Zen On Dirt

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PNW adventuring ‘on the way home’

In my perfect little world, traveling by mini-van is a glamorous lifestyle. Shaking the wet off of our tent in the morning while trying to not step in one of the several large mud puddles that had formed in the area was distinctly non-glamorous.

We had beta to ride a trail on the way up to the Mt Saint Helens overlook. Most of the land in the area is National Forest with a few protected areas off limits to bikes and then a few areas completely off limits to humans…which I get. Probably not great to hike into the crater of an active volcano.

We got to the trailhead as the rain started to fall.

“I’m not riding in the rain,” I declared. I’m a Colorado and Arizona girl. I don’t do water falling from the sky. Plus, wet and muddy bikes and wet and muddy clothes when traveling in a van is no bueno. “Let’s go up to the lookout, and if it clears, we can go for a little hike.”

The lookout was beautiful…except that all of Mt Saint Helens was in a giant cloud. I sort of get the impression that it spends the majority of its time in a giant cloud. With not much better to do and with a smidge of cell reception, and thus internet access, we settled down in the front seats of the van to work. For several hours, we saw hopeful people drive up, take a look at the cloud bank and drive away. We never did see the mountain. We never did motivate to hike. We did see countless storms move up the valley, slam into the mountain, and deposit their rain on us.

Let’s go find camp. If we ride Ape Canyon tomorrow, we’ll be back up here. Maybe the weather will be better.

Two people who’s opinions I trust had recommended Ape Canyon when I first put out the ‘Where should I ride in the PNW’ question on The FaceBook. We headed for the trailhead, passing the sign for Ape Cave on the way. Ape cave? we asked.

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Turns out there’s a giant lava tube to explore! So we did. It was wet and drippy outside. It was wet and drippy inside. It was a cool temperatures outside. It was a cool temperatures inside. We doodled around a bit before decided we didn’t want to dedicate 2.5 hours to traversing the 1.5 mile tube and heading back to camp.

We woke in the morning, drove to the trail head, and started climbing.

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In the trees, the trail was fun.

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After breaking treeline, or ash-line, we were blown away. The Plains of Abraham proved to be amazing riding with even more spectacular views.

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We even got a few glimpses of the top of the mountain…until we ended up back at the parking lot where we were the day prior. Then it was socked in and we watched people drive up, look at the cloud bank, and drive away while eating lunch.

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The descent down Stevens Creek was a hoot. Deep, ashy trail with ‘gentle’ ruts. A little like skiing…except not quite in control.

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It was all fun and games until the final 900 foot climb back to the cars. We ran into a hiker in the parking lot and struck up a conversation. ‘This is the best kept secret in Washington,’ he admitted to us. ‘Don’t tell anyone.’

Lucky for him, it’s a pain in the ass to drive to from anywhere, so I don’t think it’s in danger of being overrun by people.

We headed towards Hood River, trying to find a hot spring on the way, but being turned back by me being a chicken and having a fear of climbing down exposed rocks. I need to get over this fear, stat, because I hate being lame.

A morning tip at a coffee shop took us to Surveyors Ridge. A long road climb with big views of Mt Hood amazed us.

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Fun trails on the way back down with big views of Mt Hood were even better.

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In the parking lot, we struck up conversation with another mountain biker. Where should we go run? Where should we go camp? Where should we ride?

Go to the waterfalls just down the road. Camp at Smith Rocks. Ride anywhere in Bend.

So we went for an afternoon jaunt up to a classic Oregon waterfall.

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Instead of going all the way to Smith Rocks, we found the one spot in the entire world where AT&T has service and Verizon doesn’t. I spent the entire evening rubbing in the fact that I could check email and Scott couldn’t. Actually, he could, and did, tether off of my phone, but the occurrence of me having reception and not him is so rare, it’s worth celebrating. And really, I don’t care that much about email.

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Classic camp. Chips. Bottle of wine. One pot dinner cooking. AT&T cell reception. 4 bars. 4G. 

