Someone once said that all great adventures partially involve a mishap. Or maybe it was me… Just now in that previous sentence… Whatever the case, if this is true, then the tale that follows could possibly be marked as one of the greatest adventures of all time.
“We want to send you on a mountain bike adventure” was what the good people from Mission Workshop had initially told me, and being one who likes both mountain bikes and adventures, I eagerly obliged. As the planning stages made way for the actual act of said adventure, it turned out that we would be engaging in a bike packing trip. I’m no stranger to backpacking, as it was an activity I grew up partaking in with my dad through the wilds of Colorado, nor am I a stranger to riding a mountain bike, but the combination of the two was a new beast indeed. From the planning to the preparation to the execution, I was on foreign soil. At least in this case, perhaps I thought that my own ignorance could benefit me to some degree.
No amount of prior planning could prepare the eight of us for what would come, because as we set forth with an array of slightly out of date maps, and a vague understanding of what lay between our starting point and that which would be our eventual and hopeful finish, we received an unprecedented cosmic spanking.
Plagued with mechanicals, wrong turns, questionable intel, and what we eventually surmised to be a ripple in the space-time continuum, we had periodic bouts of frustration resulting in the occasional need to be separated from the others, putting ourselves in our own virtual timeout corners. For others, therapy was found in streams of bellowed expletives that were so saturated with creative combinations of profanity, it would have made a sailor blush. Just the same, when you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, there aren’t that many people to blame aside from the one wearing the clothes on your back and the shoes on your feet. Undaunted, we continued to press on across the expanses which we originally had hoped held a winding ribbon of rideable trail, but after years of little to no use, forest fires, and nature taking its course, those stretches were far and few between. Never before have I pushed, pulled, and carried my bike as many miles as I did on this trip. With every achievement, be it cresting another seemingly endless ascent, making it through another day with no injuries, or even finding a lost toothbrush deep within the confines of a frame bag, we would be soon be challenged with many more miles of bush whacking, resulting in shredded and bloody legs or swarms of yellow jackets.
The highs were indescribable, and the gut wrenching lows were just as profound.
I’m a proponent of listening to the universe, and letting it guide me where it chooses. Working against it can sometimes be akin to removing a splinter in your finger through your elbow, but occasionally, and I mean very occasionally, challenging it can net you some pretty amazing results. Despite the fact that we were headlong into what at times felt like an absolute death march, stealing a moment to sip some water, eat a snack, and take a look around became a ritual of the utmost importance. While we may have been periodically flirting with being hopelessly lost, embracing the fact that it’s still possible in this day and age of GPS, smart phones, and all of the technological high fives the world has to offer, a person can still walk into the woods and disappear gave us the hugely important reminder of one’s scope, and significance on the planet.
Between occasional bouts of fear and uncertainty, taking in the vistas of tens of thousands of square acres of breathtakingly beautiful wild land offered both calm, as well as solace. Coupled with the deafening sound of silence, save for an occasional bird, the breeze in our ears, and our own breathing acted as inspiration for the journey. This, as it turned out, and as far as my own personal experience was concerned, was what fed my soul the most.
Would I do a similar trip again? Possibly. Would I recommend others attempt to undertake a similar feat? Probably. Would I recommend that one attempt to subsist on more than nine pounds of beef jerky? Absolutely. Because as long as the mishaps stay in lock step with the successes, one inevitably will emerge from the woods with a realigned sense of themselves and more importantly, the world in which they live.