Photos by Sara Sturm and words by brand ambassador, Teal Stetson-Lee
Myself and two of my best friends started a tradition in 2016 to make time for a multi-day biking adventure together every summer. The three of us bonded in college on the Fort Lewis Cycling team, so reuniting through bikes every year seems appropriate.
In Sept of 2017 we set off on a unique bike expedition on the Toiyabe Crest Trail in the middle of remote Nevada. The Toiyabe Crest Trail was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s as a pack trail. It is still in relatively good condition, with some erosion and overgrown sections and, on occasion, it disappears into a maze of cow trails and takes a moment to re-find. It is not a traditional mountain bike trail, which is why we chose this adventure.
We began at the top of Ophir pass, about 2 hours south of Austin, NV in the Toiyabe Range. After driving up a dusty, rugged road, we rode away from the car to get to a high point for spectacular views of the sunset creeping across the valley and set up camp for the night. The mountains were wide open. The basin and range stretched out as far as the eyes could see. We were all instantly united in the loneliness of this timeless landscape and the welcome silence, away from mundane adult responsibilities.
Whenever I step into wild places, it puts into perspective the insignificance of my own existence, which provides me with a profound and strange comfort of being so small but a part of something so big, beautiful and unfathomable.
The next day solidified these feelings as the three of us hiked and rode through the ancient mountains, embracing the vastness and the challenges. We filtered water from springs and contoured the mountain side on hot exposed slopes above 10,000ft. We laughed until our sides hurt and encountered moments of frustration when we got lost and cracked in the heat. We continued onward and lifted each other’s spirits through our commradery.
Eventually, we limped into camp the second night, after a longer-than-expected day of riding. We met my boyfriend, Ben, for resupply in San Juan Creek, our agreed-upon meeting point. He was a little worried with our late arrival but was excited to see us and hear about the epic journey.
We didn’t get to complete the trail the next day because we realized we were short on time, based on the first day of grueling traversing. We spent that night at an old stone cabin ruin and the next day rode out of San Juan creek and shuttled with Ben back towards Ophir pass, but not before a flat tire on the truck and meeting a Tribal Policeman, who generously shuttled us the rest of the way up to my car, while Ben repaired the flat. A typical, unpredictable end to to the short but sweet adventure.
One of our biggest take-aways from the expedition was how valuable it is to get off the beaten mountain bike path for some genuine exploring. With the rise of mountain biking in the U.S, there are so many premium riding trails that have been developed, to the point that some of us take for granted how spectacular our riding opportunities have become. It was a wonderful experience to duck into the back-country and experience raw trails that promoted a different type of tenacity.