Chasing Sunsets: A Look Back on 2016


Photos and words by brand ambassador, Leslie Kehmeier

Whew! That was fun. 

2016 is almost in the books. Looking back, I see a year that’s been packed with plenty of cross-country adventures and incredible memories, something that makes me extremely grateful.  I traveled to 14 states and 1 US territory, surviving the tens of thousands of miles of windshield time and countless hours flying in metal tubes. Along the way, I ticked a few more states off my list of states where I’ve mountain biked (only four more to go!), discovered new trails and re-connected with old friends.

It’s really hard to pick a favorite time or place as each project and trip had it’s own special moments. If I had to settle on something, I think that I’d have to say it was stopping to shoot a photo of a silhouetted Mt Washington at the end of day 11 on the Oregon Timber Trail. Have you ever seen east side of the Cascades? They are really beautiful…

Honestly, my words just won’t do the year justice. Instead, I’ve gathered a handful of my favorite photos that really tell the story of a fun and exciting 2016. Happy New Year!

I eased into the year with a trip to the beaches of Puerto Rico. The journey was a birthday gift to my niece, who got a healthy dose of island life. We filled our days with everything from snorkeling, SUP and fishing to plenty of hammock time, discovering that Puerto Rico is paradise for those who love to play outdoors.

  

I started running into brand ambassador Tyson Swasey in early in 2016. In March, he was finishing up a build on a brand new jump line in Knoxville, TN. The route was a collaboration between the Appalachian Mountain Bike Club, IMBA, Legacy Parks, Bell Helmets and some accomplished trail builders. The trail, named the Devil's Racetrack, has cemented Knoxville's status as an epicenter for mountain biking in the southeastern US.

 

Oregon became my go-to state in 2016. It's got some of the best mountain biking in the US, including the gravity-fed trails at Sandy Ridge. In late spring; I was working with Tyson again, capturing his signature high-flying style.

 

What do trailbuilders do for fun? Tyson Swasey and Jason Wells practice their mountain bike dancing skills at the Sandy Ridge trailhead.

 

The big project of 2016 led me across Oregon documenting the first thru-ride of the Oregon Timber Trail. I followed Sam Clark and Kim McCormack for 17 days, covering 683 miles and 112,000 feet of elevation on their historic journey from Lakeview to Hood River.

 

Kim McCormack, Oregon Timber Trail Pioneer, pedals across Round Mountain on day 3 of a 17 day journey. Round Mountain, located in the Fremont National Forest near Paisley, a little known yet remarkably beautiful place to ride.

 

The end of Day 11 on the Oregon Timber Trail was perhaps my most memorable moment of the year. Standing on a knife-edged ridge above the Peterson Ridge trails gave me an incredible and unobstructed vantage point for a magnificent sunset. This is the kind of moment I live for as a photographer.

 

To get to Oregon, you have to go through Idaho, which I didn't mind at all. Boise was a great stopping point half-way through the drive. With over 300 miles of trails from downtown, I was never at a loss for where to ride.

 

During a lull in my fall travels, I introduced my sister and her kids to the Denver bike park scene. We had a fun-filled day exploring Ruby Hill, a place that caters to all ages and abilities.

 

The last trip of the year took me to southern California where the riding season was just getting started. I met up with an old friend in Orange County who helped my find some amazing ocean views at sunset. Although the area is one of the most populated in the US, it plays host to some awesome places to ride bikes.

 

Once the travel was done for the year, I turned my attention to different projects featuring other outdoor sports. My backyard trails on North Table Mountain serve as the perfect backdrop for everything else that's not mountain biking.

 

2016 was a solid twelve months of opportunities that I'm extremely grateful for. The year ahead is shaping up to be another busy one, with plenty of new places to discover and amazing stories to tell. Best wishes for an exciting 2017 - I hope to see you somewhere on the trail!