Bikepacking the Dixie 200

Discussion in 'Ride Reports' started by evdog, Jun 26, 2015.



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  1. evdog

    evdog Well-Known Member

    Location:
    San diego
    Name:
    Evan S
    One of the things that inspired me to get into bikepacking was a race I had read about called the Dixie 200, which connected famous trails such as Thunder Mtn and Virgin River Rim Trail into one route. I have tried to make time for this event a few years in a row now but it has never panned out. Until this year! I made my way out to Brian Head UT on Thursday for our Friday morning start time. For whatever reason this event has never drawn more than 4-5 riders per year, but this year 15 showed up to start including some pretty hardcore racer types.

    I left work early on Thursday hoping to get out to our camp site early enough to meet the other riders. Unfortunately Vegas traffic was outrageous due to some massive concert event called "EDC" that was going on and the drive took 10 hrs instead of 7.5. Life would be so much better if LA and Vegas did not exist, though the hundreds of cars full of "bros" stopped overheating on the road side was quite comical. I got in to camp at 11pm and everyone was pretty much asleep already, so I got myself ready for morning departure and then hit the sack.

    DaveH, in cap to right, gives a brief speech and we are off!
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    This event draws some hardcore bikepack racers and I am soon left on my own at the back
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    The route starts with a 5k climb to Syndey Peaks with a high point at 10,909
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    Fortunately the climb is mostly in trees, with decent grade, and very scenic.
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    Soon enough I am above tree line and onto sweet singletrack
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    DaveH catches up to me just before Sydney Peaks, he is going to drop Dark Hollow. It is cool to get a chance to chat before we part ways
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    Splitting off at the top of Dark Hollow, Marathon Trail heads south 20 miles to Navajo Lake where we will pick up VRRT
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    Marathon is a mix of dis-used singletrack, ATV trail and fire road
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    Un-used section here. Our route actually turns left at the end of the wood. Perhaps some riders missed the turn as there were only a few tracks going the right way!
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    Broken bridge
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    Looking back up the valley
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    Soon enough the singletrack was over and we were onto fire road. Fortunately these were scenic as well, and fairly fast miles (for now!)
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    I cross a field of old lava rock
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    Then some more raw singletrack. For some reason I thought we should be dropping a lot at the end, but it seemed to be all uphill making the name "Marathon" seem very fitting!
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    Just after 4pm I hit Navajo Lake.
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    It has been 5 yrs since I hit Virgin River Rim Trail and it does not disappoint
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    Up top the trail definitely gets rockier than I recall, but the views still make up for it
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    Riding VRRT at sundown was priceless. I made it just beyond the end of VRRT before my GPS lost satellite reception which stopped me temporarily. Stop time was 10pm, dead on.

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    It turns out I had recently lost my paper map too, so with my GPS going haywire I had to stop for the night as there were a number of unfamiliar turns coming up onto OHV trails I didn't want to screw up. I was a little bummed as I wanted to make it close to our first resupply point at Tod's Country Store that night in order to hit the store when it opened first thing. Even with this setback I had a really good first day, and was feeling pretty good considering all the climbing and distance I had covered. It was something like 55 miles and around 9,000ft of gain. I had some dinner and hit the sack.
     
    mike, rossage, Tom the Bomb and 2 others like this.
  2. Faust29

    Faust29 iMTB Hooligan

    Location:
    irgendwo
    Name:
    Stef
    Current Bike:
    3 SC is now 2 SC.
    That is an amazing first day... Can't wait to read day 2! :clap: :clap:

    Those Carvers are sweet looking... I missed one that was up for sale on pinkbike last year. :(
     
    Mikie likes this.
  3. Cyclotourist

    Cyclotourist iMTB Hooligan

    Location:
    Redlands
    Name:
    David
    Current Bike:
    Tallboy Upgrade
    Fantastic report. This looks amazing!
     
    Mikie likes this.
  4. evdog

    evdog Well-Known Member

    Location:
    San diego
    Name:
    Evan S
    Thanks, I am definitely loving the bike. I just built it up a couple months ago to replace a hardtail that was stolen a couple years back. This was its first big test
     
    Mikie likes this.
  5. evdog

    evdog Well-Known Member

    Location:
    San diego
    Name:
    Evan S
    Day 2 I had some catching up to do as well as a decision to make regarding food. From Tod's Country store to the next available food at Harold's Inn is 82miles. When I called to confirm restaurant hours I was told 730am to 10am, and it is reportedly quite flakey which makes relying on it for a meal very risky. Not that I was likely to make it there in time regardless! The next available food would be 25 miles further in Panguitch Lake with a burger shack and general store. That is more than a day's ride for sure, so I loaded up on enough food to get me through to Panguitch Lake so I wouldn't have to worry. The plan was to make it close enough to Thunder Mtn that I could hit the restaurant in the morning if it is open, and failing that hit the store in Panguitch Lake before closing time at 8pm.