We headed to Smith Rocks, a well-known climbing area, in the morning to find out that it was National Trails Day. No fee needed! Score. Actually, our Nationals Parks pass probably worked, but it was the principle of the matter.

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With only ~10 miles of trails, I convinced Scott to run instead of ride.

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A good decision because we were able to go up and over Misery Ridge. A good decision because we got to spend a decent amount of time outside. A poor decision because we were wrecked. There was much uphill hiking to be had and downhill shuffling.

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The bonus of stopping at Smith Rocks instead of Bend proper was that we got to by-pass the city entirely, avoiding any and all traffic on our way out. Our destination for the night – a remote hot spring on the Oregon/Idaho border.

We turned off the highway on a small dirt road, found a campsite, parked the van, and walked a little ways around a bend in the river.

There, on an island, was the hot spring.

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Wading across was only treacherous because I had a camera in hand that I didn’t want to lose.

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We soaked while watching the sun set, knowing that the trip was all but over.

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But man, what a trip it was.


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PNW tour continues – Apparently we did a lot of stuff

We’re somewhere on the order of one week away from launching into our ‘big’ summer adventure, and I’m still a month behind here. I is totally failing at this recording of life business. Still, I want to get it down before we head north again.

Back to where I left the narrative off – We spent the night at the Hoh rainforest campground surrounded by giant trees and a handful of RVs. Interestingly enough, there didn’t seem to be a huge RV culture up in that area of the world. Most people who we camped near at the three official campgrounds that we utilized this trip were tent camping. I feel like the southwest/four corners area has far more RVs per capita than the PNW. Which is funny, because it rains a lot more in the PNW.

Energy was definitely starting to run a little bit low for both Scott and I by this time in the trip and we were almost ready to welcome the rain that was forecasted. Of course, the morning dawned clear.

A run through the Hoh area fairly quickly devolved into a hike, and then into a meandering through the close-in nature loops.

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It felt ancient in there.

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And magical.

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It made me wish we had backpacking gear so that we could see beyond our five-mile radius. Someday, we said.

The skies were still clear-ish when we pulled into the Mt. Muller parking lot a few hours later. A must-ride, we were told by a reliable source. I looked up at the mountain, searching my brain for any excuse not to pull the bikes out. I was tired. The last thing I wanted to do was climb steep PNW trails (Trails there are either straight up, straight down, or flat. They haven’t discovered railroad grade in that area of the world yet.)

Hot springs? I suggested. The Sol Duc hotsprings, part of the NP, were just down the highway, and a ways up another road. There wasn’t much to do up the road besides camp and soak in the commercial hot springs…but we had to find somewhere to camp anyhow, and hot springs sure did sound nice. And they had $14 dollar camping, which wasn’t much more than traditional $12 National Park camping.

I guess Scott was as tired as I was because he agreed.

We soaked. We went and set up camp and read for a while. Then we went back and soaked some more.

As it turned out, a rest day was exactly what we both needed. Running to a small waterfall in the morning was a great way to start the day.

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So much green!

The climb up Muller was indeed steep, but with fresh(er) legs, we both enjoyed the ascent. The clouds rolled over us and we were sure we were about to get rained on.

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Until we climbed out of the clouds, catching glimpses of peaks in the sea of white and Mt Olympus far in the distance.

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It was a screaming descent back down. Definitely a must-do if you’re in the area.

Our Olympic Peninsula time was officially coming to an end as we pointed to the east end of the land mass to put the car on another ferry to Seattle. But no visit to the Peninsula is complete without a second visit to Little Devil’s Lunchbox in Port Angeles. Burritos, BBQ, oh my!

Seattle held three goals: Visit Scott’s sister and brother in law and meet their kitties, visit Scott’s friend Martin and go for a little ride and get some ride beta, and eat some good food.

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We sampled a Cuban place, ate Trophy Cupcakes (theoretically Seattle’s best cupcakes – I thought they overdid the frosting and everything was too sweet, but that’s just me), followed Martin around some twisty, rooty local trails, went hiking in Discovery Park with Nick and Lisa and watched seals playing in the ocean, and then just 24 hours after we’d arrived, we shot south, avoiding the worst of the famed Seattle traffic, headed for Mount Saint Helens.

