A trip with no plan

We smiled as we headed northwest, to Washington and Oregon. The skies were clearing as we left behind the rainy desert southwest. We smiled at the irony. We smiled at being on the road, with unknown adventure ahead.

Eszter had been recruited for a stage race in Bellingham. That was the excuse for the trip. The goals were simple and stated before we left:

1) spend time together
2) have fun
3) attend the race

That was about as precisely as we stated it. There was no plan. No itinerary. A rough idea that we’d travel in one big loop, discovering and hitting things in succession, but we didn’t really know what those things would be, or how long we’d stay in location A or forest B. We’d just make it up as we went.

We did, at the last moment, purchase a tent from REI. It was a good ‘plan’ since we used it nearly every night, and mostly at free sites. The pacific northwest is full of forest and thus, free camping. That makes it an ideal road tripping destination.

Well, that, and that there is much to do and see:

My friend Martin was kind enough to guide me around the Chuckanut Mountains on race weekend.

training for goat packing!

When I told him I couldn’t ride until 11:30, he was disappointed in only having ~10 hours of usable daylight to ride (!). So he warmed up on a couple hours of riding at Galbraith before meeting me.

my first taste of the Pacific Northwest Trail was a delicious one

Martin loves long rides and loves exploration. Check out his blog for detailed accounts on many rarely or never ridden trails in the PNW.

Thar be strange creatures in the forest.

So excite! So excite! Our first ever PNT blaze, and a section along the coast where bikes are allowed.

This trail system (Ft. Ebey) was a great tip we got from a scuba diver holding a giant Cod he has just shot with a harpoon.

Ah, the deep and dark forests of the Olympic Peninsula.

The Dungeness river wreaked some havoc with the trail here.

Good chance this gem of a trail (Gold Creek) will be a part of PNT-bike, and it’s on the Olympic 420, too.

Most of the peninsula is National Park or Wilderness. Luckily our bodies contained a meager ability to travel by foot (in the case of my IT bands, very meager).

This trail run brought us to…

Olympic hot springs! Good therapy for tight and grumpy IT bands, or so I told myself.

We were blessed with clear weather on Hurricane Ridge.

Blessed with an empty dirt road that rolls along the spine, presenting huge views of the Olympics.

The dirt road was good, but the ridgeline trails were even better.

Yep, like that.

This scene pretty accurately describes the Olympic Discovery Trail’s ‘adventure’ route. It’s as effortless and buffed a trail as I’ve ever ridden. AZT hero and local Ron Thomson joined us on his singlespeed, humoring us by turning around short of the full 50 mile distance. Effortless trail or no, we still have to conserve our energy.

For things like a beach run/walk in the park.

And exploring the Hoh rainforest.

Curiously, it wasn’t raining.

Such a fascinating place.

So different than the desert southwest.

Running to another beautiful waterfall, after a soak and quiet night in the tent at Sol Duc hotsprings.

2nd attempt at motivating to climb Mt. Mueller. We thought our lucky streak with the weather had run up, and that we’d just be in the clouds the entire time.

Not so! We climbed 3000 feet and above the cloud ceiling. Hey look, it’s Mt. Olympus!

The return trail was a mini rainforest, and open to bikes. Simply beautiful.

We got to ride a ferry over to Seattle to visit my sister, eat good food, wander along the beach and also visit Martin. Then we boogied out of Seattle before the traffic buried us.

Hashtag #coffeeoutside. We needed some rejuvenation after our only real consequence of not planning things: a late night drive in the hard rain, hoping to reach forest service land sooner than later. Not a bad price to pay for all the wonderful things that fell in our lap and worked out perfectly.

Like skipping out on rainy riding at Mt. St. Helen’s one day, only to find a quiet campsite and the “Ape Cave” lava tubes to explore.

The next day we would have our chance at St. Helens, climbing good trail up to the “Plains of Abraham.”

This ride left us speechless and was the highlight of the whole trip.

Maybe it was because of the views, views that reminded us of the desert.

Or maybe it was uniqueness of riding on an active volcano. Through landscape destroyed (or perhaps, better, changed) by the awesome forces of nature.

Perhaps it was that the riding was so fun, particularly the pumice-rut descending.

That this area and these trails are open to bikes is a gift. Everyone should go ride the Ape Canyon / Smith Creek loop, if at *all* possible.

In Hood River we were skunked out of a hot spring attempt due to the river flowing too high, but an interwebs tip led us to Surveyor’s ridge. It was a ride with fairly low effort level and killer views of Mt. Hood.

