Zen On Dirt


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To the City

I knew our streak of Scamp sleeping and camping would come to an end eventually. And I wasn’t particularly looking forward to it. In the past, we’d look forward to the amenities that came along with visiting family either in Salt Lake or Boulder. A roof over the head. Electricity. A full kitchen with a refrigerator. A bed!

But with the Scamp, we have exceptionally luxurious living conditions. I was sad to have to give up my little kitchen where I have everything I need and nothing that I don’t.

But. I had to get to Boulder somehow. Scott had nieces and nephews in SLC who were dying to see the Scamp. So we left the woods, and temporarily returned to civilization.

SLC, and the whole Wasatch Front area is definitely the biggest metro area we’ve been in since driving through PHX on our way out of Tucson. The cars were overwhelming and the driving of the Scamp through Salt Lake traffic was nerve wracking.

So many billboards. So many buildings. So many people. All of them in a hurry to get somewhere. To call it a culture shock after over two weeks deep in the woods would be an understatement.

‘This is temporary,’ I had to keep telling myself. ‘And SLC really isn’t that bad, as far as cities go. At least there are mountains.’

We parked the Scamp in Scott’s grandmother’s backyard and promised it that it wasn’t being abandoned.

I’ve found that the best way to combat Back-to-civilization-itis is to try to get outside as much as possible. We’d convinced Scott’s brother, Brian, to join us on a sunset/almost full moon hike up Mt Wire.

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We’d done the same hike on a full moon the last time we were in SLC. I’m determined to make it an Ez-visits-SLC tradition.

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There’s no better place to be as the sun is dropping in the west and the moon is rising in the east.

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It’s always fun dropping into the city long after dark.

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We slept in the Scamp that night, which was wonderful as we got to drink coffee while talking to Scott’s grandmother, who always has some good stories to tell. She also keeps her kitchen stocked with M&Ms and Skittles for the grand and great-grand kids.

The task of the day was to go ride Park City, as I’ve heard things about Park City being the most amazing place to ride.

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So I had to go check it out.

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Turns out, Park City is not the place to be on a Sunday morning, unless you like to stand on the side of the trail and wait for conga lines for 20 riders to pass by.

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We eventually got on some lesser used trails, which redeemed the day. But I guess with the combination of the crowds and the lack of rocks, I’m not really in a hurry to go back. I’m spoiled rotten. I know.

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All the kiddos and associated family members convened at Scott’s parents’ later that afternoon. Mass chaos. Loud chaos. I’ve learned to approach it all with a sense of humor because the decibel level that exists for multiple hours on end can border on absurd.

And then I used the best excuse I could think of at the time to escape for a little while, ‘I’m going to go try to get the Strava QOM on Mt Wire, I’ll be back in a couple of hours.’

For 30-some-odd minutes, all could hear was the beating of my heart in my ears. It was glorious.

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I had to make quick work of the descent, as the sun was setting and I was entirely unprepared for the dark, having left my headlamp in the car. It was a glorious way to end the day, and we retired to the Scamp for one more night before I’d head to Colorado to watch the doggies.

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See ya later Great Salt Lake!

I felt like the end of a season had come. Aside from two nights in a bed while Salsa Cycles was in town, we’d spent every night in the Scamp or bikepacking. Now, we faced an extended period indoors. But it’s okay. We’ll rest up, and when early July comes around, we’ll be ready to go.


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Crashing the Dixie 200

One of the most challenging parts of living a nomadic lifestyle is maintaining a sense of community. A sense of belonging. Something, I believe, all of us, as humans, need. It’s a lot easier to do when you build that community in one spot, or even around one activity (think bike racing where you see your friends several weekends a month), but spread out has its advantages too. More effort to maintain, yes. But worth it.

Often, our travel isn’t as straightforward as it may seem from the outside. We generally go through several iterations of a plan before we setting on a way forward. Travel has to be flexible, occasionally creative, and always needs to be approached with a sense of humor. With me having to be in Boulder to dog-sit in a few days, we hatched a plan to take us to Salt Lake City, where we could spend some time with Scott’s family, then I would fly to Boulder to watch dogs, and then Scott would meet me somewhere in Colorado at a later date with the Scamp.

