short days of winter.


I’ve been partaking in one of those Picture a Day Instagram trends this year, and I think that it’s done for me exactly what  was hoping it would. It’s gotten me thousands of followers.

I’m kidding. It hasn’t. 

But it has given me the ability to differentiate between days from the past 9 months. Each day, while I don’t remember everything that happened, I can point at the spot on the calendar and say, I did this, I saw that, I felt like this.

And you know what? I’ve also realized that there very simply aren’t that many days in a year.


Before leaving the state, we had to pay a visit to Winter Park to swap out our map collection (out with Colorado, in with Utah and Arizona), debate picking up an extra bike (we didn’t), and visit my parents before we disappeared for the winter. To make the most of the drive, we stopped for quick spin around Leadville.


Leadville was the surprise revelation of this summer. I love the place. I love its mountains, its coffee shops, the hilarity of the Leadville race series and everything that it entails, the riding, the people, the architecture, the dilapidation. But…it’s freakin’ cold most of the year.


The leaves on the Golddigger trail were absolutely perfect. It was the best way possible to say bye to a place that I can’t wait to get back to next summer.


The Tour de Colors continued in Winter Park with a quick spin up near Rollins Pass.


We visited our favorite multicolored aspens, saying goodbye to yet another place that we looked forward to returning to next year.


Then on to Boulder. And Sparkles!


The visit was brief, but full. Good food, hikes with my family and the dogs at Chataqua, and the standard Horanyi-family whiskey tasting. This time it was a blind taste test…I ranked Jamison over a $300 bottle of scotch that my dad had received as a gift that we hold as the gold standard at our tastings.

My mom did the same. Proof that good whiskey is wasted on our family.


Leaving mid-morning on Monday, we made the standard leaf-peeping stop at Kenosha Pass, just to see what we could see. We saw lots of people, we saw lots of leaves dulled by the weekend cold snap, and we went for a lovely little run on the Colorado Trail, saying goodbye to the trail that we’d spent most of the summer orbiting around.

It was a fitting farewell to a summer of beauty, friends, and fun. I can’t wait to come back.

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Rest, Restart, Go: Penitente, DH chainless races, and goats

One of the things that’s come to the forefront of my consciousness during this summer of Scamping is the ebb and flow of everything – adventuring, friends visiting, events, energy, motivation, busyness. Sometimes I feel like it’s gogogo, visits from friends being scheduled around visits from other friends, big days in the mountains backed up against each other, trying to squeeze in some work here and there, and then other times, we spend multiple days in a row sitting in/around the Scamp, working, watching the days go by, going for short little runs and rides interacting with no one besides each other.

While the gogogo days with friends are one of the main reasons we’ve chosen Scamplife, I think it’s the mellow days keep me sane and healthy.

Ebb and flow.

We drove from the Great Sand Dunes, where we were camped in close quarters with multitudes of other people, across the San Luis Valley to Penitente Canyon. These trails seemed to be the rage, with many people pointing us in their direction.

As we drove there, I recognized a signpost. ‘This is the Tour Divide route!’

‘Really?’ Scott asked.

‘98% sure!’

I’d sat at that signpost at a 170 degree turn during my 2012 Tour Divide , pondering whether I should go off-route to the La Garita store or continue on to Del Norte. In all honesty, I had plenty of food, I’d just been dealing with my saddest day on the Divide, having spent the previous afternoon in Salida and then making the turn away from Gunnison/Crested Butte, my home at the time, and all I wanted to do was sit down and mope. Energy and motivation had been flagging all day, and the La Garita store had seemed like a good chance to break the solitude which had defined the day. I ended up heading to Del Norte and witnessing a beautiful sunset, but the act of sitting at the sign deciding what to do apparently had stayed in the memory banks.


The camping at Penetente was quiet and lovely. I could see why I felt so lonely out there in 2012. This time around, the feeling was appreciated.


The trails were a beautiful combination of fast and flowy and rocky and chunky. Big thanks to Tom for the tracks to follow!


We spent two days enjoying the mellowness of the place. Short runs, short rides. Lots of reading.


