I love camping almost as much as biking. So the idea of bikepacking makes me want to jump up and down in excitement.
Last summer I bikepacked Ape Canyon and camped in the shadow of Mt.St. Helens. Although the trip was totally do-able on my Process, I wanted a bike better suited for bike packing and gravel riding so I could load up my bike more than the backpack I was carrying. As soon as I saw the Sutra ULTD I knew I was in love.
She is beautiful. In the sun she shimmers between a rust color and purple. And guess what? She has 22 BRAZE-ONS!!!! That’s right, 22!! Braze-ons always look like warts to me so I’ve lovingly named her “Warty Wanda”.
I’ve been spending more time researching possible bikepacking routes. One trip I have planned already is part of the Palouse to Cascades trail. The plan is to start in North Bend, Washington and ride to Ellensuburg, Washington. About 88 miles total. The route will take me through the Snoqualmie Tunnel. The tunnel is a little over 2 miles long and travels under Snoqualmie Pass. I’ve ridden through it before. Its eerie, cold and pitch black. The tunnel won’t open until the snow melts so for now, I wait.
In the meantime I’ve been I’ve been looking for gravel routes. I’m not very experienced with gravel grinding but now that I have Wanda, I’m ready to explore.
Here’s my problem. I am 100% directionally challenged. I might be the only person I know that gets lost while using GPS. If there is an option for a wrong turn on the route, I will find it. Last summer I lost my friends on a MTB ride because I went left even when my friends said, numerous times, “Go right at the Y, Kyla”. They spent at least 20 minutes looking for me.
I am determined though. I downloaded a route to my phone and went off on my own. I was excited for the challenge. 30 miles, 3000 feet of elevation. Bring it.
I was in my element. The weather was perfect, my bike was comfortable, my legs were strong. I was enjoying the peaceful solitude.
Then I heard it.
The beeping. The alert on my phone that said “You are off course, proceed to the route”. I looked down at my map and realized I must have taken a wrong turn at some point. I turned around and tried a different road. The beeping stopped. Success! Nope, it was short lived. Off course again. I decided to hold my phone so I could try to follow the blue line to victory. Turns out holding your phone in one hand, holding a drop bar in the other all while being clipped in and pedaling uphill is hard. It’s been a long time since I fell off my bike due to not unclipping fast enough but it happened.
I sat there in the gravel, frustrated, lost and bruised. Then it started raining.
Was I going to end up being on the news as one of those people who goes out for the day and gets lost, never to return? I looked around at the vast forest and started wondering if a cougar was out there stalking me. My mind recalled an episode of one of my favorite murder podcasts where a murderer snuck up on a hiker. Pretty much any ridiculous situation you can think of played out in my head.
Part of me wanted to cry, part of me wanted to throw something, but part of me just wanted to laugh. Of course this would happen to me.
I did finally back track enough to find my way back to the main road and cell service. When I got home I found a local PNW Gravel Riders Facebook page. I posted a brief description of my adventure and received so much positive feedback. The area I was riding has had a lot of logging activity recently so the route I was trying to follow wasn’t there anymore.
People offered up current routes and even invited me out for a ride. I was directed to so many gravel riding and racing resources I never even knew existed. Strangers even offered up their favorite bikepacking spots.
Three lessons were learned from this.
#1 – I’m still directionally challenged and this may never change.
#2 – I should stop listening to murder podcasts.
#3 – The bike community continues to encourage and support each other.
I love bikes.
Cheers to new beginnings and new adventures!