    I had to get to Tod's first though, which was 14mi of unknown OHV trail and 3 miles of pavement away.

    Fortunately the OHV trail turned out to be pretty nice dirt road so I was able to put down some fast miles and get to Tod's before 8am.

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    I ran into a couple other racers there Erin and Brad, who would be the only other racers I'd see after the start, and the only other people I would see the rest of the day except for cars on the roads. I had my breakfast and loaded up on a day's worth of food. Erin was planning to camp up top on Thunder Mtn but was going to skip part of Grandview (he did the race last year, and didn't feel the need for a bunch of unnecessary climbing in the heat!) I wanted to do the full route but was a bit envious as I knew what was coming. He figured it would take til 1am for me to make it around to where he was going to camp. Thunder Mtn was my goal for the day, but riding til 1am seemed unlikely.

    After Tod's we had a 6 mile pavement ride on Hwy 89 and then a few miles of dirt road before getting back on trail.

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    It was getting hot but there was more shade on the road as we got closer to the plateau, so it wasn't too bad. Finally the road ended. Without a GPS track you'd have no idea where to go as there was no trail in sight. I could only see where a single rider had pushed through the grass , so had to rely on GPS to guide me here.

    I had the crap scared out of me by a couple turkeys that jumped out in a big commotion

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    Here you can see a trace of old road, but mostly just faint sign from other riders who had passed through since yesterday

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    We went up Pole Canyon trail. Once on the singletrack proper it was easy to follow, and surprisingly clear with almost no trees down! But the going soon got steep. Trail climbs around 750 feet in a mile.

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    That made it mercifully quick and I was soon up top of the Paunsaugunt Plateau admiring the view down over pink and orange cliffs

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    I broke the riding up on the plateau into segments, but each one seemed to go slower than I wanted. Despite being at 9,000ft it was really hot out, probably high 80s at the top.

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    The views are incredible on Grandview (wonder how they came up with the name??) but there are no easy miles.

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    I soon get to the point where Erin was going to split off the route, at Robinson TH. I now remembered which section this was, a steep descent churned up by ATVs with loose sand and grown over with oak trees. You do sneak a couple great views on the descent though.

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    This drops you down to around 7,500ft elevation onto what is an old road bed that has gone back to singletrack. Not tough riding, but there were some massive ruts and sand to keep you on your toes. It was also exposed and HOT by the time I got there, I'm guessing mid 90's. You follow this gently downhill for a mile and a half, then turn left and follow another old road bed uphill. Also exposed, and HOT. I was dreading this section in the heat but knew there is a great spring just beyond where I could rest in the shade.

    Had to climb over this massive tree

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    Finally get to the spring. Had this not been a reliable water source I likely would have skipped this section of the route.

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    To beat the heat I decided to lay out and nap for a few hours. I soaked my clothing to help cool off. With the heat I wasn't able to eat much, my appetite was pretty much gone. That was not good, but I was able to hydrate heavily and rest up. By 530 I was ready to go again. I also had to ditch the outer shorts in favor of just the liner as the shorts leg was chafing the back of my knee. The benefit was noticeably more airflow. For longer rides like this I will probably just go lycra from now on.

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    From the spring there was only about 5 miles of Grandview left, but it would not be an easy 5 miles. I was hoping to get to Crawford Pass trail before dark as it is very scenic too, but again some unknown OHV trail lay in the way.

    South end of Paunsaugunt on Grandview Tr

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    Nice view looking SE over the cliffs

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    The OHV trail was tougher this time with more climbing, and more rock

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    With a couple respectable climbs

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    Made it to Crawford Pass with just a bit of light left, and rode til I found a decent spot for dinner.

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    I had not eaten since early afternoon and had not really been hungry. I was feeling ok with a just slight bit of nausea that had barely been noticeable. At that point legs were still feeling good so the plan was to eat, and then try to ride north as far as Tropic Reservoir (20mi) or even on to Thunder Mtn (+16 mi more) in the dark.

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    As I was waiting for my food to cook, the nausea suddenly got worse and I yakked up all the water I had drank in the last hour or so. Had not seen that coming, but I guess you seldom do. I tried to eat a bit, but the food came right back up too. I did feel a lot better after that, but figured it would be prudent to stop there for the night and recover. I wouldn't have been able to carry on far without eating, and was not sure if I would be able to eat any more. I was able to sip water slowly, which helped. I found a place to camp a little further down the trail and set up for the night.

