As we keep telling people, six months is not nearly long enough to experience the entirety of the United States, but it is a very long time to be on the road. This has become increasingly evident in recent weeks, and we’ve both begun to feel a deep and lasting exhaustion. This combined with our longing for home has pushed us to move through several areas with greater haste than we’d intended. For a time this went unchecked, but now that we have discussed and acknowledged it, we have been able to make a conscious effort to take our time, to get after it, to rest as needed, and to make it home with no regrets of mismanaged time.
In the spirit of experiencing South Dakota we got out for an epic ride in the Black Hills; full of jumps, loose corners, rocks, and a good deal of pain. After riding we returned to camp where we met our Westy-dwelling neighbors, who happened to have gone to school in Ashland years ago. They gave us some great beta for Conn’s Diagonal, an interesting trad route that we checked out the next morning before heading to Ten Sleep Canyon. On our way through Wyoming, we happened upon what can only be described as a godsend – a free, public swimming pool with showers and all. Naturally, we took full advantage of this wonderful public service.
Ten Sleep is visually stunning, with miles of limestone cliffs forming the walls of a deep, textured canyon amidst an otherwise flat and barren landscape. We were excited to climb at this reputable sport destination, so we were quite put out when we arrived at camp, opened the truck doors, and were instantly targeted by an astounding number of mosquitoes. The next morning, we made our way down into town to try and find out more about this surprising mosquito infestation and form a game plan for the coming week or so. Word on the street was that this is an unusually buggy year, and that climbing is better reserved for the afternoon, when the popular crags are in the shade. So after making some arrangements for our next stops, we drove back up the canyon and got on a handful of Ten Sleep’s sharp, pocketed faces. Whether it was actually the routes, or just our low energy and the incessant attacks by our blood-sucking friends, the climbing at Ten Sleep did not prove to be our favorite.
The next morning, we packed up and headed West to Lander, to try our luck on the rock out there. We got up one easy route before the combination of high sun exposure and our aforementioned lethargy sent us to camp early. We kitted up in the morning and started the day’s pedal with several miles of switch-backed road climbing up the side of the canyon we’d camped in. When we finally reached the top, we took off up a poorly built, steep, and overgrown trail. We had our doubts that this was the correct trail, but didn’t see any other options, so we carried on. After a long, frustrating climb that involved more hiking than riding we finally reached the end of the trail, which happened to be a climbing crag. We had definitely taken the wrong trail, so we headed back down, and eventually found the correct one a little ways down an adjacent fire road. We were rewarded with a fast, pedaly section of rocky trail on top of the plateau followed by a steep, loose descent. This ended our stay in Lander and we made for Jackson Hole.
After months on the road away from our friends and families, seeing familiar faces has become a rare and welcomed treat. We were stoked to get out with our old friend Taylor and our new friend Eric for a day of sport climbing near Jackson. This popular, touristy mountain town in the shadow of the Grand Tetons is where we started to find our rhythm once more. After a solid morning of climbing, we got out on a nice long pedal through scorched forests and fields of wildflowers, with a killer decent and a dip in the icy creek to wrap it up.
The next day, we pulled the boats off the truck for the first time in two months to paddle a moderate section of the Snake, and the day after that we drove up to Yellowstone and spent the day checking out the awesome geysers that the park is known for. We’ve found that National Parks always bring up some challenging questions about the accessibility and preservation of natural areas, but we were happy to have braved the crowds and witnessed this impressive geothermal display.
Having camped directly across from the Tetons for days, we thought it time to finally get in and check them out. Over the course of seven miles of bushwhacking and scrambling we ascended over 4,000 vertical feet, to reach an unnamed peak with incredible views of the valley and the surrounding Tetons. The hike down was just as arduous as the climb up, and the combination left us tired and sore the next morning.