Another trailhead tip led us to running to Tamanawas Falls, and finally, to Smith Rock park.

Where our feet allowed us to climb trail like this.

From a different angle.

We had wanted to explore Bend, Oakridge, Umpqua, et cetera. But we were out of time. Our 3 weeks were up, so we pointed the van eastward, making camp at a small hot spring on an island that we only knew about from the book we’d purchased on the trip.

And then we were back in Salt Lake — dry and exploding with green from all the rain.

I feel very lucky to have experienced this corner of the world in such a rewarding way, and with such great company. We couldn’t have asked for better weather, luck or a better plan. Couldn’t have planned it better if we’d tried. (With much thanks to friends, family and strangers that made suggestions or helped out along the way).

We were able to see and do a lot in a small amount of time…. thanks largely to internal combustion and our trusty new REI tent. It was definitely the taste of the northwest we needed to whet our appetite.

We’ll be back, soon, and this time traveling by bike. Can’t wait.

Heading north… Utah

With our lives packed into our cars and a little shed that leaks, it was time to head north. Each time I’ve repeated this exercise it makes me wonder why I have so much junk. Junk that I am happy to live without for half the year, and that I won’t even think about during that time. It’s one of the nice things about being mobile. You are continually reminded how little you really ‘need.’ It can be easy to forget.

On the way north Eszter had a bit of a dubious plan:

Run the Grand Canyon.

dire warnings and hilarious illustration, but if anything it’s understating the danger

Though it was only May 1st, it was officially summer in AZ. It was the pre-summer before it started raining every day.

My longest run in the preceding months was five miles. That should be plenty, right?

Again, understated, and I did wonder if we should perhaps be heeding the warning.

Without bikes, how hard could it be?

I’ve hiked across the canyon three times with a bike. But had never even been to the canyon without a bike.

It was refreshing, to say the least. What a place. These trails really are some of the most impressive and awe inspiring, anywhere.

The heat was inconsequential while “running” down the trail.

Even still, I insisted we take a dip in the icy river.

best $1.10 ever spent on an apple

And plant our butts for several hours during the heat of the day. There’s fun people watching to be had at Phantom. It was nice to have some time to just hang out down there. We saw many people leave in the afternoon to start climbing back up, including one runner that was so shelled he could only hike twenty steps before keeling over or ending up on his knees.

Eszter got impatient with my conservatism. She was rearing to go attack the uphill, 100 degrees and sun or not! I had to keep a firm grip on the reins. Given our lack of preparation, I thought it wise to play it safe. Besides, there was no hurry, and hanging out with feet dangling in Bright Angel creek is a good use of time in my book.

We waited until the sun was off the canyon walls. OK, it’s go time!

The climb up was far easier than expected. We didn’t run the whole thing, by any stretch, but compared to hiking out with a bike on fried legs, it really was like cheating.

We got commended by a ranger at Indian Gardens for hiking up in the evening, and for taking a break in the shade. “It’s so nice to see people relaxing and enjoying the hike back up.” I suppose that’s rare to see. She told us about the recent rescues (and body extraction), not to mention the statistics on rescues. Not sure I’d want to be a ranger there.

We camped just outside the park, thinking ourselves pretty fancy for pulling it off with little consequence. “My legs aren’t even sore! I think we got away with it.”

At some point in the middle of the night Eszter rolled over, “Hey Scott, are you awake?”

“We didn’t get away with it….”

Legs did protest some, but it wasn’t crippling. We were back riding, and even running, shortly after.

(Versus every time I’ve hiked it with a bike, crippling soreness did result).

My Dad joined us for my birthday ride out on the new trails at JEM.

He’s gone thru-rider style: long sleeve, collared shirt.

We also got out with Dos Epic (Dave and Lynda). It was so great to hear Dave giggling as he rode behind me, carving a twisty and rowdy descent.

One of my favorite views in St. George.

This was a new view for me, and new trails.

Honeycomb slickrock! Kurt recommended this loop as his favorite in St. George.

The locals don’t seem to agree — the trail seems little used.

I kept riding after the first tumbleweed got caught under my bike. Rolled on through the second. But the third brought me to a halt, laughing hysterically.

Broken Mesa is a fun trail — more fun than I remembered. Thanks for the recommendation, Kurt.