I needed a reset day or two…because there’s always something going on in the Ark Valley, and we were headed back so that Scott could visit his favorite dentist.


Tracey gave me exactly 23 minutes notice to go on a short afterwork ride. We were sitting in the Safeway parking lot eating watermelon when the text came. ‘Sure! Why not!’ I rolled back to camp afterwards ahead of a massive cloud of rain which never reached us.


We were camped at Salida East because of it’s proximity to town, not for its scenic location or solitude. Our neighbor had two goats (and a dog and a kitty) all living in a giant blue RV. This one, Marshmallow, looked mellow from a distance, but decided that I needed to be headbutted at a regular interval. Fending off a 140lb headbutting goat by holding on to her horns isn’t easy!


Kurt and Neil ended up intersecting paths of their travels in Salida at the same time. We camped together and dawdled our way up Bear Creek and along the Rainbow trail. I love it when our guests have the decency to show up tired.


We’d gone to see Janie and Jimmy’s Bikeweek talk on their Trans-Am race. I was the speaker at the event back in 2013, I believe. I was terrified, and it was fun to see other bikepackers take the speaking spot and nail their presentation. Janie and I went for a run the following morning on S-Mountain, leaving with the promise that I’d be there to spectate the chainless downhill race that afternoon.


I’m not really sure how I ended up in a kitty onesie with a race number already attached from a previous event, but I’d been upgraded from spectator to participant. It was benefiting the high school mountain bike team, so I guess I have to support that.


They hauled all of us up to the top of S-Mountain after Scot Banks secured our chains so that we couldn’t pedal, and off we went.


Terrifying? Exhilarating? I guess it was as good of a race as any to come out of retirement for.


Plus, there was free beer. I blame it all on Janie.


Craig and Scott had made plans for the following day to ride a trail that I had labeled in my head as: Really hard. Don’t go back there.

But it had been a couple of years since I last tried to ride it. Maybe it was less scary than I remembered?


Nope. Still terrifying. Maybe in a couple more years, I’ll revisit. Or maybe I’ll just run it. That seems like the more prudent and fun thing to do.


We’d been trying to get the Scamp out of Salida East for the better part of a week now. While convenient, the camping location leaves much to be desired. But then Pete Koski, engineer from Salsa, was passing through town and wanted to ride. There was an alarm clock involved, which made me unhappy, but we busted out a lap of Cottonwood long before we normally finished breakfast during our standard leisurely mornings.

After work, we finally hitched up and moved the Scamp back into the woods.


We seem to have a habit of attracting cute animals to our camp. Scott said that we couldn’t keep Fred, that he wouldn’t fit in the trailer, and my parents didn’t respond to a photo text asking if they wanted another pet. Eventually he wandered off to find his family and friends, which was probably for the best.

It had been a hilariously fun week in Salida. The leaves were starting to change though, which meant that our time was running out. It was time to say a final goodbye to Colorado.

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Sand Dunes National Park and Blanca Peak

Before Scott and I bought the Scamp, we spent a fair amount of time analyzing our other options. Well, I think we spent a lot of time doing it, Scott thinks that we made the decision pretty quick. But that’s how we work, I fly by the seat of my pants and hate planning, Scott is a researcher. I think that lets us balance each other out – I get prevented from making (too many) spur of the moment poor life decisions, and Scott doesn’t end up spending entirely too much time reading reviews of different options.

The Scamp has proved to be amazing in many ways. Our tow vehicle, the Sportsvan (not to be confused with the $100k Sportsmobile, which is a very capable and overbuilt vehicle), while functional and workable, does not get the Scamp places very quickly. Especially if there’s a big hill or mountain pass involved. We also had some mouse poop burning somewhere in the engine making it smell like, well, poo whenever we drove it.

We sort of figured that a van of some sort instead of a trailer would encourage more wandering, but I hadn’t really anticipated the level of stay-in-one-placeness that the Scamp would lead to. Aside from Ouray, we’d pretty much been in the Ark valley the entire summer. Which wasn’t a bad thing at all, I’m no complaining, but the point of the Scamp/mobile life was to travel!