Then it got dark. And it started to rain. As in pour. We drove the pitch black highway watching google maps countdown the miles to our destination. 11:30pm arrival? Seriously?

We pulled up to a hotel in a random town, fully ready to splurge for our first hotel room of the trip. After hours – Call this number. Rooms are $125.

Forget that, we said and got back in the car. The dark miles took an eternity until we saw the most welcome ‘You are entering National Forest’ sign. The rain abated. The first left, we pulled off onto a dirt road. Deeming it deserted, we set up our tent in the middle of the road. We settled into our little abode only to hear the rain start back up. We were in the PNW after all and we couldn’t have perfect weather forever.


Watching Tour Divide Records Fall

As I sit here, I’m watching my Tour Divide record, which I set in 2012, get broken. Not just broken, but smashed, pulverized, crushed. Ms Lael is running almost a full 24 hours ahead of my record pace right now in southern Colorado, after having only pulled away from my ghost pink dot nearing the end of Wyoming. And I’m not surprised. I said at the beginning of the race, that given good luck and good weather, she’d go sub-18 days compared to my 19 hours 3 hours.

I figured that because given what I knew of my record run (snowy passes for the first 4 days, a strained achilles from hiking through snow, a bruised thumb tendon from pushing my bike with aerobars through snow leading to an inability to shift with my right hand, and a cut on my foot that was leaking pus to the point that I probably should have had checked out) and my dawdling through towns, especially the second half of the course where I felt pretty comfortable with my lead and with my chances of going under the current 25 day record, that I could have gone pretty close to 18 days.

And I knew that Lael was stronger. I’d gotten to ride with her when they came down to Tucson for her to run the Tucson marathon. I was impressed by that whole visit. 

Then (based entirely what I’ve read off of Nicholas’ blog), she came down with a cold and could barely breathe through Montana, very similar symptoms to Mike Hall’s amazing run in 2013 that was thwarted by wild fires in NM. My ghost and her pink dot paralleled each other nearly identically…except for town stops. She was in and out in at least half the time, slowly making up the extra time that she’d spent sleeping the first few nights.

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Lael checking out Scott’s Lenz on a Global Fat Bike Day ride, December 2013. 

And then she took off. Flying on the trail. Flying through towns. And I am so beyond stoked for her.

I always knew that the record would fall sooner rather than later. When I finished the ride in 2012, the first thing I said to Lynda, who was my coach at the time, was, ‘That was a good first run through. Next time I race for real.’

Of course, the second run through never came for me (and probably won’t in the future), so I knew it was just a matter of time until someone would come to trim the fat off of my time.

I really wanted the record to stay in the dirtbag bikepacker family. I really wanted a bad-ass women who wasn’t afraid to do crazy stuff (like ride her bike from her home in Anchorage to the start in Banff) to put down an amazing ride on the route.

I love the fact that while I spent the year training and preparing for the Divide, she decided to do it while touring around in Israel this spring, and that was after she and Nicholas had toured around in South Africa for the winter.

I love the fact that she rode a 1,900 mile prologue before spending a week in Banff recovering and then racing. People who pull stupid shit like that, and pull it off, go straight to the top of my bad-asses list.

She clearly knows how to live off of the bike without the creature comforts that we’re all conditioned to believe we need. I thought I needed one ‘real’ meal per day, for example. Other people think they need hotel rooms. Living on a fairly minimal budget and touring half the year, I’m sure she and Nicholas have turned the art of eating from grocery stores/gas stations while riding into an art.

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Pretty sure she never stops smiling. 

And she’s on a mission. More than anything else, she’s poking gaping holes into where I got lazy on the route.

The records are coming down because people are being more focused. They’re having more moving hours on the bike, less futzing, and faster moving speeds.