Broken Mesa was my first hint of what was in store for May. Even in the desert I was shivering in the wind and getting rained on. Pre-summer was over and spring (winter?) was back. It was hard to believe that anything other than summer was in effect sitting down at the bottom of the canyon, but our expectation proved wrong. There was fresh snow in the Pine Valley Mountains.

salt lake city, or a rainforest?

I rolled on to Salt Lake City for some good time visiting the family. Riding and adventures were less the focus, especially as the rain continued in earnest. We started checking the weather for places like Seattle and Bellingham. We quickly realized that if we were going to find some dry trails and sunshine, we were going to have to head to the pacific northwest!

Wrapping up Tucson for the winter

Hey, I’m into April… almost getting caught up on the blog before the next big adventure.

March was incredibly hectic, and in the back of my mind was the opportunity to go race the Holyland Challenge in Israel. The ministry of tourism had offered to help get me over there, and I was definitely intrigued. But I had some doubts, mostly due to simply not being in race mode, mentally or physically. I had very little available focus for it. The AZTR took off less than a week before it, and though I was not racing, it meant I couldn’t arrive in Israel with any reasonable lead time. I didn’t want to go there just to race, though I did want to see the route. Turns out I wouldn’t have even been able to do that — major rain forced them to call the race and no one rode the middle 200-300 miles.

It looks like I didn’t take any photos at the start of the AZT. Eszter got some, and it left me free to focus more on setting people up with SPOTs, batteries, GPX and beta. I’m still struck by how much nervous energy gets directed *at me*, making it stressful to get the AZTR off the ground, even when I’m not racing! We hosted some racers, again, got people to the start and helped some folks with some last minute stuff. Overall it’s a very rewarding experience, but I was happy to not being boarding a plane just after to go race in a country I’ve never been to.

Instead, we were able to take the CDTC up on its offer to put on a trackleaders / bikepacking booth at the CDT kickoff / Trail days celebration. It was super fun to talk trail, bikepacking, backpacking, and SPOT tracking. On the latter, the result was the largest crew of thru-hikers being tracked, ever. I really enjoyed meeting some of the CDT class of 2015.

A few favorite quotes:

“Nobody has ever ridden as much as you guys did…. because nobody has been that stupid.” — Jerry Brown

“Those devices don’t belong in the wilderness!!” (SPOTs)

“So have you guys ridden the PCT yet?” Ummm, no. “What? It’s closed to bikes?”

“I’m going to forage my way across the CDT!”

“Huh? You can’t ride bikes in Wilderness? Why not?” — horse packer

“Weeeeeee…. I’ve been riding for 4 years! ”

Kudos to Gila Hike ‘n Bike and the CDTC for hosting a CDT bike ride for the kickoff event. We joined in with a couple kids and couple locals. Bikes on the CDT — a very good idea!

We took the opportunity to ride a few sections of trail we missed due to fire closures, and also some that didn’t exist yet and was built by mountain bikers!

Of course, we found ourselves some hike-a-bike, it’s the CDT!

After a good couple days in Silver City, we rolled on to a remote highway crossing of the CDT. It was great to load the bikes up and camp on the CDT. The passage of time has led to us both thinking most positively about the trip, and we were positively excited to get back on the trail.

Specifically, a section of the trail we did not ride. It’s not the recommended thru-route, for various reasons. We had a hunch it would be good bikepacking trail since it’s new. But last summer we had no information to go off of, and our food stores were very low from the Gilas, crossing burn areas and Wagontongue mountain. We took the ‘known’ quantity, and it was a good decision at the time.

A trick tank! Don’t see many of those.

That meant there was new trail for us to explore this year, one that we could loop in to a very desirable town. It was easy to talk Eszter into the idea.

Turns out there was a lot of good trail, even bikepackable trail.

Lunch was courtesy the lovely little bakery we found just outside of Reserve, NM. Holy yum.

The trailbuilders gave up on the previous goal of contouring. Oh crap, gotta gain some elevation!

Pleasant forests of ponderosa pines, colorful flowers, meandering trail. The promise of the CDT.

Oops, where went the forest? A small controlled burn.

True to CDT style, you must go over every mountain. Not around.

The following section was an old stock route, with lots of water, mellow descending but not much singletrack and lots of dust.

Ahhh, there we go.

More goodness.

This is a newly signed XC route. It was entertaining enough while pointed somewhat downhill. Once it flattened out into the plains it was rideable/doable, but pretty punishing. When nearby roads take you to the same place, it’s only logical.

The day wore on and the head winds sucked the life out of us. The goal easy to motivate for….


