As the lunch hour dragged on, we weren’t getting any closer to our intended camp destination on the rim of the Grand Canyon. But none of us seemed concerned in the slightest.
Eszter sat near a spring in the shade of a fir tree watching the birds above, anxious to catch another glimpse of the colorful western tanager that had just disappeared.
Scott had wandered down to the edge of the narrow grassy meadow in the bottom of the drainage for some better shade. And from my vantage point above, it looked like he had promptly fallen into a post-lunch slumber.
In the dark shade near Scott, Kaitlyn crouched next to her bike, shuffling items around within her bike bags and small pack to make room for more water. With no water available until the following morning, we each were hauling at least five liters from this spring.
And I reclined next to the spring, enjoying the relaxed atmosphere of this bikepacking trip and the relatively cool weather of the Kaibab Plateau, while the lower elevations were being scorched by the first real heat of the summer.
As the sun migrated overhead, my shade on the slope became sparse, so Eszter and I wandered down to join Scott.
“Who wants some coffee?” I asked, excitedly. I had become enamored by the concept of post-lunch coffee while Kaitlyn and I were touring in Patagonia. The little afternoon pick-me-up was nice, but this coffee carried with it a connotation of taking the time to slow down and soak in one’s surroundings with less concern about the destination.
“Me!” Eszter replied with a big grin.
“Well, sure, if you’ve got some extra,” Scott said, sounding a bit groggy.
“Of course!” chimed Kaitlyn as she came over to sit down after getting her gear repacked.
“Excellent.” I dug the coffee and sugar out of my pack, Kaitlyn grabbed the pot, and Eszter contributed their stove since she clearly didn’t want to wait for our little alcohol stove to gradually warm the water.
Minutes later, we were all relishing our cups of coffee, watching swallows darting about in the sky above, and eagerly anticipating the upcoming singletrack of the Rainbow Rim Trail. But clearly, none of us felt any sense of urgency to get moving.
The prior couple days of the trip had the same relaxed atmosphere. Our initial crew of six hadn’t started the trip until mid-afternoon on the first day, and once we started pedaling south on the Arizona Trail, we were distracted into stopping often for the views, the Kaibab ground squirrels, the beautiful meadows, and photographic perspectives that couldn’t be passed up. We stopped well before dark to camp next to an old corral and, over dinner, shared stories of bikepacking misadventures – trails overgrown by bamboo, being chased by Howler Monkeys, strings of flat tires, and endless hike-a-bike. Fortunately, all those challenges seemed so distant that evening.
On the second day, we were treated to more flowy singletrack, more meadows, more big views, and a stupendously clear spring. But we were eager to get to Grand Canyon, so we rode a bit more steadily until reaching the rim. And then the relaxing commenced – a late lunch from the café, snacks and cold drinks from the store, more cold drinks around our picnic-table-with-a-huge-view in the campsite on the rim’s edge, closely followed by dinner-with-a-huge-view. So far, this particular trip had a misadventure quotient of nearly zero, and the riding-to-hike-a-bike ratio was through the roof.
Miles of deserted rolling two-track through Grand Canyon National Park on the third morning carried us to intermittent vistas and ultimately our lunchtime spring. Lee and Pascal had opted to take a more direct route back to our starting location near Jacob Lake, and the remaining four of us aimed due east for more singletrack and another night of canyon rim camping. After nursing our coffees for the better part of an hour, the shadows had grown longer, the air had cooled down a bit, and we all decided that it was probably time to chase down the Rainbow Rim Trail. And it sure did not disappoint.
Huge scenery. Stellar riding. Minimal pushing. Long lunch breaks. Great company. Entertaining wildlife. Good food. Ample route options. Perfect weather. These are the ingredients, in no particular order, for my ideal bikepacking adventure. What’s your ideal bikepacking trip look like?
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After growing up in Minnesota, I’ve been lured away by the rugged charm of the mountainous west. I relish every opportunity I find to spend a day (or days) on the bike, linking together unknown trails and forgotten routes through deserted country, enjoying the simplicity and unpredictability. When driven to race, I am growing ever fonder of pushing the limits of endurance and sanity. www.krefs.blogspot.com