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
ABOUT THE GUEST BLOGGER - Diana Purtz
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.
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