We shared the toaster house with another couple out bike touring on the GDMBR. They were fun to talk to and just about as shelled as us when we arrived. Thank goodness for the toaster house.

We did have to wait until 10am the next day to get what we desired most: Pie!

Pie in pie town, while out on the bike — I think that’s the definition of winning.

The GDMBR served as our route back, for the most part. We could have taken the de facto CDT route over Mangas Mtn, or stuck with the GDMBR. The day was still early and the Pie still filled our bellies with energy, so we turned to climb back up to the CDT and take the sweetness back.

It was a choice of the highest excellence. Trail was even more fun in the other direction.

A storm built behind us and blew us back to the van. Perfect timing.

On the way back we practiced some ‘make it up as you go’ road tripping, a model that would serve us well later in the year. We found free forest service camping, good food, a trail to run up to a mountain (Maverick Peak), and even a hot springs, before rolling back to Tucson.

Time in the desert was getting limited. Only a week or so before our lease was up, meaning we pack things into our cars and head northward.

The Ridgeline trail was a focus of some of our last rides, this time with the Ridgeline builder himself, Neil Stitzer.

And then, again, with Chad — back on the bike!

We didn’t ride nearly enough in the Torts this winter. Next winter!

Next up was another weekend in Prescott, where Kurt and Kaitlyn were kind enough to host us in their little cabin in the woods. It was a nice break from the warmth and April allergies.

The three of them (including Eszter) were racing Whiskey, but it was just a riding vacation for me. Kurt waved his finger at a map that outlined a solid ride for me. It led me to climb Spruce Mountain (which had been skipped in the shorter Prescott Monstercross AES event that Ez and I had ridden on AZT weekend) on singletrack.

It started hailing on me as I rounded a blind corner. Hey look, three bobcats! Big paws, long tails… those aren’t bobcats! Mountain Lions!

My heart rate didn’t have enough time to spike before they turned tail and ran off. I believe it was only due to the impeccable timing of the hail that I was able to see them. It sure threw my sense of hearing and time off to suddenly have hail falling around. I think they would have bailed before I got around the corner if not for the hail.

I pedaled with some vigor and nearly hit an all-time high heart rate around the next corner when I saw brown fur moving on the same side of the trail. It was a small herd of deer!

The rest of the ride featured a half hour tire change, a burger, some death mud and a bushwhack down through some luxury homes. All I could think is, “man, I love mountain biking.” I needed some good and unexpected adventure, and you never know what’s going to happen out in the ‘wilds’.

My thoughts next turned to the wilds of the Granite Dells. A solo ride would be exceedingly lame there, with me avoiding all the fun stuff, not knowing what I was doing.

I dropped the good doctor Enel a note once in town, skeptical that we might hook up. Luckily, he was game, and I told him I had neither the appropriate bike or the appropriate level of rock confidence. He suggested an area of the Dells new to me, that he called more “XC”.

The XC designation might have been appropriate for the trails themselves, but we spent very little time on the actual trails.

Enel is a rock monkey extraordinaire *and* a local. So he knows all the fun lines.

He knows all the silly lines. He was putting on a clinic on how to own the place, for me. It was fun to see his excitement as he’d clean moves he hadn’t ridden that many times, or ones he hadn’t ridden for a long time.

I certainly balked at many, but rode well all things considered. It woke up a side of my riding that has been sleeping for a while. I wish we had trails like this in Tucson! What brilliance.

I can’t believe we didn’t get rained on.

At some point he told me there’s a strava segment coming up, which I should have heeded as a more dire warning. I was rallying ledges and corners, almost keeping pace with him as we floated down a huge slab. I didn’t see the patch of pea gravel that happened to be right where I wanted to turn. Bike went one way, I went another. Ha! Finally a crash. Sometimes I being to worry when it’s been a long time since my last crash…. like my next one is going to be big because I’ve forgotten how to crash. It’s always good when you walk away from one with only minor cuts and scrapes. Makes you feel alive.

Thanks for the solid rock thrashing, Enel! Also just what I needed.

unorthodox line by Kurt!

There was also a race going on. It was fun to see the excitement the Whiskey brings to people and to the town of Prescott. Kurt raced hard with the big boys. Kaitlyn and Eszter fought a hard and close battle, with Kaitlyn bringing the hometown win. Racing is fun.