It took an amazing amount of motivation to get the Scamp hooked up and dragged over Poncha Pass. Our destination was the Great Sand Dunes National Park and then Penitente Canyon. Such treasures, so close. We had to go see them, slow driving be damned. (Actually, on flat ground, we can truck along pretty well, but gravity, damn, gravity is strong!)


We arrived at the tallest dunes in North America sometime early afternoon on a Friday when, luckily, there was still camping available. While all of the Instagram Influencer photo spots were taken, we tucked in to a nice little spot overlooking the dunes.

All I could think of each time I looked over at them while working that afternoon was, How have I lived in Colorado for 25 years and never been here?


We went for a sunset wander on the dunes, ready to test out my camera which had just come back from a warranty repair. Maybe it was our timing (National Parks are far more busy in the mornings than evenings) or maybe GSDNP just isn’t that busy, but in our two hour wander, we saw next to no one.

And then the wind picked up.


And before long, my camera was destroyed again. Somewhat my fault. Ok, entirely my fault. Back to the iPhone it is.


Occasionally during the summer, I wondered if we really needed the Scamp, was it worth the hassle over a tent on warm summer nights. But then when I scamper back into it from a hike with the wind whipping in all directions, I’m pretty happy to have it.

The next day, after a leisurely start to the day, we headed over to ride/hike Blanca Peak. Starting at ~8,000 feet, we had a long way up to 14,000+ feet, and Scott had convinced me that taking bikes up to Lake Como was a good idea. We’d heard rumors that the road up was heinous. Those rumors were true. I walked most of it, giving up in frustration after two hours of bike pushing, unceremoniously dumping my bike in a tree and putting on running shoes.


Ah, much better.

Scott made it to close to 12k feet before the trail really turned unrideable.


Apparently, Blanca’s a pretty big peak that few people try to do from the base in a day (most people are smarter than us), choosing instead to backpack to the lake, camp, and then go up the peak. My guess is that even fewer people attempt the round trip after a lazy breakfast of eggs and potatoes. We got several wary looks from people descending as we went up. Given my Crack of Noon 14’ers Club membership, I’m pretty used to these looks.


We made our way up the saddle and up the ridge, getting to the top just as nice afternoon light was hitting.


Reversing our steps didn’t take long and Scott definitely was faster on his bike than I was on foot once he got back to his wheels. I picked mine up a few miles later and from there it was a smooth coast back to the car.


Ok. That was a lie. That road is heinous. I walked several parts on the way down and had no shame about it. But, when I was rolling, we were making good time and made it back to the car three minutes before the sun disappeared behind the horizon.

Would I have been faster round-trip just on foot given how slow I went up pushing my bike? Possibly. But it sure was fun to get to roll back down.

We were worked, so our final day in the area consisted of stopping to smell the flowers.


Admiring the wind patterns in the sand.


And surfing down the sand dunes.


It’s always a debate. Stay in one area and explore deeply, or try to get new places as often as possible.

We’re gunning for balance with it. As with all things.

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Salida non-recovery with the Gypsies

Our 14ers trip reignited a love for bikepacking in me.

While I was nothing short of exhausted, I had all sorts of plans percolating in the back of my head. Ride here, run that, then ride over there, and scramble that, rinse and repeat. Aside from gaining freedom from the incessantly cold nights during the trip, I was actually a little sad to be coming back to ‘real life’ and the Scamp.

That last part might be a little laughable,  I know. But there is a beautiful simplicity to living off the bike.

And I still dream of doing a long-term bike trip that isn’t heinously hard each day.

This feeling wasn’t helped by meeting Elliot at Patio Pancake the next morning. Kurt, Scott, and I rallied for an early meal to buy Tom breakfast as a thank you for letting us keep vehicles at his house while we were out and about, and invited Elliot as he’d made it to town from the Leadville Safeway where we’d last seen him.


Over breakfast, talk centered around bikepacking – routes, trips, places we’d been, places we wanted to go. We sent Elliot off with a Kurt track from Durango to Moab, which was to be his next leg of the trip once he finished the CT. His plan was to leave later that morning and hit the trail.


