A Shared Journey: The Struggle

This is the 7th post in the A Shared Journey series from guest blogger Sarah Hornby. Links below the post will guide you through the entire series. 

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Photo by Jeff Barlett

Rain poured down. We had been expecting it all morning but it waited to unleash itself until we took our first pedal strokes away from civilization. Was this Mother Nature’s last-ditch effort at tempting us to abandon the ride? If so, it was working.

Photo by Guy Stuart

I mentally ran through all the gear stowed away in my bags, pondering whether I had everything I’d need for a cold, soggy weekend of riding. My thoughts were interrupted by thunder clapping in the distance. A storm was the last thing we wanted to encounter as we headed up above the tree line.

Photo by Matthew Clark

Photo by Matthew Clark

I felt uneasy and struggled to settle into the ride. It wasn’t just the weather, though. I was already wary about the route itself. After all, we were about to embark on one of the more difficult routes in Ryan’s guidebook: Three Point, or “The Struggle,” as we had been calling it.

In the book, Ryan notes “Three Point should largely be considered a hiking/bushwhacking/orienteering route with some biking thrown into the mix. As an advanced bikepacking route, with GPS in hand, extra food, and tempered expectations, it is very much a character-building experience”.

Many of Ryan’s routes came with unexpected challenges that had thrust us into the territory of Type 2 fun. “What kind of ‘fun’ lies ahead for this one?” I nervously wondered—it was the only route that had been worthy of such a warning.

Photo by Matthew Clark

Photo by Matthew Clark

We pressed on through grassy overgrown tracks, muddy equestrian trails, and a dash of newly rebuilt singletrack. There was a hint of bushwhacking and a touch of orienteering, but what slowed us down the most was the long stretches of wet mud. We took care to tiptoe delicately around them. Inevitably though, I suffered my fair share of missteps into the sloppy mess, sending my feet sinking into the cold sludge.

Photo by Jeff Bartlett

Photo by Matthew Clark

There couldn’t have been a better night to warm our toes by a hot, crackling fire, but alas, once at camp we simply rushed to set up our tents in the rain and then remained hidden in them until morning. Temperatures were chilly enough that it would make for a very long night if anything got wet.

Day two. We waited hopefully for a peek at the gorgeous 360-degree mountain views atop Jumping Pound Ridge. We had just pushed our bikes five kilometers up to the top through a misty forest trail. Stunning vistas seemed like a great reward for our efforts, but the mountains remained shrouded in clouds.

Photo by Guy Stuart

After a long wait, we retreated to the challenging descent on chunky wet rocks, slippery roots, and tight switchbacks. In spots, it was as slow-going for me as it had been on the way up.

Photo by Matthew Clark

Photo by Matthew Clark

In fact, our progress was slow enough that we opted to take an optional shortcut Ryan outlined in the guidebook. Cutting the day’s distance in half, we still reached camp well into the afternoon. As we set up our tents for the night, we came to a tough realization. We now had a good idea of what this route entailed, and the three days we had allotted for it simply would not be enough. Looking ahead to the next day, which was supposed to be our last, there was very little chance we’d be able to cover the distance. If we had the time and, more importantly, the food, we agreed the route would make an excellent four- or five-day trip. Three days, though, with the autumn nights encroaching ever sooner and the recent rain that had left trails soggy and slow… it wasn’t enough.

We reluctantly came up with an alternative route for the next day, and I slept easier knowing we wouldn’t have to roll the dice on a foray deeper into the backcountry.

Photo by Matthew Clark

In this way, I guess Three Point lived up to its advanced rating. Once again, it allowed me to get to know Ryan a little better; in this case, his strength and speed as a rider, his savvy in the backcountry, and his love for challenges. All of these things I knew before, but riding his routes gives me context for it now. Just as in life, Ryan never took the easy route. He hoped others would be bold enough to embrace the path-less-travelled too. Ryan felt there was much to be learned in challenging adventures and that they weren’t experiences to be avoided. They also didn’t need to promise an obvious reward to make them worthwhile, rather they were a challenge simply for the sake of it.

Riding Ryan’s routes, I see in them his simple acceptance of whatever lay ahead. For me, accepting what lay ahead with Three Point meant allowing myself to be humbled by it, to draw the line, to balance my pride and desire to push on with my wiser inclinations. At times, that can feel like admitting defeat. In a way, it did here. But I guess that’s OK. In fact, for this ride, it’s where I found my biggest challenge—and lesson—hiding.

I look forward to returning to Three Point next year to finish off the missing piece!

Photo by Guy Stuart

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lured to the west by the beauty and lifestyle of the mountains, I transplanted myself to the Canadian Rockies to live, work, and play in this gorgeous corner of the world. Here, a casual interest in cycling has grown into a passion my life seems to, quite happily, revolve around. No matter how big or small the two-wheeled adventure, it's the freedom, friendship, and simplicity that always has me dreaming about what’s next.

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CLICK BELOW TO READ SARAH'S EARLIER POSTS...

A Shared Journey: An Introduction

A Shared Journey: The Icefields Parkway

A Shared Journey: High Rockies Trail

A Shared Journey: Trip Of Lies

A Shared Journey: Celebration Of Life

A Shared Journey: A Fleeting Moment In Time

This post filed under topics: Bikepacking Explore Guest Blogger Mountain Biking Sarah Hornby Spearfish

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lured to the west by the beauty and lifestyle of the mountains, I transplanted myself to the Canadian Rockies to live, work, and play in this gorgeous corner of the world. Here, a casual interest in cycling has grown into a passion my life seems to, quite happily, revolve around. No matter how big or small the two-wheeled adventure, it's the freedom, friendship, and simplicity that always has me dreaming about what’s next.

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