But on the way to SLC, from the Kaibab Plateau, we decided to crash the Dixie 200 start party. I did Dave Harris’ monster of a bikepacking race back in 2011, and it still ranks as the hardest bikepacking route that I’ve ever done, mostly because of the endless piles of downed trees. But we knew that Alexis and Denny would be camping there the night before the race, as would Dave any Lynda. And Alice D was going to race, so it would be good to see her again. That made the effort more than worth it.

Getting to the campsite required fording a little creek. The Scamp and the van did great.

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The campsite would prove to be a little challenging due to lack of cell reception and Scott having a dozen trackers going, including big ones following Tour Divide, Trans Am, and RAAM. But where friends are camping, we’ll camp. Cocktail hour was going soon after we got the Scamp set up.

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It was fun to send 10 people off for their adventure the next morning before heading to town for work.

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Pink line of doom! I had the same issue 24 hours before start of Tour Divide in 2012 and ended up calling the GPS expert (Scott) to help me fix it. 

I was a little jealous of the prospect of their adventure. But I knew better. This was a Dave Harris race.

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We ended up finding the gas station that acted as the hub of the small town of Parowan. Wi-fi, gut-bombing breakfast burritos (I’d skip that next time), and seating for laptoping. An endless stream of ranchers and other workers streamed through, getting their $2.50 burrito and 44oz soda in their Big Gulp mug.

By the time we finished computerizing, Dave and Lynda had left for their ride, leaving us to ride alone. In the end, it was probably for the best as we suffered around the 9-mile Navajo Lake loop. I spent the time dreaming about laying on a beach…I know that when I dream about horizontal time, I’m tired.

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There was a lava field. That was neat.

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I bemoaned being tired. My irrational side said that I’d done nothing of significance in the past week. My rational side pointed out that I’d done a lot on the Kaibab, and a lot before that, and that being tired was a totally normal reaction to having spent a lot of time in beautiful places while trying to do it all. And really, it’d only been the past three days where I’d relaxed, and three days does not make one week. One of the hardest parts of Scamp life, for me, is to know when to say when. When have I hit my 90% of exhausted. When is it time to stop. Moderation has never been a strong point for me.

Given our energy levels, it was an easy decision to head towards SLC a day early. Especially since Scott’s older brother agreed to do another nearly-full moon Mt Wire sunset hike with us when we got there. Plus, with the record temperatures, we weren’t going to refuse an air conditioned house for a few days.

 


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Time on the Kaibab

Today is Thursday, which means that we’ve been up on the Kaibab Plateau for two weeks now. Which to me, seems completely crazy. I talked to my mom about a week ago to firm up plans about watching their dogs in Boulder in late June. She was on the bus to the airport and wanted to tell me about the dog training exercises I needed to do with Sparkles when I got there.

“Just tell me when you get back from this trip,” I said.

“I’m not coming back before you show up, this is my last chance to tell you,” she replied. “Dad leaves next Thursday, you need to negotiate with your brother on when you show up. ”

I did a quick double take at the calendar. How did it get to be June 10th already?

When we got back from our Kaibab Monstercross bikepack, we had the chance to rest the legs for a little bit. Which has been good, because we’ve definitely been pushing the limits between solid periods of rest.

And we were tired.

The Scamp was out of power (and Tour Divide was starting, so Scott needed to be at his computer), so we sucked it up and took it over to the RV park just down the road from Jacob Lake. We plugged it (and our spare big battery, and our phones, and computers, and small batteries) in at 9am and let everything charge for 25 hours. For $36. We like to say how our utility bill consists of propane, of which we go through about $10 per month, and this added bill was the kick in the ass we needed to decide that we really needed more solar. We’ve paid for four nights of camping since leaving Tucson. This was the first time that it was due to power needs. That’s pretty good.

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Camp grounds and RV parks are always interesting experiences, and we had a lesbian couple in an Airstream as neighbors on one side. They’d spent the last 10 years caring for one of their mothers, who’d just passed away at 100, and now they were going to hit the road, on their way to the Delores River to go flyfishing.

Our other neighbors were a pair of older Texans in a GIANT RV. They bickered a lot. And were really pissed off by the fact that there weren’t any pull-thru sites at the park and that they had to back their behemoth of a trailer into a small space. They only ran into the picnic table once in the process…

After 25 hours, we were happy to move back into the woods. Into the quiet where our neighbors consist of a herd of deer, countless robins, a few pigmy nuthatches, and some woodpeckers. It’s the type of place where you can take fully nekkid solar showers and not worry about anyone coming by.