Having explored the Jackson area to our satisfaction, we made our way towards Sun Valley, Idaho. After a series of minor frustrations, we finally set out to ride the next morning, only to find ourselves 20 miles from the truck and with very little food and water left. We had missed a turn and would have had to pedal all the way back to the truck on the bike path and fire-roads if not for a gracious rescue from our friend Taylor who was in town for a few days. This ride left us weary and even more frustrated, so the next day, which happened to be Bennett’s 21st birthday, we opted to pay to ride the lifts at Bald Mountain as something of a treat and a quasi rest day. After what turned out to be another long day of riding, we grabbed a burger and a beer and called it a night. We left Sun Valley earlier than we’d planned, and after a much needed soak in a hot spring, made it to Boise Idaho, where we’ve been staying the last few days with our good friend Tyler from SOU. Our first morning here we got out on a great ride with Dax and Dylan, who both have strong ties to NICA and are highly involved in the Idaho cycling community. Dax and the guys at Idaho Mountain Touring helped us get our bikes the TLC they deserve by opening their shop to us and sharing some of their wisdom. We also got out for a little bouldering session with Brad and T Mac and checked out the Eagle Sports Complex, a rad bike park in the Boise area. We’re looking forward to a couple more good rides in Idaho before making it up to Missoula and Glacier in Montana!
From the beginning, one of our major goals was to work with NICA in an attempt to help build an Alumni Network, to inspire, and be inspired. Unfortunately, our limited time on the road, the multi-sport nature of our trip, and the difficulty of matching our schedule with those very busy non-profit organizations has made it much more challenging than anticipated. We’ve had limited opportunities to interact with high school mountain bike teams, but that changed this weekend with a very successful rendezvous in Minnesota.
First, however, I must answer the question of how we got from New Paltz, New York to Cuyuna, Minnesota. After getting rained out for a few days in New Paltz, we finally managed escape the rain. First by way of our new friend Felicia inviting us to stay with her and her husband Joe on the fourth, which we greatly appreciated, and eventually by a break in the clouds. We managed two great days of climbing in The Trapps and got to explore some of the best intermediate trad routes the East coast has to offer. On the 7th, we dropped Alyssa off at the Albany Airport and continued North only to find more storms. New York League folks put us in touch with Rob who was generous enough to show us the way amidst the maze of trails in Pittstown. It ended up being a bit of a multi-sport day given all the swimming through rain we had to do.
From Pittstown, we headed to Brattleboro where Nathan’s old friend Simeon put us up for the night. From Brattleborro, decided to make the 8 hour drive up to Maine and found ourselves camped in Acadia National Park. We took it easy and enjoyed our time at the Atlantic ocean doing some tide-pooling, hiking, and swimming. The next morning, we got up far too early to watch the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain, the first sunrise in the USA. After several more hours of driving, we had traversed Maine and New Hamshire to arrive in Burke Vermont, home of the Kingdom Trails, some of the best single track on the East Coast. The Kindom Trails are all on private land, which means it’s pay use. It was very expensive for our budget so we put in almost 30 miles and 5000 feet of climbing in order to get our money’s worth. Much of that money goes toward building high quality trails, so we were content to ride all day. That night, we met up with some friend from the trail, Harry and Todd, shared a campsite, swapped some stories, and slept very well. You can check out Harry’s blog and his post about the weekend here.
From Burke, we went to Barre to ride the trails at Millstone Hill. The riding was again private, expensive, and very high quality. To wrap up our expensive weekend, we stopped by the Ben and Jerry’s factory for some samples. At last we got back budget by way of staying with my Aunt Kathy and Uncle Ralph in Burlington. They graciously put us up, fed us, and shuttled us back and forth from the truck repair place. Having given the truck some due loving (we’ve put over 10,000 miles on it in 4 months), we got back on our way West having had a very nice and relaxed visit.
With an upcoming commitment four days and 1,500 miles away, we hit the road. Our first day of driving brought us to Toronto where Nathan’s friend Joy generously fed us and put us up for the night. The following day, we drove into Michigan and even had a couple hours of daylight to check out the trails at Yankee Springs State Recreation Area. The lack of elevation around the lakes took some getting use to, but showed us just how effectively a small amount of elevation can be used. Thursday, we made the drive to Madison, Wisconsin by way of a quick swim and some exploration at Lake Michigan and some real Chicago pizza. In Madison, we again stayed with some of Nathan’s friends. Hanna, a friend of Berkeley Mike’s Bikes, and ultimately her parents Kent and Carol, were very generous hosts.
