Throughout the month of December and now into January, we’d like to share some of the Salsa Crew's and our sponsored riders' favorite moments from 2015. By all accounts, it was a great year!
92 Inches Farther Away
Mem-o-ra-ble: Worth remembering or easily remembered, especially because of being special or unusual.
This year has had more moments worth remembering than I’ll probably be able to. Consider the glee of ripping through aspen, down a trail we gambled on while bikepacking through the San Juan Mountains, or winning the Whiskey Off-road 50-proof women’s race on my singlespeed, in my hometown, where I learned to ride mountain bikes. Then there’s pedaling my way across Japan to race the Singlespeed World Championships—check “easily remembered” and “unusual.” And, of course, getting to teach bikepacking: I’m one of a few, well, two people including Kurt, who get to watch nine students experience bikepacking for the first time. While all of these moments fit the bill of memorable, the moment I’ll elaborate on here is the last “moment” of the Arizona Trail 300 (AZT 300) race this past April.
Mo-ment: A very brief period of time.
For probably hours—I wasn’t counting at that point—I was seeing miniature animals perched along the Gila Canyons section of the AZT, a mere 20 miles from the finish at Picketpost Trailhead. This is a point that is painfully close and painfully far from the end. Hallucinating isn’t why I signed up, and, honestly, it isn’t an experience I’ll be looking to re-enact when I line myself up at Parker Canyon Lake in 2016. But seeing 8-foot-tall miniature sea lions and those cute little colorful tags that come stuck into flowers from a greenhouse strewn across the trail (what in real life were fragments of broken shale) tell a story. Unusual, and a reminder of what is special.
A happy AZT finisher ...
Having the wherewithal within to keep hiking (and consciously not riding) my bike to the finish, after numerous challenging moments, is what stands out. I guess it’s partially because, despite the hallucination situation, I was so present and finally focused on getting Pedro (my Spearfish) and I to Picketpost. (Though on another level, I had a belief I was hiking Kurt’s bike up Gila Canyons.) In the darkness of the middle of the night, with no one else in sight, mini animals and colorful cards speckled the surface of the wide machine-cut trail that disappeared into the abyss of the Southern Superstition Mountains. I knew for the first time in 60-something hours that I would be finishing the 300.
That feeling is special, because it is such a part of why I love riding my bike for long distances in wild places for extensive periods of time.
The shadows become animals along the way ...
You go amazing places.
You find flow by way of movement through the landscape.
Sometimes it hurts, or isn’t fun, but afterward, once you’ve kept going and it’s gotten better, you have a new perspective—and you are more resilient for it.
It’s a choice to move forward, and, like in life, it’s sometimes hard. But if you don’t, you’re pretty much lost and alone in the middle of nowhere.
It’s also really fun. You smile inward and out. You lose any sense of self-restraint and start yelling “Larrea tridentata!!!!!” every time you pass a Creosote bush. This is, by the way, a very frequent thing on the AZT. Or maybe more likely, you are just yipping, whooping, and weeeing.
It leaves you tired, sometimes really, really tired. But you gain a deep gratitude for your body and food.
It’s pretty simple. Even the sleekest and most advanced bikes are not complex machines, and with bikepacking bags holding just enough to keep you warm, mostly dry, hydrated, and fed, systems are pretty refined. With every rotation of my big wheels, I’m 92 inches farther away from the chaos that is everyday modern life. And in just a few hours, that’s many miles into the big “out there.”
Hallucinating my way to the finish of the AZT was wild for me, because I experienced in that “moment” all of the above. I was in an amazing place, even though I could hardly see it, and the experience bestowed upon me a deep reverence for the superstitions that will never leave me. Despite many interruptions, my flow was ultimately found flying through creosote and marching up a canyon. It hurt and at times wasn’t fun. I chose though to move forward. I smiled inwardly and outwardly, despite there only being prickly plants and volcanics to smile at. For 68 hours, life was spelled out pretty clearly, and I moved 92 inches with every wheel rotation, ultimately pedaling into a wild place, both in and out.
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I have shaped my life around exploring remote and wild places by foot, rope, raft, ski and mountain bike. I would rather be sweating than sitting, surrounded by trees than walls, and lost in a canyon than navigating a freeway. As I spend more than half the year sleeping outside, I’ve come to believe that life's full potential can be realized through seeking, enduring and relishing adventure.