For a little bit there, I was beating myself up about wasting time on the route while watching my pink ghost…giving myself a hard time about choices that I made 3 years ago. But you know what? I wouldn’t trade the three hours I spent in Salida talking with friends at Absolute or seeing Kep and his kids, or the two hours I spent in Pie Town eating and talking to Eddie Clark, or the whiskey that I drank with Matthew Lee at Brush Mountain Lodge, or the countless other little time-wasters that made me smile for a faster time. No way.

When I finished that ride, I was pretty proud of what I’d accomplished. Sure, I’d screwed up some things pretty majorly and even more things minorly, and I knew it, but I was stoked at the experiences that I’d had out there. And I felt that I’d set a pretty good, but not impossible bar, for girls to aim at.

I hope that regardless of whether Lael’s time (assuming she holds it together for the last 1,000 miles) lasts as a record for one year or ten, she had/is having an amazing time.

Something tells me she’s smiling her way through southern Colorado as I type this.


Olympic Peninsula Explorations

Before we left Bellingham, I insisted that we buy an actual paper map of the Olympic Peninsula. (I’ve never been much of a look-at-maps-online type of a person, probably because I’ve always used a Mac, and Scott refused to make a Mac version of Topofusion, but that’s an entirely different story.) I wanted to be able to see the big picture of where we were going, what our options were, but mostly because I love looking at a map the night before and trying to imagine what a place looks like, and then have my mind completely blown because it looks completely different. It happens every time.


With a good weather forecast, we opted for a drive up Hurricane Ridge Road, the main road in the National Park. We started up with no clear vision of what we’d do when we got up there. Would we be able to see anything? Would the wind be blowing like mad? Would it be overrun by people like many national parks?

We were so pleasantly surprised on so many levels.

First, we took some pictures of others taking pictures of the cute little deer in front of the mountains. Scott joked that they were robotic deer that they sent out each morning for photo-ops.


Then we opted to pull the bikes out to enjoy one of the few dirt roads that are open to bikes in National Parks, riding up to Obstruction Point. What looked like a fairly benign dirt road on the map turned out to be a beautiful ridge traverse with huge views of Mt Olympus and the surrounding glaciated peaks.


And the road was rough enough that we only saw a handful of cars during our 16 mile round trip. Sometimes I forget that riding dirt roads can be a downright enjoyable experience.


The ride also gave us the chance to look down into a couple of valleys and understand how different trails linked up. ONP is one of the most popular parks for backpacking, and we were starting to understand the landscape enough that we could see how different ridges and valleys linked together. Someday, we said.


Back at the visitors center, we had a bit of lunch before donning the running shoes and heading out Klahhane Ridge. As the one with the watch and GPS, I got to be adventure leader, a privilege that I abused by taking us out farther and longer than we’d previously agreed.


It was worth it as we gained the ridge and had giant views of the mountains to our south and the ocean and Canada to the north. We could even see Mt. Baker to the northeast and another one of the other volcanos (Rainier?) to the east. Man, when the clouds lift…it’s beautiful country.


We went back to the visitors center and bought a pile of fries while taking in the views for just a little bit longer. We’d spent nearly 8 hours up on the ridge and had gotten to see the shadows and light change on the peaks and valleys, something that doesn’t happen unless you spend a full day in an area.

We camped at the National Park campground, setting up the mobile office amongst the trees.


Ron Thompson, multi-time AZT 750 finisher and brains behind (but not the organizer of) the Olympic 420 bikepacking route, invited us out to ride the following day on the Olympic Discovery Route. It was a trail that we would have completely bypassed if it wasn’t for Ron’s insistence that it was worth our time.


It was.

While the entire trail is 25 miles long, neither Scott nor I were up for a 50 mile day. We’ve learned that if we want to maintain our energy levels for an entire trip, doing 50 mile days on trail or really long runs is a badbadbad idea. So we did 14 miles out, had lunch, pedaled back, and had a beer at the local Dam Bar. It was a pretty amazing trail in that it never really felt like it climbed on the way out, but we flew on the way back. Low effort riding, I love it.