    Again I was disappointed with not making it further, especially since the legs had more miles in them. This would also change my plan for day 3 and probably kill any hope of finishing in 3 days. But that is not a big deal, as I had set aside time for 4 days. Stats on the day were 59 miles and +7,070/-7,250.

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    Tom the Bomb, Cyclotourist and Mikie like this.
  6. Faust29

    Faust29 iMTB Hooligan

    Location:
    irgendwo
    Name:
    Stef
    Current Bike:
    3 SC is now 2 SC.
    Great read!

    I'm living vicariously through your ride reports... Someday maybe!
     
    Mikie likes this.
  7. evdog

    evdog Well-Known Member

    Location:
    San diego
    Name:
    Evan S
    Day 3...

    Spending the night on Crawford pass trail meant I would get to see some of the cool spires in daylight, which was an added bonus to stopping there. This trail is definitely an unknown gem.

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    The plan for the day had been disrupted by stopping earlier than planned. Ideally I would have like to get up onto Thunder Mtn before stopping for the night. That would have allowed me to start on the 25 miles to Panguitch Lake in the morning before the heat would kick in, which would be important as that is a lower elevation section with little shade as far as I knew. But now, I was 40 miles from the start of that section, including 18 miles of unknown OHV trail to Tropic Reservoir, 16 miles of known OHV trail to Thunder Mtn, and 6 on Thunder Mtn itself. Best case was I would get there around noon in the heat of the day. The new plan became, take my time to Thunder Mtn, and head to the Red Canyon visitor center to get water and hopefully hang out and rest up for the afternoon until the temps started to cool down.

    The OHV trail I would follow is part of the Great Western Trail, which supposedly, sort of, goes from Canada to Mexico.

    It was pretty fast like OHV trail from the last couple days and soon took us through a logging operation along the road for a couple miles

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    The OHV trail ran higher up on the side of the valley than the main road and sees a lot less traffic, so it was pretty nice riding with some great views

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    It took a couple hours to get to Tropic Reservoir where there is a cool spring to fill up at

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    Great water!

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    From there the route went up a side canyon for a mile and then picked up the Chimney Rock trail which goes by some other cool formations

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    That was pretty short and dropped me into a campground before heading north and picking up the Fremont OHV trail. Its a pretty fast ride I have done before

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    And soon enough I am at the main highlight for the day, Thunder Mtn. I pass a few horseback riders right away but pretty much have the trail to myself

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    I finally run into another rider Tim who was wondering when the descent would start (he was pretty much there)

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    Trail was fantastic as always

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    At the bottom I cut over to the Forest service visitor center as planned. They have some benches in the shade and fountains to refill water from. I wetted my jersey again to help cool off, and had a great nap. The people watching there was out of control as well, as busload after busload of out of shape tourists pulled up. Most just snapped a few pics of the displays. The adventurous ones took the 10 min nature trail behind the visitor center to get their nature fix.

    Not wanting a repeat of the heat exhaustion from the previous day I had stopped a couple hours earlier, and restarted an hour or so later giving me around 5 hours rest. I finally geared up and headed down to Harold's to see if anything was up food-wise. I stopped first at the Indian Trading post which was open and asked if they had any snacks. I had walked in the wrong door otherwise I would have seen their selection of snackfood. Apparently the place was just sold and the new owners just recently started carrying limited food, so this was a good find. In fact, it was a major score as it meant I would be able to carry on through Panguitch Lake this evening without having to wait til the store opened there the next morning at 8am to re-supply. So I stocked up on chips, cookies, a microwave burrito and a couple sodas.

    The burrito, I would have to say, was mighty tasty for $2!

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    I checked out Harold's Inn as well and was told no more restaurant (contrary to what I was told when I called 2 days before), and that there was no where else to buy food in the area (wrong, as I had just found), and was also told no where else even had a soda vending machine (also wrong, as I found one right next door). So thumbs down for Harold's.

    I was fine regardless, and ready to carry on to Panguitch Lake.

    The route from Hwy 89 / 12 took me 3 miles south on Hwy 89 to pick up a series of BLM OHV trails.

    These climbed up a series of shallow ravines, up and away from the highway. Looking back I got some cool views of the plateau

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    I had left the highway just after 7pm and still had a couple hours of light. As I stopped to finally put on my headlamp I saw a bunch of deer on the next hill over

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    The OHV trails ranged from sandy, to rocky, to rutted, to fast dirt road. There were a few slow rocky miles that had me worried about pace, but soon enough the route settled into a fairly fast double track that let me lay down some miles. Most of the route seemed pretty open but eventually I started seeing aspens and pine trees next to the route as I got higher up. It got rockier too as I got closer to Panguitch Lake, but just for a short time and before I knew it I was riding past the lake.

