For most mountain bikers, there’s a powerful driving force behind why we ride. Sure, it’s about connecting with friends, getting out into the woods for some fresh air, or getting in a quick burn after work. But let’s be real, on top of all of those factors, the simple power of progression is what keeps us out there day after day, seeing what we can learn next on our bikes. For everyone who’s ever ridden on two wheels, though, there comes a time when we get stuck. Whether it’s a feature we just can’t wrap our head around, speed that we can’t seem to find, or a type of riding we’d like to get into but are too scared to just go try, there’s a simple solution. Seek help!
Like so many riders around here, I got my first true taste of PNW riding at Duthie Hill Mountain Bike Park on a gloomy day where the sky wasn’t quite sure whether it would start pouring rain. That first experience, on Thanksgiving Day in 2017, with lap after lap of grin-inducing riding on the nearly two-dozen XC and freeride trails, kickstarted a love affair with loam that I’ve been unable to shake. Thanks to many trips back to the area since, that love affair has been compounded after getting to know the nooks and crannies of the hundreds of miles of singletrack in the greater Seattle area. It’s clear that this might be one of the best places in the world to be a mountain biker. This past spring, I dove deep into the story behind trail building and access in this part of the country, learning about how the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance has worked tirelessly for the past decade to ensure a bright future for bikes.
Jill Garreffi and Jovanna "Jo" Hart are two open water swimmers with big, audacious goals. After years of exploring the many bodies of water in the Jackson, Wyoming region, they concocted a challenge to traverse Grand Teton National Park by its many lakes: Jackson, Leigh, String, Jenny, Bradley, Taggart, and lastly Phelps Lake. Aptly nicknamed The Grand Lake Traverse (GLT), their swimming odyssey consisted of 18.82 miles of swimming,17 miles of hiking, and a whole lot of stamina and endurance. On August 24th, 2018, Jill plunged into Jackson Lake—with Jo shortly to follow—with hopes of becoming the first swimmers to link the GLT.
The Art of Letting Go
As mud season rolled around in Jackson, and my thirst to be near salt water became stronger and stronger, it was time for something new. I remembered my grandpa telling me stories of how he traveled up the coast through Oregon and Washington and all through the PNW in his 30s. He told tales of cold water and lush, moss-covered forests, thick with life, and rocky cliffs that jut out of the ocean. One week in May, my partner volunteered his Subaru for a road trip and we set out for the Oregon coast. I expected to find new places, a change in scenery, and some fun waves. But to nobody’s real surprise, I found much more: clarity, peace, and realization as I moved through grieving the loss of a loved one.
There’s a bike tumbling down the rocky hillside ahead of me. Squinting I watch it tomahawk out of view and suddenly think, wait is that Brian’s bike? No. That can’t be what’s happening, shaking off the thought as I attempt to get back on my bike. I’m on my saddle for a few more seconds, before having to dismount and down climb what feels like a rock-strewn trail that is generously labeled as singletrack. After one petrified scramble to the bottom of the trail, I find my friends Max and Brian patiently waiting for me in the brush. They’re quick to inform me that my observation was half correct. Brian’s bike did a somersault off the trail. What I didn’t see is that he went with it. Brian’s arm is bleeding from the ordeal, but he nonchalantly shrugs it off. Max is mildly concerned but follows him without saying anything. Horrified, I get back on the saddle and try to push away the question that was bouncing around in my brain when I first got here: Am I going to survive this trip?
Whenever I talk about kayaking to non-kayakers, somehow, the North Fork Championships finds its way into the conversation. Whether it’s where I met some of my closest friends, the most savage beat down I ever took on a river, my favorite stretches of whitewater, or how hard I’ll dance after a full day of paddling and photographing, all of it pretty much circles back to that one weekend a year in Banks. So when the event made a comeback after a pandemic and a switch in leadership, I knew it was a pretty important story to tell.
There’s this thing about big overnight ski missions that nobody really tells you about: the reality is that they’re usually pretty cold and miserable. Despite that, suffering through an uncomfortable night, carrying more gear than normal, and the problem of where to go to the bathroom are all eclipsed by the simple pleasure of dropping into a hard-earned line in untouched snow. For most of the season, I’m the type of skier who would rather get up a little early and move a little faster to get up and down an objective in a day, but come springtime on big mountains like Mt. Rainier (Tahoma) the overnight option opens up new possibilities – and besides, spending the night at 10,000 feet on a glacier high above everything else is really something special.
Her email said she’d come out for a visit. That wasn’t quite what I expected when I reached out to mountain biker and artist Micayla Gatto to ride with and photograph in Jackson, Wyoming. The whole idea was a complete long shot. We hardly knew each other, first crossing paths by chance in a karaoke bar in Bellingham, Washington. After a riveting rendition of Baby Got Back, I felt that we had built enough of a rapport for me to invite a complete stranger to come visit. A year later, she decided to take me up on my offer.
I made the “Stoke Seekers” comic strips because I feel that the outdoor sports community bonds over the collective experiences that so many people go through as they grow as an athlete. Every sportsman has some cool, funny, or scary story from their experiences that I like to put on paper. The “Stoke Seekers” strip will hopefully serve as a way to help people relate to one another and remember that getting outside is about having fun! I make the strip using watercolor paints, pens, some photoshop, and the stories of my friends.
It's 10am. I’m curled up on a five-foot-long vinyl couch staring up at a beige ceiling. The smell of stale beer and ski boots is momentarily interrupted by an arctic breeze and the rich scent of Folgers. Native Alaskan and Fairbanks resident Clyde Hewitt is now standing in the galley of our 31H Minnie Winnie Motorhome with a steaming pot of coffee. "Welcome to the One Love Lot boys; we were talking in the Wildwood this morning and decided we'd like to bump you all up to the shoulder of Girls Mountain.” (A 5500-foot roadside peak that towers over the Worthington Glacier.) After graciously accepting the coffee and the sled bump, we desperately pounded down two liters of Tang each. A short time later we were waving goodbye to our new friends and preparing ourselves for the final 1000 feet of touring before making our first descent of the trip. We looked out over the endless sea of glaciers and jagged white summits that make up Alaska's Chugach range, the only signs of human presence was the meandering black pavement of Thompson pass and our shimmering home on wheels.