Friday, we arrived at our destination, on time, to hang out with the Edina High MTB team in Cuyuna, Minnesota. Bruce Martens, the Coaching Director for the Minnesota League, had insisted that the trails in Cuyuna were some of the best in the Midwest, and we were not disappointed. Saturday, we went on a group ride of almost 40 with all the riders, coaches, and parents. We opted to hang back a bit and dip our toes in to get a feel for how the weekend might go. After several hours of riding and a bit of chatting with students, we headed to Scott and Tori’s lakeside cabin for a barbecue with the team, including their son Ben. The Barbecue tuned out to be a fantastic opportunity to talk to parents and students about what we’re doing, all over great food, yard games, and even a bit of wake boarding, a first for both of us. That night, we returned to camp inspired by the thanks and generosity we received simply for offering our experiences.
The following day, we jumped in head first on another ride with the team. We were given the opportunity to teach a couple lessons and lead the group down a few great, but too-short, descents. We even swapped bikes in order to give the students an opportunity to demo some Marins, which are bit more slack than their usual cross-country race rigs. After a dip in the lake and some goodbyes, we again hit the road West and spent the night in the self proclaimed “Corn Capital of the World” Olivia, Minnesota. Yesterday, we drove across South Dakota (which seemed much flatter than Kansas) and camped in the Black Hills, home of Mt. Rushmore. Earlier today, we went exploring and got a couple different views of some very important people. From here, we will continue working West with our remaining 6 weeks.
Although we’ve spent less time getting after it in the last few weeks than any other time on the trip, it’s been a great experience. We’ve both inspired and, more importantly for us, been inspired by other’s stories, generosity, and appreciation for what we’re doing. Thank you to all we’ve met a long the way who helped to make the last few months so excellent.
“Todd and I were deeply impressed with the passion, intelligence, and unstoppable optimism of these two young fellows. They infused our tired souls with much-needed zest.” -Harry
“You are both doing something great and I want you to know how supportive I am of your endeavor. I consider myself lucky to have been a part of your journey and look forward to any opportunity to contribute further.” -Bruce
“I just wanted to say thanks for letting me try out your bikes, talk to my friends and I about your trip, help me work on my skills and ride!” -Ben
I have a little notebook that I use to keep track of lessons we’ve learned during this trip. In North Carolina, I decided to sleep out with no tent or tarp because it was so dang hot and humid, knowing there might be a storm that night. There was. I got soaked, as did all of my stuff. After catching a couple hours of cramped sleep in the cab, I wrote: “Always assume it will rain in the middle of the night. Prepare accordingly.”
When we arrived in West Virginia, a friend of a friend set us up with a spot to camp out on a wooden platform – pretty plush right? Well the rain fly was a bit of a pain to set up and the other folks around were rocking tarp shelters so we went with that. They were all using several very large tarps; we used a single 8′ by 10′. When we got back to camp at the end of the day, the tent and everything inside of it was drenched, the tarp full to bursting. The next day I wrote something along the lines of: “In the Southeast in the summer, expect a thunderstorm every day.”
Here we are several weeks later, holed up in the library near the Gunks, after getting thoroughly soaked on our trek from the rocks to the truck earlier today. We left before the rain came, but not quite early enough. New note: “Getting wet is not a problem. The problem is getting (all of the gear) dry again. Get going before you hear thunder.” In between the storms we’ve been getting up to some really fun stuff in West Virginia, Maryland, and now New York!
From the Red River Gorge in Kentucky we made the short drive to the New River Gorge near Fayetteville, West Virginia, where we inexpertly set up camp. After many back-to-back days of hard climbing in the Red, we decided to use our first day in West Virginia to get a lay of the land and go for our first pedal in many days. We spent a good chunk of the day at Water Stone Outdoors, waiting out a short storm and talking beta and adventures with their incredibly helpful and knowledgeable staff. We then got some beta from Marathon Bikes and made our way to the Arrowhead trail network. We weren’t super stoked on these classic IMBA-style XC trails on our first cruisy lap (clockwise), but we took the second lap at a much more aggressive pace, went counter-clockwise, and had a blast! We’ve learned that cross country trails (especially) are more fun if you pedal everything!
The next day we got just a couple of trad routes in at the Junkyard wall before getting slammed by another storm and calling it for the day. In the morning the clouds were already dark and heavy, and it didn’t take long for them to break open. We spent the first half of the day getting an oil change and doing some work at Cathedral Cafe in Fayetteville, where we got massive, delicious servings of bread pudding (from day old muffins and cinnamon rolls!) a la mode.