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    Tons of eyes were visible off the route, both deer and cattle.

    It was midnight when I got to Panguitch Lake. Temps were great still, and my legs were feeling ok. At minimum I wanted to get through town to somewhere I could camp. Best case I would continue up the route past town, which continued 9 miles and 2,000ft gain to the start of the Spruce Trail. For what seemed like a long time there was fenced private property on both sides of the road, which was fine as the terrain was too steep to camp regardless. Before I knew it though, I got to a series of switchbacks that showed I was getting close to Spruce Trail. So I decided to push on and finish there.

    230am, I got to the spruce trail! The fantasy that popped into my head during the climb up was finishing the Spruce trail in the dark and waking up to sunrise on the Sydney Peaks trail. But Spruce is notorious for being covered in deadfall, and I was not prepared to haul my bike over endless downed trees in the dark. What really sealed things was losing the trail within 100 yards of going through this gate. The trail turned left at one point and I couldn't even see it in the dark with all the debris. So I found a flat-ish spot, and set out to catch a few hours sleep.

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    Getting all the way to Spruce trail was a pretty huge push. I had already ridden 43 miles in the morning to get to the visitor center. It was another 37 miles to Spruce trail for a total of 80 on the day, with 8,150ft gain and 7,000 loss. This would set me up for a short Day 4, which was good as I would have a long drive to get home!
     
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  8. evdog

    evdog Well-Known Member

    Location:
    San diego
    Name:
    Evan S
    Day 4...

    I was awakened suddenly by a terrific crashing in the trees somewhere nearby. Having no idea what it was I just hollered loud as I could to let whatever it was know I was there. As I did that, two deer came flying down the hill about 15 ft away, about where the rock is in the pic.

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    It was 630 and sun was already up, so I got up rather than possibly get surprised by whatever had been chasing them

    Spruce trail is known for being covered in downed trees and it didn't take long to see why

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    I was stoked to find it wasn't all that bad, and also came to some decent sections that were rideable and fun

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    A lot of it though, looked like this. I had camped at 9,700ft and would need to get to around 10,700 on this trail.

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    As DaveH had told me, expect about 1.5 hours and that was pretty much bang on.

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    A hilarious thing happened next. I busted out from the end of Spruce Trail onto a dirt road with an open space where you pick up the Sydney Peaks Trail. I came across a van and a whole Conservation Corps crew doing their morning warmup before starting work for the day. I jokingly asked them if they were going in to cut out all the trees I had just climbed over on Spruce Trail. Turns out, that is exactly what they were there to do! Pity they couldn't have worked on Sunday it would have saved me a lot of work!

    Didn't think to take a pic til I was a ways away

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    A few views from Sydney Peaks Trail. Dark Hollow follows the canyons below back to the road

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    Some flowers out up top

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    Sydney Peaks

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    I finally had breakfast at the top of Dark Hollow. 4,400ft descent to go!

    I had ridden this trail years ago and definitely didn't remember how rocky it was. Definitely harder on a loaded bike when you can't put your seat down!

    It had some real nice parts too.

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    Everyone loves aspens come fall when they go yellow but I love them just as much in summer with the contrast between white bark and green leaves

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    Nice stream

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    I was surprised near the bottom of the trail to come across a Forest Service crew cutting out trees at the bottom of the trail.

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    Big thanks to these crews who are mostly volunteers! They were just starting up from the bottom but made the exit a lot easier as it had been blocked by downed trees too.

    A few more minutes to fly down the road and I was back at the truck. Beer wasn't cold anymore, but was acceptable. I didn't hang around long as there was no one left around, and the temps were getting really hot again.

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    The last day was a pretty easy one thanks to my big push on Day 3. Just 16 miles, +1,880 and -4,970. Totals from my GPS for the 4 days came to 211miles and +/-26,000. That is interesting as the GPS track we were provided shows +/-29,000ft.

    Overall it was a great course. Plenty of OHV trail but even that was scenic and interesting. You can't do this much mileage on singeltrack anyways. Even the pavement bits are a bit welcome at times. I would definitely do the route again. In hot temps I might skip the section of Grandview that Erin bypassed. But overall the route wasn't terribly hard for 3-4 days.

