A First Day

A First Day—by Guest Blogger Diana Purtz

With the last of my gear securely fastened, I mentally sort through each bag’s contents. There it is, I think, that familiar flutter of angst that accompanies me on my every journey. This trip is different though, I’m not going to an airport; I’m not getting into a car. This journey is going to begin right here from the moment I lock up my garage. I “saddle up” and as my feet snap satisfyingly into their home for the next few days, those pesky thoughts of what’s missing dissipate. I’m left with a refreshing sense of rightness. My soon-to-be good friend, Julietta (a spanking new Salsa El Mariachi), my life and bike partner Brett, and I are headed out for a fully human-powered adventure and my first glimpse into the world of bikepacking.

The author looking strong for the start of her first ever bikepacking adventure—photo courtesy of Brett Davis​

In our amazing setting of southwest Colorado, it only requires 10 miles of pavement before we begin our weekend of sweet singletrack and off-road rumbles. The shimmer of sunlight sprinkles through the aspens as I wind my way up and up and out of civilization. There is such a freeing light of carrying your own belongings and releasing yourself from materialism’s grasp. I am carrying everything I need to survive and nothing that I don’t. My shoulders may ache and my legs may tire but I’ll be fueled by the endless energy of simplicity’s freedom.

Finding freedom on two wheels—photo courtesy of Brett Davis

When I agreed to this trip, I wondered how the physical stress would affect me but I never really worried about it. I’m good at being uncomfortable. I like the unknown. As the hours pass and I find myself climbing again on an unfamiliar trail, the sound of my straining breath only motivates me to push harder. Though my legs burn and my chest is heaving, the physical exertion does not phase me. My greatest and most influential muscle, however, starts to flare up. Soon enough my mind flexes its full power as I walk along a rocky, steep switchback that maybe I could have ridden. Negative accusations course through me regarding my bike skills and the age old, “Am I good enough?” question starts to cramp my journey. But only for a moment, for this is my adventure, at my level, and critics aren’t welcome. I remind myself that the beauty of this experience is that it is an experience… an opportunity to push myself, try something new, and breathe in the unpredictable wonder of the natural world.

Pushing myself can mean hiking my bike up a steep and rocky trail—photo courtesy of Brett Davis

Unpredictable it is.  I’m hiding from the hail under some short trees off the side of a mountain. We are almost to treeline and there’s not much coverage. As the sky rumbles and lightning flashes on the old service road above us, I reach into my pocket for an easily accessible Fuzzy Peach. I might have needed advice on how to attach my bike bags and how to best distribute gear weight, but when it comes to strategic candy placement, I’m dialed! The sweet burst of flavor helps to distract me from the cold. My feet and hands are numb. My shorts are soaked. My fatigued muscles are beginning to tighten. We are so close to the top and only another mile or so is a little alpine lake that will make a stunning camp for the night. But nature loves nothing more than to change your plans.

Another way to numb the feet—photo courtesy of Brett Davis

By the time the storm wanes enough to safely ride, we are wet, cold and hungry. One more switchback and we come upon a dilapidated old miner’s cabin. Grateful for the shelter, I dry off and warm up while my mind drifts to the long ago residents of this majestically harsh land. Though I know these miners came for vanadium and uranium over the more westerly romanticized gold, I imagine them sweating and swearing that today will be the day they find their fortunes. I envision tough men day after day braving not only the wild summer storms but ruggedly enduring the harsh, unforgiving winters.  

A much needed rustic shelter—photo courtesy of Brett Davis

Making ourselves at home for the evening—photo courtesy of Brett Davis

I recognize that the physical challenges of my day were mostly self-inflicted. I can come and go as I please. I appreciate my life and my choices. I choose the activities that push and challenge me seeking not to be a masochist or pretending to know the life of a 1940s miner, but to more fully experience my life and the world around me. Life has always made more sense to me when I can be outside among it.  The great outdoors holds infinite possibilities for adventure and self-discovery.

The possibilities are endless—photo courtesy of Brett Davis

I listen to the storm abate while I eat some instant pasta that magically becomes gourmet after eight hours of riding and over 6,000 feet of climbing. Finally, the rain stops. I get out of my down bag and step out of the cabin into a stunning sunset of pink and yellow hues streaking through the misty evening sky. I look out over the valley so far below me, my eyes strain across the mountains in the distance as my gaze searches for home. My own power has taken me too far though. It’s nowhere in sight. I smile into the wind, grateful and appreciative that this is only the beginning. 

A stunning end to my first day of bike packing—photo courtesy of Brett Davis



I grew up with a restless energy that could only be extinguished with mass amounts of movement, preferably outdoors. In childhood, my roller-skates turned a concrete suburban grid into a never ending playground. I spent my youth trying new activities and bounced around from gymnastics to karate, soccer to basketball until settling on running. As much as I like playing sports and racing, I prefer the freedom of a new destination and an unexplored trail. I used to adventure by foot either hiking or running, now I am fortunate to have discovered adventure by bike. 

This post filed under topics: Bikepacking El Mariachi Guest Blogger Mountain Biking Overnighter

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Mary Oswald | August 24th, 2015

captivating article.  As I am getting ready for another work week, reading this has managed to take me far away, into the hills for a few minutes.  I’d like to hear more from this writer!

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Brittany Davis | August 24th, 2015

Great article and beautiful pictures!! Super talented writer

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Carol Davis | August 24th, 2015

Great article! You go girl and find those great adventures ! Enjoyed the words and the beautiful pictures from BD.

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mark willmore | August 24th, 2015

Awesome….....................really inspiring

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Terry sutton | August 25th, 2015

I’ll probably not ever go to where your riding so your description of journey gives pictures in my mind love it

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BIKEPACKING.com | August 25th, 2015

It’s amazing what can become gourmet after eight hours of riding!

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Lois Baldwin | August 26th, 2015

Wonderfully written article (with beautiful pictures by BD).  Your descriptions and details made me feel like I was there with you!  Way to go!!

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Deborah Purtz | August 28th, 2015

Truly evocative article and great photos! I’m proud of you both - also jealous! Wish I could have the experience!

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Olov Stenlund | September 1st, 2015


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Johnny White | September 25th, 2015

Oh wow! Sometimes the journey can be quite a rough ride, but most of the times, the stops and especially the destination can make it worth it. The images do complement the feel of the article, it’s as if I was there on the ride.

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Benjamin Lindner | October 19th, 2015

Wonderful experience for you to share with us, beautiful trip and beautifully written.

Thank you

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Mark | January 22nd, 2016

I’m feeling jealous! Wish I could find the time to get out like you. What a great article and an inspirational one, I think I am going to promise myself to get out and about on my bike this year, its been a while, thank you for the “push”.

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