When the sun finally emerged and the roads started to dry out we made our way back to the Junkyard and got in a very solid evening climbing session on some excellent trad routes. The rock in the New is bullet-hard sandstone, making for bomber placements. The friendly people in town and at the crags made for a very inviting atmosphere, but the hot, humid weather mixed with thunder storms compelled us to move on after another half day of climbing. Definitely a place to spend some time, but we’d recommend going in the Winter, Spring, or Fall!
From the New, we made the winding journey to Seneca Rocks West Virginia. This tiny little town feels like it’s sole purpose is to support the adventure tourism industry based around the town’s namesake – Seneca Rocks. Seneca is a single, massive fin of rock that juts out of the forested hillside, with climbing on both sides.
The dominant style there is classic adventure trad. We set out with beta from Zack and our friend Luke, as well as the helpful folks at Gendarme Climbing Shop, and after four pitches of wicked exposure, fun climbing, and good placements, found ourselves atop the rock’s south peak! We spent a total of three packed days climbing some of Seneca’s most classic routes, and I got much more comfortable placing gear and building trad anchors.
Dark, deep clouds and a sudden, billowing wind put a little extra speed in our step as we made the last rappel off of our final route in Seneca. We made it back to our packs and speed-walked our way back to the truck, only for the storm to move East without hitting us. Well East was the directions we were going, so as is our wont, we hopped in the truck and chased down the storm. It didn’t take long until we were bombarded with massive, meaty raindrops that all but obscured the road entirely.
After an exciting drive, we arrived at our destination – Eric and Lori Rice’s Country Pleasures Farm in Western Maryland. As soon as we walked in the door, we were helped to an impressive dinner of roasted vegetables, applesauce from their orchard and sausages from their cows before settling into a stimulating conversation and making our way to bed. Over the next several days, we worked on various projects around the farm, from picking blueberries, to building a hoop house, to digging garlic and more.
Eric and Lori made us completely welcome and fed us with the intention of both filling the calorie-deficit we’ve built over the last few months and keeping us full until we get back home. With their guidance, life on the farm developed a certain ease. We worked hard and we did our best to work smart – always trying to figure out the most efficient way to complete the task at hand. Yet we didn’t have to figure out where to sleep, we weren’t worried about wether the cooler needed ice or about what was in it, nor did we even feel the need to seek out any mountain biking or paddling, though it was readily available. Simpler to wake up in the morning, eat a hearty breakfast, go to work for a few hours, take some lunch, and go to work again before coming in for a delicious dinner, a cold beer, and engaging conversation. It’s a lifestyle I could certainly get used to.
We made a trip out to D.C. since we were in the area, and got to check out some very cool exhibits at the Air and Space and Natural History museums, but more importantly, got to meet up with our good buddy Topher from SOU! After getting our fill of the big city, we were happy to be back on the farm with our hands in the dirt, and the Oregonian reunions continued when we picked up Alyssa from the Baltimore airport. She joined us for a solid day of farm work, and then with the truck packed to capacity and loaded up with all manner of organic goodness from the farm (including steaks, applesauce, scones, and more), we made the haul up to New Paltz New York to climb at The Gunks.
We met up with our friend Ariene from Red Rocks for a quick bouldering session before the impending storm. As we climbed we saw the clouds coming in and felt the wind pick up but didn’t start hustling until we heard the rolling thunder and it was too late. Now we’re working on figuring out our next move – it looks like there’s a high chance of thunderstorms throughout the immediate area, so we might just sit tight for a couple days and wait for it to pass so we can go climb. If y’all know of any cool places to check out in the general New Paltz/Albany region, let us know!
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From the time this trip was merely a conversation, Boone was a guaranteed stop. Zack Green’s stories of Boone and the surrounding areas were plenty to finally get us there. As things happen, Zack has since moved on from the SOU Outdoor Program and returned to Boone just in time to host us and show us around.
We arrived late on the 28th after driving the ten hours from St. Louis. Zack and Alicia greeted us with a great meal and we met their friends and upstairs neighbors Ben and Katie. Our first full day in Boone, Zack, Nathan, and I checked out the local bike park, Rocky Knob, where we found a good dose of rocks, berms, jumps, and rollers.
The following day we made moves to Ship Rock, the local crag where Zack and Alicia learned to climb. The rock was impressively high quality and made for great protection throughout its diverse terrain. Nathan put up his first two trad leads on a couple great moderate routes. We kept the day short, partially because thunderstorms were looming and partially to conserve energy for the next day’s epic.