With the weather forecast claiming that we only had that afternoon of good weather left, we decided to make the most of it, and after grabbing a shower at the local RV park by the Olympic Discovery Trail, we headed west to the coast and the beach near Forks, the rainiest city/town in the US with ~150 inches of rain per year.

The National Park owns much of the coastline, and the Pacific Northwest Trail actually follows it for about 80 miles, ending on the far north end of the Olympic Peninsula. We headed down to the beach late in the afternoon, finding weekend campers ranging from families to partiers camped out among the driftwood.


We left them behind cruising down the beach, watching the waves crash. Neither Scott nor I have spent much time around the ocean and wave dynamics are still fascinating for us so we spent massive amounts of time staring out into the ocean to gleefully exclaim ‘BIG WAVE!’ when one came crashing to shore.


It’s the small things.

We made camp at another National Park campground next to the Ho rainforest. We looked up at the sky while eating dinner, contemplating our next move, Do you think it’s actually going to rain tomorrow?


Create your own adventure – PNW-style

We had no plan for our trip. When we came upstairs from Janet’s basement on Tuesday morning, her partner Ed asked us, ‘So what are you guys up to today?’

‘Ummm…I think we’re going to head up to the Mt Baker area and maybe go for a run. And then camp. And from there, anything can happen.’

This form of travel has many advantages. No itinerary means that you can spend as long or as little time as you want in any specific spot. You can take advice from people who you meet on the side of the road about places to go, things to see, and diners to try. If you’re tired, you can spend the day lounging. If you’re energetic, you can go ride and run in a single outing.  Being happy camping anywhere on public land also adds to the overall flexibility.

And then there are downsides. Many people believe that the more choices a person has in their life, the more unhappy they are. In my opinion, at least in terms of trip planning, this can be contributed to FOMO (fear of missing out). If you have no set plan, you have the option of running Trail A, B, or C, or maybe riding Trail D, E, or F, would be better, or maybe you should run Trail E and ride Trail B. If you spend your time constantly second-guessing whatever you chose to do with your day, it’s going to be a frustrating experience.


Maximizers want to make the absolute most of their vacation. Satisfiers are pretty happy if they do some cool things and don’t really worry about the best way to pack the most experiences into a given amount of time. Scott and I are pretty laid back satisfiers with most aspects of our lives, including this two week vacation to the PNW. Our stated goal was: Do some cool things. Spend time together. Pretty simple.


We drove through endless trees to the Mt Baker ski resort. Everything was covered in clouds. It seems that much of the time, everything is covered in clouds. Didn’t matter, we waved our fingers at a map at a trail head and chose a running route, a loop that we knew we’d get turned around on because of snow, but was worth a try.


We ended up climbing up some snow to gain the first pass to look into the next snow covered basin. It made it easy to turn back around after a snack on a rock.


We camped by a beautiful waterfall, the roar of the water drowning out the noise of the exactly zero cars that passed on the road. It didn’t rain, but the clouds didn’t lift either.

We rolled back into Bellingham in the morning to have breakfast with Jenny and Josh at the hippy-dippy breakfast place in downtown Bellingham before rolling south out of town for good. I love me a good hippy diner.


Road trip essentials: Reading materials, National Parks pass, Sriracha. The sunglasses weren’t really needed for much of the trip. 

The destination of the day was a small state park on Widbey Island where there seemed to be promise of some sort of trails. Upon closer examination, it didn’t really seem to have much, so we walked down to the beach instead, watching a scuba fisherman pull a giant cod out the water.


I asked if I could take his picture, he asked if we were mountain bikers.


‘Go ride Ebee State Park,’ he told us. It’s just down the road.

And so we did.


I’m now convinced that not all fisherman lie. The trails were incredibly fun, swoopy, flowy, and moderately effortless.

Our end destination for the day was the Olympic Peninsula and a ride that a FaceBook friend had recommended to Scott just outside of the National Park. So we put the van on a boat! Van on a boat! The only downside was losing my hat to the wind while acting out Titanic on the front bow. It’s okay…the hat needed to go. Scott called it ratty. But it was my favorite hat.