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The closest and easiest way to recreate from our campsite was to ride the AZT. We opted for north for 10 miles, then back on roads. It really is beautiful trail up there.

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The north rim of the Grand Canyon is about 40 miles down the road. Normally, I’d feel bad about driving 80 miles to recreate, but the north rim is so inaccessible from anywhere, 40 miles really isn’t that bad. And we’re as close as we can get without losing cell reception.

We spied a trail on the map that looked like it paralleled the rim of the canyon from Point Imperial towards the Nankoweep trail.

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We ended up bushwacking out to a little point to see the view, leading to a much more adventuresome day than we’d first anticipated.

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We saw all of 4 people in the 10 miles. If you think National Parks are too crowded, you’re doing it wrong.

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The next day, itching for a run, I returned to the main corridor trail while Scott went on a bike adventure that only Scott could appreciate.

I know that I’ve been on this trail twice before, that it’s the trail that everyone hikes, but it’s so damn beautiful, I really don’t care that there’s nothing ‘exploratory’ about it. And anyhow, I’ve got a running idea in my head that’s going to require a lot of vert later this summer, and there’s no better place than the North Kaibab trail to log some serious down then up.

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Canyon running is still a little unnerving for me. With climbing mountains, if you get tired, home is generally in the downhill direction. With the canyon…once you go in, you have to get yourself out, and as the rim got farther and farther away, I got more and more nervous. Which is ridiculous, because I knew that barring catastrophe, I could get myself out.

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I did. It was a lovely 11 mile run, and I even treated myself to a $1.50, 6-minute shower in the campground.

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I love that I have the adaptation to do a run like this in the Canyon leaving late afternoon and still make it home by dark without being completely wrecked.

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I was a little sore the next day, but it was to be the coolest day of the week, and Scott and I wanted to do some stuff down low. Plus, we needed groceries in Kanab 36 miles away, so we figured we’d make a day of it.

We started with a 20 mile ride combining 10 miles of John Schilling track with the last 10 miles of the AZT, right down to the UT border.

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Such happy memories there.

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From there, we went two miles down the road to the Wire Pass Trailhead. We’d found a 10 mile loop that would have spent 6 miles in two different slot canyons, and then a four mile connector on the road, but we weren’t sure if it was all doable without actual skillz. So we didn’t set up a bike shuttle for the last four miles of road. Lazy, we are.

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The size differences between the male and female is fascinating!

The canyons were spectacular, and I only got hung up on one little pour over. Then a trio of kids, youngest being around 10, scampered down it, and I decided that I really needed to get my big-girl pants on.

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I’m learning. Step by little step.

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We need to spend more time in places like these.

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With the day threatening to end, we hustled out of there and faced the four miles of dirt road to get back to the car. We should have set up the bike shuttle. It was painful.

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Still, we made it to Kanab by 9:15, ate at Wendy’s, which was the quickest and easiest place to get food, and got groceries just as they were announcing over the intercom that the grocery store was closing.

Then we crossed back into AZ, gained our hour back (AZ doesn’t do daylight savings), and made it to bed at a semi-reasonable time. I was pooped.

The next day, I made it out for a sub-4 mile ride to check out the neighborhood fire lookout, where I could see Zion, Bryce, Navajo Mountain, and the Coyote Buttes area where we’d played the day before. It’s a big world out there…

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With one more day before obligations to the north, we went back to the Canyon for a little hike. The hike was really just an excuse to watch the sunset from the lodge while eating pizza and sipping whiskey, saying goodbye to the canyon that had dominated much of my spring, either in thought or in adventure.

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Now, northward. Then eastward. To the mountains.

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No. Not really. Do I ever?


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Kaibab Monstercross Bikepacking

The idea of riding some version of the Kaibab Monster Cross route came complements of our friend Elliot, who’d come and camped with us in Moab during the early days of his month+ long road trip. He was on his way down there, and talking about the trip had definitely put it on my radar.

Scott had never ridden the Rainbow Rim, I hadn’t ridden any of the 160-mile loop, starting at Jacob Lake, 45 miles north of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, riding AZT to the rim, then heading west, past Point Sublime to the Rainbow Rim Trail, and then heading back on forest roads to Jacob Lake. While it felt a little weird to be heading back to Arizona during what is normally a northward spring migration, the high country of Colorado was still blanketed in snow, and desert season was firmly over. And anyhow, the N. Rim of the Canyon was not a great place to be during monsoon season in the fall.