From Zack and Alicia’s back porch, one can see Grandfather Mountain, the peak that dominates the view from Boone much like Mt. Hood in Portland or Mt. A in Ashland. Additionally, from their driveway is a trail that connects to many other trails. Since moving in, Zack had formulated a plan to hike from the doorstep to the top of Grandfather Mountain–Ben, the trail expert, had agreed it was possible. So, Saturday morning we set shuttle and six of us, Zack, Alicia, Ben, Katie, Nathan and I began the 16 miles to the summit at 9am in ideal hiking weather. It took roughly 8 hours to reach the summit, which provided an impressive view of white clouds. We were all feeling pretty good and prepared for the hike down to the truck, however, the last 4 miles proved to be a little more challenging than expected. After 12 hours of hiking we finally completed the 20 mile hike having survived a mile of bushwhacking through rhododendrons and a bit of confusion about how to get to the truck. It was a great adventure, but if anyone invites me to hike another section of the Tanawha trail, I will respectfully decline.
Sunday was, with no regrets, spent sleeping far too late and tinkering on bikes. The following morning Nathan and I rallied to Ship Rock and found some good climbing. We both pulled the “mystery move” of Hindu Kush, which was quite exciting on gear, and managed to get in a good dose of single pitch adventure trad. That night, we wished Zack well as he headed out of town to train more summer camp staff on ropes courses.
The next day we again had a casual day with a couple quick laps down Rocky Knob. Afterwards we went and checked out the App State OP which was strikingly familiar to SOU’s, though much larger. Wednesday, though, we did get after it. We went and checked out the riding at Wilksboro which was great. We again found a great balance of flow and tech with a couple rad descents. After Wilksboro we went back to Rocky Knob and took Alicia out for her first mt. bike ride in about five years, which she thoroughly enjoyed.The following day we said good bye and got ready to head to Kentucky, before deciding at the last minute to drive to Charlotte and meet up with S.K., an old SOU OP intern. She was generous enough to take us out to dinner. Unfortunately, she doesn’t currently own a boat and wasn’t able to join us in exploring the US National Whitewater Center the next day. It was very strange, but still very fun. I do wish all rivers had a conveyor belt shuttle. That night, S.K. got sick so we took off the next morning hoping to escape the illness and allow her to get healthy again. We drove towards Asheville but stopped to check out a local enduro race. Zach and Evan, a couple guys we met through the magic of the world wide web (we emailed them after seeing their video, Church), were racing. We opted to hang out for the night and settled for another casual day.
Monday, we made it to Brevard where we immediately headed out for a pedal. We were looking for Black Mountain but after missing the turn found ourselves riding Avery Creek instead. After a little more fireroad descent than we prefer, we got back to camp without getting too lost. The following day, we spent some time at the library applying for fall jobs then went and rode the actual Black Mountain Trail. The trail was rad and definitely challenging. We even managed to meet up with Zach and Evan again who were kind enough to show us the lines on an alternate Black Mountain loop.Following our time in Brevard, we passed through Asheville and stopped to see what Industry Nine was doing with their wheels. They had a quaint factory and offices on the north side of town and produce some great wheels with a pretty cool staff. That night, we stayed with Josh and Holly, some friends of friends, on their farm outside of Marshall, NC. They were great hosts and it would have bee enjoyable to stay longer, though we were destined for the Red River Gorge.
After a relaxing morning and some much needed washing, we headed to Miguel’s Pizza, the climber’s hub at the Red. We found a place to park the truck and have since spent the last few days climbing. The rock is amazing, the routes are incredibly sustained and pumpy, and the people are great. After 3 days of climbing, we are currently taking a much needed rest day in hopes of preventing the “perma-pump.” It’s been humbling getting on such long and sustained routes having not climbed hard in almost a month, but you can bet it is awesome. Over the next couple weeks, we have plenty of climbing to look forward too. We will likely climb at the red another day or two, though I could stay for weeks, then move on to the New River Gorge, Seneca, and the Gunks.
Before even leaving Ashland, we knew being in the right place at the right time for the weather and crowds would be key. In general, we’ve been pretty lucky. We timed Utah and Hueco Tanks perfectly. For most of Colorado, we were a little early due to snow (hence the Gunnison snow storm.) Salida, CO, however, we timed perfectly.