We did a fair bit of gravel grinding in the van to finally find our trailhead. A combination of a closed road and a faulty navigator (me) led to several off-course miles, but in the end, we set up the trusty tent just feet from a trail that looked promising to bikes. Talk about no approach to a ride…

The plan was to ride up Dungeness Creek, west on some forest service road, and then descend Gold Creek, which we were told was ‘pure gold’.


There was some hike-a-bike on the way up. Enough that I got a little bit grumpy. It really was one of my first sustained hike-a-bikes in a while and I questioned the sanity of the ride.

But the trail was beautiful. Just slightly too steep for my flagging motivation.

And then there was the part where the trail was washed out. But by that time, I’d undergone an attitude adjustment, because really, who can be annoyed when surrounded by giant trees. Hike-a-bike, whatevs, I do it all the time.


The Gold Creek descent really was pure gold. I’ve never seen a trail use its elevation quite as well. And then there’s the thing that you couldn’t find a rock on it if you tried. That can be fun too.

We headed back to Port Angeles for lunch at the Little Devils Lunchbox, which newly qualifies as the best Yelp! find ever. Burritos that rivaled Seis and BBQ that was pretty out of this world.

Then off to the Elwa River, one of the subjects of Patagonia’s film Damnation about the history and present impacts of dams around the country. (If you haven’t watched it yet, do it, I’m pretty sure you can stream it on Netflix.) The goals were three-fold: See Nature trying to reclaim the area after the two dams were taken out, find a camping spot, and visit the hot springs.


All three goals were achieved highly successfully. We spent some time watching birds at the dam, standing in awe at the destruction caused by the harnessing of hydro-power. Then we jogged the 2.5 miles up to the hot springs for a lovely evening soak.


And then we joined the whopping 3 other campers in the National Park campground. The rest of the evening  was spent in fine fashion – with a map and a bottle of wine. There were adventures to be planned.



Bellingham Ski to Sea Weekend

Racing is funny. Racing when you have no idea what to expect is even funnier. As Scott and I sat on the beach we made a pact, We’re just going to laugh our way through this Ski to Sea weekend, regardless of what happens. As it turned out, this mental practice, for the most part, wouldn’t be needed. Thankfully.

The Boundary Bay Brewing women’s team had been dominating the race for the past 15 years with a fairly consistent group of girls. This year, due to broken bones, life events, maybe a few babies, I don’t remember exactly, they were down, well, nearly everyone. In a last minute attempt to field a team, they reached out to friends, friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends. I got the invite as our friends Gary and Patti were friends with the event director for the brewery who’d taken my Tour Divide ride as inspiration to ride the route with her boy a year or two later. I’d agreed a month out, I was one of three people who’d confirmed when the rosters had to go in to get published in the race bible.

So it’s fair to say that everything was pretty last minute for the team.

And all I have to say is, Mad props for putting together such an amazing group of women at the 11th hour.

Women, especially highly competitive women can be…well, sometimes it can be hard to get along.

But as it turned out, everyone was pretty much awesome. Two runners, three cyclists, two canoe racers, and a kayaker. So here’s what was really cool, at least for me – the vast majority of the girls had raced at an incredibly high level in their sport at some point in time and then had other priorities take over. Everyone was still a badass, even without the laser focus that it takes to be at the top of their games, but there seemed to be a level of…maturity?…that nothing really had to be proved any more. And this led to a much more relaxed environment for the weekend. As competitors, yes, we wanted to win, but to me, at least, it seemed that everyone realized there was a lot more to life than the Bellingham Olympics. Which is a perspective that only comes with time away from serious racing, I think.


Our first night, we were whisked off to Boundary Bay for some dinner and beer. The whole weekend is a giant party in town and we got to meet some of the people involved with the whole event, including the bike coordinator who said that the ideal bike for my course with the dry conditions would be a cross bike with file tread. Good thing I had the Spearfish. It’s the person, not the bike, right?