Has anyone seen this man? We got to meet and host the next CDT-bike contestant, Dylan. It went quite well for him in New Mexico, despite the heinous weather. At last report he had detoured off to Moab/Durango to wait out all the May snowfall. It was exciting to have someone like Dylan out on the CDT. We have a southbound rider that should be starting soon, too.

J-bake had new bike powers and was killing it

Dylan joined us for my combo Birthday / Farewell Tucson ride.

Get it Chad.

Ride from my house to the Tucson Mountains, find some silly trails, have fun until dark, roll into town, eat burritos. You know, the good life!

See ya Tucson, we’ll be back when it cools down! We packed up ‘the house’ over a leisurely two days, then pointed north.

March in the desert

I’m still playing the blog catchup game.

I must reluctantly admit that the focus of March was not getting outside and riding. It was sitting at the computer managing my fledgling world of websites and software. Chiefly, a slew of events on trackleaders.com. Working hard over the winter means I can have summers more free to travel and play, and have the means to make that a reality. So this is not at all a complaint. If anything, it’s a statement of gratitude. And besides, the work is even fun… most of the time.

I can only take so many hours at the computer a day, so there’s always time to get out. That usually means riding into the sunset hours.

Or running. I heart Starr Pass evenings.

In March it becomes a little harder to resist longer trips. Days are longer, temps are warmer and the desert is coming alive.

Tim McCabe had been bending my ear about a possible addition to the AZTR route in east Tucson. When he told me he’d throw in a free ‘chuckwagon’ pancake breakfast at Tanque Verde Ranch, I was sold. I respond well to food bribery, especially breakfast food.

The ride called for absurd amounts of hike-a-bike, with very little payoff in terms of great riding or sweet singletrack. Now who could I enlist for such a caper?

Lee Blackwell of course! He was quick to sign on. And quick to join me pushing bikes out the east side of the ranch.

Oh yes, people would hate me if I added this to the route.

Lee Blackwell, riding his bike! Powering through a deep sand crossing. Heck yeah!

We knew going in there wasn’t much chance of adding this to the route. But I never turn down a ride with a purpose, even if that purpose is an unlikely one. It was also new ground for us, new views and new places to walk next to our bikes. Who can resist that?

Of course, when we rejoined the route, we took the harder/longer way to get back, climbing the ‘high’ Chiva loop to return via La Mesa de Oso. It was gorgeous up there, especially with newly fashioned erosion control that serve as perfect ‘Scott-sized’ jumps (picture the kind of air Napoleon Dynamite would say ‘sweet’ too, but barely registers as both wheels off the ground). So much fun.

We descended all the hills we had previously hiked up, back into the ranch for a cool beverage and much bike talk with Tim back at the Ranch’s bike shop. It’s pretty cool to see a traditional guest ranch like this starting to modernize and adopt metal ponies into their repertoire. It was even better that they would grant AZT racers (or tourists) passage, should they desire it. Few would, though, save those that enjoy bike pushing (John Schilling, I’m looking at you).

Based on local observations, I had a hunch this was going to be a banner year for wildflowers. No winter in Tucson would be complete without a Gila bikepack, so we took a small window in the event schedule right at Eszter’s birthday.

A birthday bikepack! The flowers did not disappoint.

Nor did the riding.

As I write this it is June, and we are just back from a 3 week trip through the Pacific Northwest. Reality has been dark canopies of trees and all manner of lush greenery. Looking back at these photos it almost seems unreal, impossible.

These are places I know so very well, but they seem so distant. Besides time, we are far removed from the low Sonoran desert. Do these places still exist? Are they still accessible? I feel like might have some sense of what it’s like to look at the many Gila photos I post as an outsider.

Suffice it to say, I give the Gilas two hearty thumbs up, just as this titan of the desert does.

The evening was sublime, climbing into the depths of the canyons as the sun withdrew its influence on the world.

Save for a few rays of bending light, painting the desert with even more mysterious color.

We sat and slept on a small rocky perch. The burritos were food fit for kings and queens. I love what you can carry on short bikepacks.

In the morning, we pedaled over the crest, and made our way towards the ‘ice cream loop’ into Superior. We didn’t need a resupply, but we wanted a resupply. We wanted a big breakfast at Los Hermanos. The greatness of traveling by bike.

Our ramble continued box-ward, after climbing the Arizona Trail around Picketpost. Did we really get ourselves on top of that thing??

We ran into a guy on an electronic (motorized) mountain bike. Same guy John Schilling and I bumped into in Gold Canyon, once again riding non-motorized trails.