The next morning, having learned that Elliot was vying for the Laziest Bikepacker of the Year award, we invited him back to breakfast with Nicholas and Lael of Gypsy by Trade, who were also touring the Colorado Trail and had landed in Salida.


Once again, we talked about bikepacking – routes, trips, places we’d been, places we wanted to go.

Oh, the agony of being tired. The agony of recovery!

The struggle is real. I wanted so bad to be in the middle of my very own bikepacking trip.

Luckily, Lael had met Janie during Trans-am over the summer, and Janie lived in Salida, so we decided to go on a girls adventure the next day.

Morning Three post-trip started out the same as Morning One and Morning 2: Patio Pancake. Number 2, eggs over medium, pancakes, real butter, please.

From there, we rode bikes up to Blanks Cabin, same route that I’d taken just two weeks earlier with the boys. Turns out, it was a lot easier without bikepacking gear.


Bikes got stashed in the woods, and up we went.


Right up to the point where we crested the saddle, fighting horrendous winds, and saw a giant wall of black coming towards us. We turned around pretty quick right then.


We ran down to the bikes, coasted down the 3,000 foot dirt road climb, and ended up at Elevations Brewing.


Lael is a racer of the best kind. When she’s not a racer, she’s a chiller. And that means she doesn’t have to ride bikes real fast when she not in a race to show people how fast she actually is. Refreshing.


Somewhat tipsy from the beer, we rode back to Janie’s house and made a quick turnaround to meet Przmo and Saska, who were also bikepacking the CT with the plan of heading down to bikepack some of the AZT on their way to Mexico. Lael and Nick had toured with them in Poland previously.

Some more beverages were consumed down by the river.

Before we went to Poco’s for burritos and margaritas.

And before I knew it, we had Lael in the back of the van heading back towards our camp so that she and I could hike the 22 miles of CDT from Tin Cup Pass to Cottonwood Pass, one of my bucket list items for the summer.

Clearly, this had the potential to be a terrible idea, but beer makes me brave.

We set Lael up with my bikepacking sleeping bag, a piece of memory foam that the previous campers had left in the fire pit and a towel for a pillow. Turns out, the girl can sleep almost anywhere. I gave her my big down jacket in case she got cold, but it was still balled up next to her when we got up in the morning. She also started using the Croc sandals that were left in the fire pit as her camp shoes. They were later adopted by Scott and me (a little too big for me, a little too small for Scott, but we can both wear them when needed).

Scott drove us to St Elmo and we started walking. First on the 4×4 road unsuitable for Minivan travel, then finally up the trail. Up and up and up.


The route climbed over a series of passes, dropping down into the valleys in between. From the top of each pass, you can see the next one that you have to get to.


The autumn colors were absolutely stunning, the tundra every shade of brown, and red, and gold.


Each pass brought a new giant view. A new valley to traverse. New mountains to ogle at.


Trail that would have been spectacular on a mountain bike, had it not been closed thanks to a very anti-bike Continental Divide Trail Coalition. But that’s a rant for another time. Or really, that’s a rant you’re pretty much guaranteed to hear if you ever hang out with me on the CDT in any shape or form.


We stopped only for one extended lunch break, otherwise, meandering along. Up. And down. Up. And down.


And then, as mid-day turned to afternoon, Cottonwood Pass appeared in the distance. We stuck our thumbs out and hitched a ride in a Jeep piloted by what seemed like a fairly new transplant to the Front Range of Colorado down to Buena Vista. I told him all the good places to go eat in Boulder. From there, hitching from directly across the street from a federal prison, we caught a ride that took me back to Nathrop where Scott picked me up, and took Lael back to Salida.

It was an absolutely brilliant outing in the mountains of Colorado.

And then, thankfully, Nicholas and Lael skipped town, because I was tired. And I really needed to work on that recovery thing.

But it was fun to see them. In my mind, they are the masters of keeping it simple, and there’s a lot to be learnt from their approach to life. In my (always humble) opinion, the world definitely needs more people like Nick and Lael. I hope our paths cross again soon.