Scott convinced Lee and Pascal to come up from Tucson, to which I started scrolling through my mental list of women who bikepack, wanting desperately to have another lady come along on the trip. My six weeks of female-dominated rides and camping in Moab left me spoiled. This is no longer a guy’s sport where I have to be the lone female on a trip.

I was able to convinced Kaitlyn, and by virtue of association, Kurt, to come along. This was great because I’ve never bikepacked with either of them and been wanting to. We made Kurt and Scott promise not to race each other. This was to be luxury touring.

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We opted to leave the Scamp and the three cars parked off of a nondescript road, hidden in the pines. It always feels a little weird leaving (most of) our worldly belongings sitting a fiberglass shell of a trailer and a minivan in the middle of nowhere. But then I realize that asides from the spare bikes, which we’re hoping to unload as soon as we visit a parental dwelling unit, and our computers, most of our belongings are pretty worthless. If someone really wants my 4-year old chamois that bad…well, I guess they can have them.

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The Arizona Trail south of Jacob lake is some of the smoothest in the state. It’s also some of the least used, given how far it is from anywhere. But, when temperatures were forecasted to be 117 degrees in Phoenix, 105 in Moab, and 100 in Kanab, sitting in the pines at 8,000+ feet was definitely the correct choice.

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Of course, there was hike-a-bike involved. It is the AZT after all.

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It was great fun getting to ride with Kurt and Kaitlyn. Their kits were unbelievably light and stealth…they did freeze the first night, so potentially a little bit too light and stealth.

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We had a late start to the day, complements of races starting and Scott needing to be around in the morning to put out any trackleaders.com fires. I’m always impressed that he has such confidence in the software, that he can make sure that dots have taken off correctly, and then leave for a multiday bikepack with limited cell reception.

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Kurt found a snail in some water that we’d picked up from Crane Lake. He thought about putting it back in a water bottle and keeping it as a pet. Kaitlyn wasn’t that impressed.

We set up camp outside of a corral just past Dog Lake. It’s always fun to see what different people bring for food. Some survive on Mountain House freeze-drieds. Some make sandwiches that are good for a day without going bad. Some make cheesy mashed potatoes with smoked salmon that are more cheese than potatoes. Same goes for breakfast. Pascal had a freeze dried package of eggs. Lee had a bagel with salami and cheese. Kurt and Kait made polenta with bacon. Scott and I had cookies from the Jacob Lake Inn.

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Between Kurt, Kait, and I, we had three different Salsa bikes. Kurt rocked the 27.5+ Pony Rustler, Kait rode her Horsethief, and I took the Redpoint.

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The Kaibab Plateau has amazing meadow cruising. Some of it singletrack. Some of it double track. We felt the draw of the N. Rim and the pizza that we would find there.

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But first, water. Even at 8,000 feet, it was still hot and we were all going through water quickly. Luckily, the route has some beautiful and reliable springs on it. Kurt and Kait take their kids from their Geology and Bikepacking course offered by Prescott College on the route and knew all of the good water sources, valuable information since Scott and I had no clue.

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The route took us right by the fire tower that Ed Abbey worked at for several summers. I’ve done a lot of Abbey reading the past few years, so it was neat to see the place in person.

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The very top of the tower was closed, I’m pretty sure that it’s been decommissioned, but we were able to climb to just below the actual lookout. We could see the San Francisco Peaks far down to the south.

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We reached the lodge at the Rim mid afternoon, in the heat of the day. We immediately found some food and found the darkest and shadiest corner we could find to eat and hydrate. None of us particularly felt like going back out into the heat to pedal, so we wandered over to the hiker/biker camp sites offered by all National Parks, paid our $6 each, and settled into the best campsite in the park, far out on the rim. Having the use of a picnic table, plus unlimited water, plus bathrooms, was definitely worth $6. The views were just a bonus.

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Sunrise was at 5:12. We were up to watch it. Actually, I was up a 4:15 because of a zero-light (versus a first-light) dark eyed Junco that felt that it was the appropriate time to sing.

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Lee and Pascal opted to take a shorter route back to the cars while K&K, Scott, and I continued on, westward along the Canyon rim.

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Our early start allowed us to take a 12-mile detour out to Point Sublime. We’d hoped to score a backcountry camping permit there the night before, but I guess you can’t just waltz into the backcountry office day-of during high-season and hope for the best.