It may not be obvious, but lupines generally grow straight up — no curve! We had a windy night on the 2-track climbing towards Ripsey. And the morning was even worse. There’s nothing like struggling to hold onto your belongings as you try to pack up for coloring your view of the weather for the day. We decided to skip Ripsey, dropping the powerline instead.

Luckily this meant we didn’t skip the AZT dropping to the river, which we surely would have, had we ridden Ripsey.

This piece of trail is among my least favorite AZT sections, but it held the best flower show of the season for us.

Giggling and giddiness returned.

And the trail may be awkward, but it’s pretty much downhill. A superb note to end the trip on.

La Casita in Mammoth was an even sweeter note to end with.

Camp Tucson has become an annual tradition, but it almost didn’t happen for me. A little doggie race called Iditarod was going on, and the meltdowns and issues were many. There are so many people watching the race that any hiccup gets noticed within minutes. There were some big ones (luckily on SPOT’s side, not ours). Plus Matthew is out in the Alaskan backcountry managing the event. It was a stressful, if somewhat rewarding, experience.

I had to bring my phone on day 1 of camp, and answer calls / check-in at times. It was unfortunate. I would have rather not ridden had camp not been set before.

It was a good break, and the friends and riding were top notch. At this point I stopped the John Nobile / Aaron Johnson train long enough to realize the main pivot bearings in my bike were completely blown. Descending was ginger from then on, not wanting to break the bolt and completely disable my bike.

Ez quickly caught us here. This would become a theme throughout. Don’t stop more than a second or two, or she’ll catch ya!

I got to descend Milagrosa with her. In a lot of ways, I think that trail is best done at low speeds and with less punishment.

Tracking life was more stable for day two. I had a little focus available to ride hard. Kurt and I proceeded to beat up on each other, as we are apt to do. Aaron Johnson got to enjoy the beating, as well. I talked Kurt into Brown Mountain, resulting in a tit-for-tat switchback contest that was ever so fun. We both pulled off a number of tricky ones, despite riding at or near our limits.

Brown was a good choice for maximizing the fun factor. Not so good for surviving the rest of the loop. Eszter caught us licking our wounds at the visitors center. Elliot and John Nobile, as well. It was a little touch and go for me, but we finished up the complete TMP loop with the Stonehouse climb, which is rare for us (it’s too easy to bail after Sweetwater). Such a satisfying desert classic.

Day 3, after a generous Bobo’s breakfast full of grease. Even Bobo’s, legendary for recovery and anti-bonk properties, was not enough to revitalize us into attempting the biggie loop. Benji showed up fresh, causing us to fear the pace that might result. Ez, Elliot, Alexis and I opted for a mini-day 3, riding the easy sections of AZT and looping back on roads.

Even a tad bit of hike-a-bike. It was a good choice. Next year look for Camp Tucson again, this time with a new director…. Ez! I look forward to the new and improved camp.

Into 2015

Every year I try to ask TopoFusion how much I’ve ridden, based on whatever GPX I’ve collected. Sometimes it doesn’t happen for a few months into the next year. What can I say? I’ve been collecting data on rides for more than 10 years. It is still fun, but the novelty has worn off. I rarely check or compare the statistics of rides I do, preferring to focus on the experience instead. But I do find the comparison between years to be interesting, especially this one:

7570.87 mi, 836193 ft total ascent (850886 ft descent) – 22.9 % uphill grade, 34.5 % downhill grade
184 days 17:31:47 total time (48 days 18:20:34 moving, 135 days 23:11:13 stopped)
8:54 pace (7.6 mph average speed, 40.5 mph max speed)

That’s a fair bit of riding, about half of which was in the 4 month period known as CDTbike. It’s not the highest mileage year I’ve ever had, but it’s by far the highest in the ‘moving time’ category. I tend to average in the low 30’s for days of moving time, while mileage and total climbing fluctuate wildly depending on what I’m up to. Nearly 50 days of moving time is a new record for me, and while I’m sure there are scores of motivated folks out there riding far more, it’s a lot for me.

The point isn’t that anyone should be impressed, it’s that the numbers should impress upon me (and Eszter) that it’s OK that we were tired and worn out. We knew this intuitively, and felt this physically, but the numbers seem to back it up logically. Computing this, as I did back in January or February, helped in our recovery process, I think. The human brain is so good at tearing itself down (“why am I tired? I suck”). It helped to realize that it’s also one thing to ride lots on an unloaded bike where you return to your cozy and comfortable house every day. It’s another to be sleeping in the dirt and eating endless quantities of oats and mac ‘n cheese (not that I would have it any other way).