On Saturday, I went out with my male counterpart on the guy’s team to pre-ride the course. A fairly flat, urban assault type course, which clocked in at 12.5 miles. Definitely what I’ve spent the past several years training for… We met up with Tim, a Bellingham local who was also pre-riding, and he saved us several wrong turns. He also gave me directions on getting back to the team house via bike paths afterwards, which was awesome.


Tim and Kevin, on the correct style of bikes. 


While orange and fast, not the correct type of bike for the mostly gravel course.

The team party dinner consisted of paella, fresh-made in front of our noses. And beer. Because we were a brewery team.

First cook the chicken. Then the rice and chorizo.


Then add “blooming” saffron.


Then the seafood.


Present the pile of deliciousness to hungry people.


It was super cool to see the steps of the process. And it tasted amazing.

There was a platter of dessert, and I learned from the returning girls that the secret was to make a ‘dessert’ plate and hide it in the fridge to eat the next day because we were all too stuffed with paella to even think about eating any more.

On Sunday, racing was, racing. I got smoked on my leg by a former Ironman triathlete riding for the rival team who had just recently switched to cross. She flew by me on her little cross bike with aerobars like I was standing still. But for 48 minutes, I pedaled as hard as I could and only blew one gravelly corner with my tires pumped up to 50 psi.

We ended up losing the overall by 20 seconds, which was a little heartbreaking as we all thought back to our races and tried to determine where we could have eeked out 20 more seconds. A cross bike for me…for one.


In the end, the subdued bummed-ness didn’t last for that long. A race is a race is a race, and we all raced as hard as we could on the given day. That maturity thing…it brings perspective.

It didn’t take long for the dessert plates to come out from the fridge, some beer to be poured, and hours spent lounging away learning about each others’ sports. I learned about different kayaks, how to canoe in the middle of winter in Michigan, running techniques, and how finding paddling partners for races is a little like asking people to prom. I’ve hung out with a lot of really good bike racers in my life, it was uber-cool to hear about other sports.


And then there was the part where everyone had cool lives outside of racing – teachers, forest managers, moms, event planners, accountants.

Bed came early, but in the morning, those of us who were left went for a run along the coast. Scott and I got called ‘land-lovers’ when we stopped to stare at the ocean, mistaking a buoy for a sea creature.


We made it all the way to the brewery, declaring the run a B-double E-double R U N, beer run, beer run! before heading back to the house to clean up.


The Canadians went to drive to catch their flight, Scott and I headed to a coffee shop to plan our next move.

It’s not raining, might as well ride. Galbraith was where everyone told us to go, the near-town trail system. It had an endless number of squiggly trails complete with mud and wet roots and we dorked around for an hour or two before headed back to town. Sure, fun riding in the trees is…well, fun, but we wanted views. We’re desert and mountain people, apparently.


Janet, the owner of Boundary Bay, graciously hosted us for the night, letting us eat some of the dessert that was still left over. I guess we didn’t really need to make our dessert plates two nights prior…

Tuesday morning, as we pointed out of town, race weekend was officially over. It was definitely a fun and cool experience that we walked away from with many new friends, friends who you’d call up if you were passing through town, and since they live in Bellingham, Canmore, Golden (the Canadian Golden), and various other cool places, I’d place a bet that our paths will cross again, whether or not we all get back together to try to regain the winning streak of Boundary Bay Brewing next year.


Heading to the PNW…thus starts a trip

Back around mid-April, back when we had nothing planned for the summer besides my jury duty and having to dog sit for my parents in June, I got a random email. Apparently there was a race called Ski to Sea in Bellingham, WA, and an all-girls team, and not just any all-girls team but the Boundary Bay Brewing one that had won the women’s overall for the past 15 years, needed a mountain biker for their team, over Memorial Day weekend, in a month’s time. Would I be interested?

I looked at the calendar and called over to the next room, ‘Hey Scott, any interest in going to the Pacific Northwest for three weeks at the end of May and beginning of June?’



I wrote back, ‘I’d love to come.’ And thus a trip to a whole new area of the country for me was put into motion. Never mind that there seemed to be a fair bit of confusion about the two different bike legs of the race and their respective lengths, it was a reason to go to the PNW!