We arrived in Salida, the center of the universe if you’re a raft guide, late on May 14th. Surrounded by the highest concentration of 14,000ft. peaks in the lower 48 and on the the Arkansas River, there is some amazing white water to be had. We spent a total of four days kayaking and biking in and around Salida. We slowly worked into the paddling groove by starting on an easy section, Fractions, just above the town of Buena Vista. The next day, we paddled Brown’s Canyon (the most commercially rafted stretch of river in the world–like I said, middle of the universe). That afternoon we went for a short bike ride in Buena Vista and met up with Rachel and Mackenzie, some of our Durango friends who came to do some rafting and show us the meatier sections of river.
Saturday morning we got to it right away and did two laps down the Numbers section with a crew of kayaks and rafts. The Numbers is an incredibly well known stretch of almost continuous class IV with some fantastic drops; Nathan says it’s his favorite stretch of river he’s ever paddled. Afterwards, we headed back downstream to Salida and checked out the trails on S. Mountain with Rachel. The trails certainly held up and were far more technical than we had anticipated. Sunday, we paddled the Royal George where Nathan, once again, pulled off a couple of incredible combat rolls in Sunshine and Wall Slammer rapids. The river was running at a very kind level and we were lucky enough to miss the eminent crowds of Memorial Day weekend by a few days. As our friends drove back to Durango and work we headed north to Boulder. We pulled into camp on Magnolia Road late and quickly passed out.
We spent a casual Monday morning grocery shopping and flipping through guidebooks at the local REI trying to decide what to do. We opted to ride Valmont Bike Park, a free bike park in Boulder with single track, 2 pump tracks, a dual slalom course, progressive dirt jumps, and progressive slope style courses. Valmont was a pretty neat park to have in town and the biking community thrives because of it. In the evening we stayed with Emily, a friend of Nathan’s brother, and she loaded us with all the best climbing beta.
Tuesday morning our friend Jeroen, who we met 2 months prior at Red Rocks, showed us the climbing at Dream Canyon. The granite was awesome and we found some great sport and mixed routes. Around noon, our dirt-bagging buddy Dave from Joe’s Valley showed up and climbed with us for a bit. Unfortunately, we all failed to bring lunch, so we hiked back to the truck, ate some food, and went to check out the Flagstaff Boulders. The lack of rest and consecutive long days meant for an afternoon of less bouldering than anticipated, but it was still a great place to do a little climbing and hang out.
The next morning we got an early start and headed towards the First Flatiron, an iconic Boulder climb. With Dave, we roped up and set out for the 1000 feet of 5.6 climbing. After a mere 150 feet, it began raining, so we rapelled off a tree thinking it may be our last opportunity to bail. Naturally, by the time we were all on the ground, the sun came out. We opted to call it a day for fear of further thunderstorms and spent a couple hours slack-lining while Nathan got some Ukulele lessons from Dave. When the rain did start (we didn’t bail for nothing, there was even a tornado warning), we headed to Neptune Mountaineering to check out their museum of climbing gear, including the boots worn by Sir Edmond Hillary on the first (proven) ascent of Everest.
After bailing on the First Flatiron, we had a fight to pick and returned Thursday morning to do so. Dave, unfortunately, re-injured his back and was unable to join us, but Nathan and I climbed using a mix of sketchy run-outs and a good dose of simul-climbing. We topped out after four hours, just as the rain started to fall. That evening we went to mountain bike instructor Lee McCormack’s house to stay the night. We ran into Lee at the Arizona Leaders’ Summit, and he invited us to stay with him and his family (and ride his pump track) while we were in Boulder. They were all great hosts and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay. Lee gave us some beta on his favorite trails, so the next day we checked out the Picture Rock trail in Lyons. With a fantastic mix of technical and flow, it was a great way to spend the day and we escaped without being caught in the afternoon thunderstorms.
After doing plenty of climbing and biking the previous few days, we decided it was time to get back on the water. Saturday we headed towards Alto Alto, the upper-upper section of South Boulder Creek for a supposedly IV- creek run. We put on and floated down the class II creek until we reached our first real drop. At the end of the rapid, there was a fairly nasty ledge-hole where we both flipped. This was our first warning from the river. We continued on, having both successfully combat rolled. The next major drop was about 200 yards of back-to-back holes, many of which were quite sticky, with barely enough time to open your eyes and choose a line. Having begun to learn the character of the river, we decided it was a little too risky to continue with just the two of us and began the tiresome 1.5 mile hike back to the road, which was definitely a good call.