All this goes to say that it was time to put the bike down and try to do something a little different… even as much as the bike and the mountains still called.

There are other ways to answer that call. Tuesday Techy Taco run with Chad!

Instead of riding in the AZT Jamboree this year, Chad, Ez and I ran some 11 or so miles on the AZT. It was fun, but we paid for it. J-bake’s disposition (and position) are accurate reflections of how we all felt. We had to take a break from running after this. It was fun to participate in the event/fundraiser in a different way. Kudos once again to Chad for putting it together, and for kicking our butts running.

Neither running nor riding — a weekend busting trail out by Antelope Peak. I love it out there, and the trail was badly in need of some love. Little did I know how this work would pay off in the future.

Steve Gibbs at the summit of Antelope Peak.

It was time for the annual Antelope Peak Challenge, one of the first AES events, and one that I host. Racing bikes was pretty far from my mind, but AES events are quasi-races at best, and I was to host it.

Plus Alexis was in town and she managed to talk Ez into it. They had a blast racing it together, leading to some much needed bike (and racing) stoke for Ez.

I found myself struggling to stay with a couple of light and quick singlespeeders. I’d watch them accelerate away from me, knowing the strength to match them was not at all available to me. As is often the case in AES or bikepack racing, it is never purely about speed and I do have a few other advantages, especially on this course. I was crumbling away in the wind, just trying to hang on, as we neared Antelope Peak on roads. The peak climb was a much needed break from the bike, and despite ‘training’ on feet, the scramble up the peak still hurt badly.

All worth it for the view at the top.

Once on the Arizona Trail, headed back for Oracle, I realized two things:

1) I had a 5″ travel full suspension bike with a dropper post
2) Having walked this section multiple times during trailwork, I was more familiar with it than I have ever been

I dropped the seatpost and let it all hang out. Crushed the downhill five or six minutes faster than either Chad or I had during APCs or Gila 100s. Thanks, trail workers! AZT love was flying high. I hung on through the Bloodsucker climb and the seven washes. Yay, I ‘won’ my own race, yet again. Dork. But it *was* a lot of fun.

Some good stories came out as we watched everyone finish, both APCers and those in the Gila 100, over pizza and drinks. Classic post-AES good vibes.

Some foot adventures continued, despite Eszter’s shins and my hips.

I have always wanted to climb Cat Mountain, riding by and around it as often as I do. Eszter very nearly turned around at one point, being sketched out, but she pushed through it and we shared the summit with a couple of ravens. There many new on-foot adventures waiting, even in Tucson.

jumping with the neighbors

We somewhat reluctantly put the foot adventures on hold, pulling the bikes out.

More than that, I pulled the computer out. Winter has become the busiest season for Trackleaders.com, with a full calendar of mushing events, among others. I guess it’s a pretty good time to be busy since there’s always time for daily adventures, and longer things like bikepacking are less attractive with short days and more limited choices. Still, I can only take so much chaos and did get anxious for something long.

I committed to a weekday in Phoenix, meeting up with the good John Schilling for a grand tour of the west Superstitions.

The riding out there is superb.

The views are even better, especially in afternoon light.

Another goal was to scout out some singletrack additions to the AZT750 route that John has been bending my ear about for some time. Doesn’t this look like the kind of rubble you’d love to one day hike your bike up?

This *definitely* looks like the kind of trail and riding we want to add to the route. There’s serious promise out there, we just need to solidify it a little, and maybe see how the balance of some new trail work sorts out.

In true Schilling style, the ride was long, and the sun got low.

This ranks up there with the west side of the Tucson Mountains for ‘best places to be at sunset.’ Super fun chunky riding, just on the edge of rideable with lots of sweat and effort.

And the lights came out, too. Wouldn’t have it any other way. Thanks for the superb ride, John. A much needed break from programming SPOT dots.

A few more long rides like this one and I was beginning to feel recovered from 2014. Surely the mind was back into dreaming of future rides.

Pinacate Fat-biking

We had grand plans for a bikepack around the Sierra Pinacate, a large collection of volcanic peaks and cinder cones just across the border from the Camino Diablo, in Mexico.

Chad had previously received permission to ride park roads and singletrack from a supportive and enthusiastic park superintendent. He couldn’t get a hold of that …. [Continue reading]

Back to December

Many blogs are dead these days, but mine is not one of them. As of… right now.