Sometimes all I need is an excuse.

I arrived in Salt Lake City with the intention of leaving 48 hours later and taking a scenic route up to Bellingham. Various things delayed our departure, but in the interim, we got some fun packed in there. Flexibility, right?


Firstly, a trip to Red Iguana. If you like mole sauce and Mexican food, this is a place not to be missed. You’ll wait for an hour outside for a table regardless of when you go, but it’s totally worth it. Eight different mole sauces to choose from and food to die for.

I went on an impromptu ‘get out of the house’ run late one afternoon, and figuring that I’d go out for 30 minutes and loop back around, I didn’t bring any water. Or a light. (I’m not very good at learning…) When I found myself high above the Bonneville Shoreline trails climbing up to the beacon on Wire Mountain, I started to wonder about the intelligence of my decision making. 8pm, soft turnaround time, I told myself. Gotta get down before dark. 8pm rolled by, I could nearly see the top. 8:15, truly hard turnaround time, I told myself, doubling my pace. If I could get to the top, I could take a different route down, avoiding the dreaded out-and-back.


8:09 at the top! Woot. I pretty much butt-slid down the steep front face. Now I understand why the loop is often done in the opposite direction. I made it home by streetlight…luckily Scott has no concept of time and hadn’t even realized it was dark, so no one worried about me.

Scott joined me for a jaunt up Grandeur Peak the next day. While the riding in SLC does little to inspire me, there are some pretty awesome running trails to be explored.


The west was in mid-spring monsoons, but we lucked out with a rainless run and minimal mud. I think if I grew up in SLC, I’d have become a trail runner. After doing some trail running around Boulder, it amazes me that I became a mountain biker…


Anyhow, finally, we were off with three days to cover the vast distance between SLC and Bellingham.

First stop was Boise where Dave Byers gave us a GPS of a favorite loop of his.  It was all fun and games until the storms that had been threatening all day finally moved it. Clearly, we had no rain jackets, so we put all dorking around aside and pedaled in a highly motivated fashion back to the car. The skies unleashed just as we got into the front seats to change. Talk about timing…


Three more hours of driving brought us to National Forest Land where we set up our brand-new tent. This is the first tent that Scott and I have owned together. I think it’s a big step in our relationship.


Heading further north in the morning, we pointed for Leavenworth, a Bavarian-inspired town that is…a little over the top. But it’s known for its riding, for good reason. While driving, Scott interneted on his not-dumb phone until he found us a ride.


There were trees, and ferns, and flowers. And smooth trail where you couldn’t find a rock if you tried.


And there were views. Big ones. And jumps, and berms, and techy stuff that I could barely walk down let alone ride.


We camped just up from the trail head at the start of National Forest Land. I love me some public land camping. The rain threatened all afternoon and finally unleashed just as it got dark. I guess they weren’t kidding about the PNW being wet…

The next day, we couldn’t resist a stop on the Pacific Crest Trail. What is this mysterious trail that people talk about all the time? Is it all that it’s cracked up to be?


From Steven’s Pass, we headed up the ski resort. While it should have all been covered in snow, the snow-less Washington winter made for passable trail with some good sections of snow. It really was the best case scenario for me, who was slated to race in 48 hours. Some slow-moving outside time that didn’t let me beat my legs to a pulp. Sometimes I need to be saved from myself.


Verdict, the short few miles that we did to the top of the resort has definitely kindled an interest in a thru-hike someday. Someday.

And on to Bellingham! With directions to the team house firmly in hand, we by-passed it completely and headed straight for the ocean. Holy big and blue! I hadn’t seen the ocean in forevers.


We had no clue what to expect from the weekend. I think it made Scott a little bit nervous, but I’ve always been one to take things as they come. As we sat there watching the waves and the birds, all I could hope for was that at the very least, the girls on the team would be cool, but also knowing that even if the weekend turned out to be a complete flop, it had provided the motivation to come on a trip that I’d been wanting to do for a long time.

The PNW, green, damp, and completely unknown, at least to me.