Sunday was our last day in Boulder. Lee took us out for a quick morning pedal and we rode a couple laps down the Links trail. Afterwards, Lee and family went to watch his daughters’ Ballet Recital while Nathan and I did some much needed laundry and organization and got in a couple good laps on the pump track. We all went out for a great dinner at Radda and got to bed early in preparation for our long drive.
We left boulder at 6am and arrived in St. Louis at 9pm making it our longest drive to date, 14 hours on the road. My Cousin Ralph and his girlfriend Liz have been kind enough to put us up, feed us, and show us around the city for a couple days. Today, we went and checked out the City Museum, an M.C. Escher style jungle gym for all ages that seems to stretch on forever. Soon, we’ll be making another long drive to Boone, NC, where we’ll meet up with Zack and Alicia Green for some more adventures!
If you spend enough time around mountain bikers, the word “Moab” is bound to come up. Usually uttered reverently and typically accompanied by dreamy looks and the occasional line of drool before all involved snap back to reality. Needless to say, we were excited to finally arrive in this fairytale destination. The storm that we first encountered at Indian Creek followed us to Moab, so we headed to camp, set up a tarp over the tailgate, and watched the impressive clouds travel over the canyon country.
If there’s one thing Moab riding is especially well known for its the large amount of slickrock (ancient, petrified sand dunes that are now rolling sandstone hills) found on the trails, so we started out on the quintessential Slickrock Bike Trail. We’d heard mixed reviews, but we really enjoyed the steep, constant ups and downs over this unfamiliar terrain, as well as the incredible traction that allowed us to climb impossibly-steep-looking slopes. Stunning views of the snowy La Sal mountains under a mantle of looming clouds didn’t hurt either.
With all of the rock around, Moab it is also a major climbing destination. On the two days we didn’t ride, we bouldered at Big Bend and got on some good sport and trad routes at Wallstreet, a roadside crag on the Colorado River. The Winggate Sandstone offered challenging climbing and also gave us the opportunity to get on a couple of cool crack climbs.
After a significant stretch without showers we were fortunate to be hosted by Karla (a family friend of Bennett’s) and Jose, who have both been heavily involved in Moab’s outdoor industry for years. We rounded out our first visit to Moab with a couple more solid rides, including the legendary Porcupine Rim Trail, where we were able to help out two new Australian friends with a bit of flat-tire trouble. After the epic ride, we splurged on burgers, fries and milkshakes at Milt’s Stop n’ Eat, the local favorite for delicious, greasy burgers. It was heavenly.
With our bellies full and the forecast showing high temps in Moab, we decided to make our way up north to climb in the mountains. We had four solid days of tough climbing that shredded both fingertips and muscles. Our first destination was an area with superb sandstone bouldering known as Joe’s Valley. In addition to great climbing in a beautiful location, we made some good friends and spent a couple of nights hanging out around campfires, joking, telling stories, eating stale S’mores and an abundance of peanuts.
For years Bennett has talked about the crazy, conglomerate climbing in Maple Canyon, and even with all the build up it did not disappoint. Imagine a vertical cobblestone road with all different sized cobbles along with the holes where they’ve fallen out over the years. After a snow-induced delay on our way from Joe’s we were still able to get in a solid afternoon of pumpy climbing on the unusual rock. Our second day in Maple began with a pilgrimage to The Pipedream, a mind-blowing roof loaded with perma-draws on insanely long, insanely steep routes. We went to a few other parts of the canyon and got in a very full day of climbing, pulling the last rope just as the rain came.
We awoke to a camp covered in snow, packed up and got back on the road to Moab. Our stay there ended with a nice pedal on the Sovereign trails, a long day of hiking in Arches, and a cool aid climbing adventure up The Pickle (a tower on the edge of Arches) before we made our way to Fruita!