I think it was mostly a case of over-sharing. The CDT was a long trip, and one we documented well. I took thousands of pictures and wrote tens of thousands of words. And I enjoyed just about every …. [Continue reading]

Run vs Ride: In Hot Water

photo by Jonathan Buchanan

Agua Caliente sits maybe 3000 feet above Tucson, a prominent high-point between the Catalina and Rincon Mountains. The trail to the top is only 4.5 miles long, so it’s steep. And like all good trails in Tucson, it’s full of chunk and rubble.

As such, it’s a brilliant …. [Continue reading]

What’s an interesting adventure?

What’s an interesting adventure?

It’s a question I’ve been repeatedly asking myself since finishing the Continental Divide Trail. What do I find interesting, what’s next?

For a while, not much was very interesting, adventure-wise. But the worry was that if nothing was that interesting, I must not be interesting, and what if I …. [Continue reading]

November Re-training

Some call November the off-season. Some might think after 26 days of moving time over the summer, we’d be looking for some significant down time.

Life is too short for an off-season. For me, November has thus far been for re-training.

Re-training, as in re-learning, as in reminding yourself how to do something …. [Continue reading]

Advice to future CDTers

I have a few thoughts to get down that may be useful to future CDT riders. As always, take advice you find on the internet with a grain of salt!


Go light. The CDT is not a bike trail. But you should ride it (and hike-a-bike it), anyway! You really should. But …. [Continue reading]

Rest and Recovery

Even when you can’t do that much, you can still do some cool things.

Looking back at my photos from the last ~month of ‘rest and recovery’ it sure seems like we’ve gotten out a lot. But there haven’t been any long rides. There haven’t been any bikepacks. No new trails explored. No big techy …. [Continue reading]

CDTBike Photos – Lincoln to Fin

From Lincoln, the official CDT is done, but there are still miles to ride. On to the Great Divide Mountain Bike route, with a huge sign of relief and excitement at some straightforward miles.

It’s not well a known fact, but Ez is a horse whisperer.

Quick ride to Ovando. Look …. [Continue reading]

CDT – Reflections and observations

We’ve been off the trail for about a month now. But we can still feel the effects of four months spent on the trail. I’m still processing the experience, and still recovering from it.

So, how has four months of bikepacking changed us? What were the lessons and insights learned? Here are a few …. [Continue reading]

CDTBike Photos – Butte to Lincoln

It’s hard to describe the kind of fatigue that settled in during the last quarter of the trail. We could still put in big days and cover difficult terrain, but resting no longer returned much strength to us. Huge town meals were a way to survive, instead of giving us an instant boost of energy …. [Continue reading]

CDTBike Photos – Wisdom to Butte


We spent some time in the town of Wisdom, eating and watching it rain. This would become a pattern all the way to the Canadian Border as cold storms continued to hammer Montana. They seemed to come at a frequency of one per week.

We needed rest badly, so the rain was …. [Continue reading]

CDTBike Photos – Lima to Wisdom

We pedaled out of Lima, a day too early, as it turned out. When fatigue sets in two hours out of town, you know you might be in trouble. Luckily the first 30 or so miles are on the GDMBR, so it’s a gentle warmup.

These are beautiful GDMBR miles. Though I know …. [Continue reading]

CDTBike photos – West Yellowstone to Lima

Though I managed to keep up on daily blog posts, I fell woefully behind on photos in Montana. No matter, I’m loving going back through them now. These start at West Yellowstone, where we waited out a couple days of rain, then finally hit our first section of Montanan CDT.

I loved the giant …. [Continue reading]

CDTBike – Statistics and report card

green - official CDT; cyan - Colorado Trail; yellow - Great Divide Mountain Bike Route

CDTBike 2014

May 12th to September 12th – 124 days Total mileage cycled/hiked: 3737 miles Mileage without day rides: 3623 miles Mileage without resupply runs and day rides: 3260 miles Moving time: 26 days, 14.5 hours Elevation Gain: 453,000 feet

Zero days: 26 Average overall travel speed (including zero days): 30.1 miles per …. [Continue reading]

Day 112 — CDT done!


We are done! Finished with the CDT!

Starting out in New Mexico, exactly four months ago, this moment was anything but certain. We didn’t even have a plan to make it the final miles to the northern terminus (you can’t ride bikes there), and some of the ideas to reach it were pretty …. [Continue reading]