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Camping here would have been awesome. Having a snack and looking at maps was pretty good too. It was also a chance for a geology lesson where Kait taught me the pneumonic for remembering the layers of rocks in the Canyon. Know The Canyon’s History. Study Rocks Made By Time. I also learned how to tell the difference between pine, fir, and spruce trees.

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Three GPSes. Still no idea where the spring we were looking for was.

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We finally found a beautiful little spring to fill up water at. We sat in the shade and ate lunch. We took naps. We watched birds. We took occasional forays into the sun and decided it was still hot out. We ate some more.

Three hours later, siesta’d out, we got back on the bikes, somewhat reluctantly. There was a big hill ahead, and we knew it.

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We were soon on the Rainbow Rim trail, which must have been fast and fun riding because the only pictures I took were of the cute horny toad that Kurt nearly ran over. K&K had thought it would take us five hours to ride the trail, based on their traversals with the classes, but after an hour and change, we were approaching the end. It was time to make camp so that we could have some more trail in the morning before hitting the dirt roads back towards Jacob Lake.

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Even on his back, Scott can point at stuff. A bee sting in his knee led to an impressive amount of swelling, and elevation seemed to help it.

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The sunset didn’t disappoint, looking out over Steamboat Mountain and the CO rive far down in the distance.

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I miss AZ sunsets.

While the Rainbow Rim goes out to several overlooks along the canyon, there are few that are good photo opportunities. We made the most of the best one in the morning.

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Men of the Kaibab!

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Our Men of the Kaibab used their manly muscles to move a giant concrete slab from the top of the spring so that we could get water. I was amazed by the number of springs out there. Scott and I had been fretting water with the heat when we were first thinking about the trip, but there was plenty. It helped to have the confidence that K&K knew where all the sources were.

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We followed a track offered up by John Schilling to get back to the AZT so that we could ride trail back. Whenever the trail dove off into a questionable-looking section of road, someone would say, ‘Well, Schilling made it through.’ And someone would inevitably reply, ‘That doesn’t mean much.’ Schilling is the king of hike-a-bike and questionable route choices.

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We rolled into Jacob Lake mid-afternoon for milkshakes and lunch. A tour bus had just dropped off a big group of people, and it was definitely a culture shock. Dealing with crowds is always extra hard when you haven’t seen a soul in two days. Still, the milkshakes were good and we rolled back to the Scamp with full bellies. All tired.

We all admitted, after the fact, that we’d been riding faster than we normally would have with just our respective bikepacking partners. But, when you have a group that strong and that motivated, it’s hard to not push the pace a little bit. Riding fast is fun, even if it’s not sustainable.

We made tentative plans for adventures near the Kaibab in the close future, and New Zealand in the farther away future while sipping Vinho Verde in the shade of the pines. As K&K rolled off, headed home, I had to wonder, How had we never gone bikepacking with them before? That’s just silliness.


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Days in Bryce

[I’m almost caught up on this blog! Dang! Let’s see if I can keep it up]!

One of the reasons we bought the Scamp was to aid in the ability to stay in remote places for longer, more comfortably. Sure, we survived pretty happily living out of our minivan last summer, but working was never comfortable unless we found a coffee shop or library, and when the wind blew or the weather sucked…well, there were some long nights in the tent playing GO or reading.

We both felt like there were a lot of places where we’d rushed through in the past. Maybe spent a night, maybe two, but never really put in the effort to get to know a place. Moab was like that. The Bryce Canyon area was also like that. We’d both ridden Thunder Mountain multiple times, but neither of us had even been to the National Park around the corner in 20+ years.

Leaving Moab, Bryce fit the bill of what we were looking for: High altitude -> lower temperatures. Riding options. Free camping. Walking options, because we really needed to get some solid legs underneath us for our next planned play date. Our plan was to place a focus on working for a few days with mini-adventures to explore a place that is beyond stunning and hadn’t received our full attention in the past.

We started with riding bikes down Thunder Mountain.

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The last time we rode this was on our way back to Tucson after riding the CDT. We had dead legs. Today was much better.

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The late evening light made the rocks glow.

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The next day, we ventured to Bryce Canyon National Park. May 1. Time for a new annual Parks Pass. We put many hundreds of dollars of Park visits on last years $80 pass. I hope we get to do the same this year.

The complaint about National Parks is always the crowds. If you go to the most popular trail in the park, in this case, Wall Street, you find a lot of people.