Brian and Lorrie, the Couchsurfers we stayed with in Fruita are Harley enthusiasts, world travelers, and stellar hosts, and they showed us a great time in Fruita even though the rain we encountered limited our options for adventure. They took us on a tour of the Colorado National Monument and Brian taught us a little about bee keeping while we helped plant dozens of baby trees on the property. We’re looking forward to visiting in a few years to see how they’ve done! The mix of rain and bentonite clay soil in Fruita pretty much nixed anything more than our one ride there and convinced us to get back on the road. Today we made our way to Gunnison to see about doing some adventuring.
It was snowing heavily when we arrived in Gunnison, which we hadn’t exactly planned on. We stopped by Rock And Roll Sports to find out about where to camp and where to ride when the snow melted and the folks there were really friendly and helpful. From there we made our way to the library to get some work done and hang out somewhere warm and dry as long as possible. By chance, one of the guys from the shop passed by on his way home, recognized the truck, and invited us to crash on his couch for the night. We talked bikes, racing, and touring for a few hours before calling it a night in the nice dry apartment. The next morning Bennett and I made our way to Gunnison’s whitewater park where we spent a couple of hours surfing the frigid water. Once the snow had melted, our host Alex pedaled out and took us on a sweet tour of the trails at Hartman Rocks. Hartman’s has a great mix of decomposed granite and non-composed granite – big rock rollers and jagged technical sections kept the riding very interesting! Today we gave the bikes some loving and are taking care of some business at the library before heading to Salida and then up to Boulder!
Colorado. A mysterious place where any random person you see is likely to be more of a badass than you think you are, and where approximately one out of five vehicles is loaded with bikes, boats, or both. Colorado was calling, and it was time for us to go.
We arrived in Durango after a night drive from Albuquerque, then proceeded to spend the next hour and a half looking for a good spot to camp – the one we had in mind was still closed for the season. Not knowing for sure where we’re going to sleep always adds a good deal of stress to any evening, but after hours on the road, multiple dead-ends and too many hours since our last meal, tensions were especially high when we finally pulled into camp. We were still not in high spirits the next morning, but our first day on the river quickly improved our moods.
From the day we loaded the boats in Ashland (March 20th) to Easter (April 20th), they did not move. They collected bugs and they looked pretty and they utterly destroyed our gas mileage through the windy SouthWest, but they did not take us down any rivers – until Durango! The Animas River runs right through downtown, and the freshly re-modeled play park just re-opened a couple days before our arrival. We set shuttle, and then finally pulled on dry tops and skirts, buckled helmets, and slipped the boats into the cold water. The next few hours of eddy-hopping and getting our surf on at the new play park made all of the atrocious mileage well worth it.
The following day we checked out Fort Lewis College’s Outdoor Pursuits, which is similar to SOU’s OP, and went for a pedal with a couple of NICA Alumni who race on the school’s legendary bike team. We were definitely hurting, but it was a great ride and gave us an excellent idea of both the high quality and impressive quantity of Durango’s trails.
Our friend Seamus, another Fort Lewis College student who’s been the Outdoor Adventure Leadership Intern at SOU for the last few months will be graduating this week (congrats buddy!) He put us in touch with his friends Rachel, Cody and Mia, who were kind enough to host us for our last few days in Durango. They are all boaters, mountain bikers, and climbers, so naturally we had a great time hanging out!
Rachel even took us to the Sailing Hawks boulders, which offer some cool, overhanging sandstone problems, before heading off to the ladies’ raft racing practice. Our last day in Durango brought us back to the Animas, where we spent a good chunk of time at the play park, and then back up into the hills for a pedal that the gals recommended. It was a fun ride with a good climb up and a sweet cruise down that got us back to the house just before dark.
We made a big breakfast in the morning, said goodbye to our hosts and headed off to Phil’s World, a highly recommended trail network an hour West of Durango. Phil’s lived up to the hype, and it was easy to get into the flow. From there we made our way out to camp at Indian Creek . We were surprised to wake up not to the sun but to snow and sleet hitting the side of the truck.
Indian Creek is the preeminent crack climbing destination of the world, and although we didn’t quite have the appropriate gear or much crack climbing experience, we had planned to check it out and seeing if we could team up with some other climbers.
As we drove into the park it was immediately clear why it is such a major destination. Every rock (and there are many), was littered with perfect cracks running all the way up – it felt very familiar just because of how many pictures and videos we’d seen of the area. Epic as it looked, with the rain and subsequent lack of other climbers we decided to call it and head to Moab!