    It is funny, after finishing I was thinking how I am done bikepacking for a while, just no desire to do anymore. But having put all these pics together I would go out and do it again tomorrow if I could. This type of riding is just so addictive. There is total freedom, as you can ride as much as you want when you are prepared and self-sufficient. Get up, and ride all day til dark or when you feel like quitting. Repeat...

    Doing it again I would carry more food from the start so that I wouldn't have to rely on Tod's. Then I could ride further the first day which would set me up better to deal with temperatures and the remaining re-supply points without need for extended rests. I did not do this ride to race, or beat a particular time. But now all I can think about is how I could change things up to beat my time! Can't wait til next year...

    My actual time came out to 3 days, 4 hours. The fast guys finished in 1 day, 16 hours. Of the 15 who started I believe only 8 finished the whole course (if you deviate you are generally considered DNF).

    The drive home was pretty brutal with tons of "EDC" traffic again. The prevailing thought seemed to be if you changed lanes often enough you could get around all the traffic ahead of you. Brutal, so much stopped traffic for a Monday. it took 12 hours to get home with minimal stop time.

    The end!
     
  9. mtbbiker

    mtbbiker Newbie with Hope!

    Name:
    Craig
    Please don't take this as an insult, but as a compliment, you're crazy! Thanks for the epic report & pictures!


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
     
    Mikie likes this.
  10. herzalot

    herzalot iMTB Hooligan

    Location:
    Laguna Beach
    Name:
    Chris
    Current Bike:
    '15 Tracer and/or Who Knows?
    Evdog - you sir, are crazy. Much respect. And beautiful pictures. It reminds me just how much I miss my Colorado and Utah days. Sniff...

    :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :thumbup:
     
    Mikie likes this.
  11. Faust29

    Faust29 iMTB Hooligan

    Location:
    irgendwo
    Name:
    Stef
    Current Bike:
    3 SC is now 2 SC.
    Any one of your days, ridden individually, would fall into the "epic" category... Simply amazing.

    This is one of the reports that I will bookmark and read over and over again... Erik's cross country rides, Mike's tour divide on a tandem, Mikie's Kokopelli, and now evdog in Utah. :clap:
     
    Mikie likes this.
  12. CarlS

    CarlS Member

    Location:
    Temecula, CA
    Name:
    Carl
    Current Bike:
    Walmart $50 special
    Thank you for inspiring me to get out and do some more bike packing. Beautiful pics. While I may not ever do the Dixie 200, I sure hope I can get out there and at least do a smaller route someday. those trails look fantastic.
     
    Mikie likes this.
  13. evdog

    evdog Well-Known Member

    Location:
    San diego
    Name:
    Evan S
    Haha, I am not crazy! The guys who do these bikepack races on no sleep are crazy. I just like riding my bike!

    The stats might seem like big numbers but if you pace yourself and ride steady you'd be surprised how much distance you can lay down in a day, or for a few days in a row. Bikepacking really lends itself to riding longer distances because you generally have nothing else to do but ride. Don't rule out the Dixie! It would be very doable over 4-5 days if you want less mileage. 3 days would require some night riding unless you're fast(er than me).
     
    Mikie likes this.
  14. Mikie

    Mikie Admin/iMTB Hooligan

    Location:
    Lebec, California
    Name:
    Mikie Watson
    Current Bike:
    Santa Cruz Hightower/Yeti 5C
    Any one day of this could be considered EPIC. I'm not so sure epic can cover this. I thought I picked up a Outdoors Magazine or National Geographic and was reading some amazing adventure and then I realized, I DID! I did pick up a publication and read and experienced something epic. First class photography, first class journaling, and an amazing adventure.

    Unfortunately all I have for you is .....WOW!
    Epically Done!
     
  15. Mikie

    Mikie Admin/iMTB Hooligan

    Location:
    Lebec, California
    Name:
    Mikie Watson
    Current Bike:
    Santa Cruz Hightower/Yeti 5C
    Bump!
     
  16. StrandLeper

    StrandLeper Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Laguna Beach
    Name:
    Timothy M. Ryan
    Current Bike:
    SC Bronson 1x/Pivot 429 1x xtr
    Bump. Wow.
     
  17. Tom the Bomb

    Tom the Bomb Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Alta Loma, Ca.
    Name:
    Thomas Cosgrove
    Current Bike:
    Niner rip 9
    Rockin my friend!
     
  18. Faust29

    Faust29 iMTB Hooligan

    Location:
    irgendwo
    Name:
    Stef
    Current Bike:
    3 SC is now 2 SC.
    If you liked this one, you should find Mikie's Kokopelli write-up and mike's tour divide on the tandem with his wife. Those two are also legendary.

    I live vicariously through stuff like this...
     
    Cyclotourist and ridinrox like this.
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