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It was actually a hilarious number of people. But once past the iconic part of the hike, we ran into next to no one.

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It doesn’t take much walking to go farther than 99.9% of park visitors.

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We ended up doing the “ultimate” hike in the park, according to the map at least. As we’d pondered the park map handed to us at the entrance station, we decided that anything that was called the ultimate hike was worth doing.

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It was pretty damn neat.

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I mean, for a National Park and all.

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The following day, we worked all day. But, when the park is a 15 minute drive away, it doesn’t take a whole lot of motivation to head over there late in the day. Scott joined me for the start of a run on Fairyland, a 8-mile loop that was described as less busy and scenic.

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The trails in National Parks are pretty good running. Even I can mostly avoid falling off the edges of them.

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Scott turned around a few miles in, opting for a shower instead of a long run. He’s a smart one, as I ended up missing shower times and had to wait for an entirely different state before I could take one.

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My route went by the Great Wall, shading me from the setting sun. Then it was a reasonable climb back to the rim and a 2.5 mile surprisingly hilly jog along the Rim trail back to where Scott would meet me.

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He brought me a sodie pop and a bag of chips and we watched the sun set over the Hoodoos at Fairy Point. Highly romantic. I think.

As seems to be the case with every place we visit, I added more things to my List of Shit to Do than I managed to cross off. A Trans-Bryce run. A ride back up to Powell Point. Lossee Canyon. Grandview Trail. Virgin River Rim Trail.

But we had a bikepacking date on the Kaibab Plateau, and it was time to go!

 


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Saying Goodbye to Moab

We’d never planned on staying in Moab for six weeks. I guess we never really plan far past our next meal or ride, but whenever we were asked if we’d stay in Moab through Memorial Day, we said, ‘No way, it gets way too hot by then.’ But it didn’t.

Until it did.

But, not wanting to fight the traffic of Memorial Day weekend, we stayed put, getting one last chance to say goodbye on Monday.

It was a pretty typical town day. Wake up. Eat breakfast and sip coffee while watching the sun rise over Arches National park. De-rig from the last ride, in this case, start to re-rig for departure the next day. Head to town, find some internet and work for a few hours. Eat a sandwich lunch and drop off recycling at the park. Laundry. Fill up some water for he night.

Even with tired, legs, we motivated for one last visit to Amasa that evening. I ran, Scott rode. The trails were empty, and we stopped often to take in our surroundings. One last Moab play-date.

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Moab really is one of the last places that seems to accept, maybe even embrace, the dirtbag culture. Where it’s perfectly normal to live out of a 13-foot trailer parked on a piece of BLM land so that you can keep your costs low, allowing you to ride, run, climb, boat, or follow whatever passion you choose more freely. It’s been the one place in our travels so far where, as a pair of 30-somethings living in a trailer, we felt completely normal.

And as two people who tend to do life a little differently, that was pretty cool.

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It was great to spend copious amounts of time with people who understood what we were doing. Other trailer-dwellers, van-dwellers, travelers, seekers, all bound together by the belief that you don’t need a lot to get by and be happy and there was a lot of life to live and places to explore.

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Sometimes I feel a little crazy doing what we’re doing. Sometimes there’s a little bit of doubt that creeps into my brain. But after six weeks in Moab, living side-by-side with others who’ve made similar choices, it feels completely normal.

It’s been fascinating to see different executions of the same idea, all revolving around the philosophy of living simply, refusing to get caught up in the idea that we have to be busy at all times. We’ve spent countless nights with camp chairs spread out in our campsite with various people, watching the sunset light up the Klondike Bluffs, talking about anything and everything.

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In the past, I’ve lamented the loss of the gatherings of our early to mid-20’s, where groups of friends would converge at various houses and BBQ or just hang out multiple evenings a week, just for the sake of spending time together. Human interaction. Human connection. In this case, happening in the middle of the desert.

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I would have loved to have a picture of every combination of people we camped with. We had such a diverse group from such different backgrounds, new friends and old, everyone bringing in a new and different view point on how to do this human experience. I haven’t spent that much time just sitting and talking and eating with people in a long time. And it felt good.

Out of our houses. Out in the open. Is this what they call community?

I don’t know. But it was something special.

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Easier on a bike than on foot.

We spent our last night camped with Julie and Heather, who’d just come off of her three-day Kokopelli bikepack. In the morning, we ate breakfast, we watched the sun rise over Arches National Park one last time, and we loaded up the Scamp, hooked it up for the first time in 6.5 weeks, and hit the road.

We’ll be back in the fall. We can’t wait.


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Lockhard Basin+: How to blow one of two turns on a route

I’ve had Lockhart Basin on my radar for a few years now. Maybe it got there from when Gypsy By Trade rode it on their southward migration before staying with us in Tucson, and then solidified when Scott Pauker took the same route on his way to visit us (and keep going south). Anyway, it looked like an amazing stretch of road connecting the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park south of Moab to Moab, paralleling the eastern side of White Rim on the other side of the Colorado River. 60-some odd miles, there was no good way to loop it on a day trip or a bikepack. And setting up a shuttle would have entailed 100+ extra miles of driving. Yuck.

Scott and I hatched a plan. He’d ride from Moab southward. I’d drive to Needles, leave the car and ride northward. Scott would pick up the car and drive it to Milts, where we’d meet up for malts, tots, and burgers. We convinced Julie to come along, as the road had been on her List of Shit to Do in Moab as well, and this method of shuttling took much of the hassle out of riding the route.

It was already light when alarms went off at 5:30. We dropped Scott off in town and pointed the van south, riding by 8am.

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The first major obstacle was a raging Indian Creek. Not really. But we did take our shoes off to avoid wet tootsies for the day.

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The riding was divine. We had the trending downwards direction, getting to lose 1,000 feet by the time we got to Moab, and the road surface was smooth and fast.

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Things were going seamlessly until we got to this sign.

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From the angle we approached it, the straight arrow looked to be pointing to the road on the left. Julie saw Hurrah Pass 33 and the straight arrow, interpreted as pointing to the left, and decided in her head that we should go left. I saw Lockhart Canyon left, and since the route was called Lockhart Basin, I decided that we had to go left. We both ignored the Colorado River part.

We stopped to look at the GPS, Yep, we’ve gone 19 miles. And went left.

And since we’d stopped at a giant sign, I didn’t bother to pull the GPS out again to make sure we were on the track.

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6 (very) sandy miles passed. Beautiful miles, but sandy. I spend the time pondering how to break it to Scott that he was going to have to climb many miles of potentially unrideable sand on his southward traversal.

Then we saw a sign that said ‘Entering Canyonlands National Park’. I thought ‘How odd.’

Then there were tamarisk trees, only found directly on water. ‘That’s strange,’ I thought. ‘There’s no water on this route. How are there tamarisks here?’

Then we dead-ended into the Colorado River.

There were two turns on this route that we had to make. Two. And we’d managed to blow one of them. We paid for it with the 6 mile sand slog back to the intersection, befuddled about how both of us could have screwed it up.

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But we did. Whoops? Bonus miles?

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We kept pedaling, because really, that’s all that we could do. Eventually, we ran into Scott coming the other direction, wondering what was taking us so long. I admitted to our mistake. He laughed. I’m generally not the navigator on our trips, and I hadn’t put in the effort to put a GPS mount on my bike for this trip so that I could keep an eye on the track. ‘There are two turns, we’ll be fine!’ I’d said the night before.

I’d love to say I learned a lesson, but that’s probably a lie.

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Unfortunately, we both burnt a lot of energy points fighting the sand, and more importantly, dawdled away the cooler part of the day. I was sure that Julie would never want to come adventure with me again, but I did feel a little better about the fact that it was a mutual decision to turn left instead of right.

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We could tell we were getting closer to Moab when the moto traffic increased. Motorcycles, jeeps, idiots, kids, families. Everyone and their mother was out on the Sunday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend. Scott had told us of riding by countless camps of sleeping people through the Kane Creek Valley, now they were all awake and driving motorized vehicles somewhat out of control.

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Hurrah Pass was a bit of a junk show and I was happy to get up and over it. From there, just ten more miles (with one major-ish) climb back to town. Down Kane Creek filled with the moto rally participants, the air filled with camp fire smoke and dust.

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Erosion is pretty amazing

I did get to see a Blackheaded Grosbeak down by the river, which is a cool bird!

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Finally, back. Several hours after our planned arrival, thanks to our detour, giggling at the extra adventure.

We noted, a day later, that it wouldn’t have been fitting to do a ride that big and not have something go wrong and create an extra element of adventure. It’s been a while since I’ve gotten lost.  I think I need to do it more often.