It’s true. My office is better than yours. No confining walls. No windows to stare longingly out of. No doors to fling open and flee from. Just big open skies and endless terrain beckoning to be explored. The lights automatically come on in the morning and shut themselves off in the evening. Meetings usually take place over dinner and consist of reviewing the days events and planning the next days adventures. The stress is pretty consistently low and fun is highly encouraged. And although my days are longer than a normal “clock-punching” span, the hours seem to tick by with no regard for the hands of time.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not telling you this to make you feel jealous. There is a point. I guide multi-day backcountry mountain bike trips all over the country and along with the lack of a roof, comes the burden of having to be over-prepared all of the time. The abundance of time we have collectively spent outdoors has left us with a pretty strong handle on preparedness. So when someone signs up for a trip, we send them a list of items they will need to comfortably survive a week in the wilderness. Some folks bring everything, plus some, and others simply shrug off the list and occasionally suffer the consequences. Remember I said backcountry. No running to the store once we leave the comfort of civilization.
This summer I had the great fortune to draw the card for a Colorado Singletrack trip. I had never guided this particular trip as most of my summers are spent in Idaho or Oregon. Both of which have the luxury of relatively stable weather and lower altitudes. But this particular trip spends a majority of the time between 10.000-12,000 ft above sea level and is subject to potentially violent and dangerous afternoon thunderstorms. Weather at these elevations seems to have a mind of it’s own and there is nowhere to hide when things do “go south.”
So the night before the I leave I go through the motions of dumping my pile of gear into a couple of dry-bags. I was tired and had just returned from two weeks of dusty riding in the land of beautiful people and perfect weather (aka Sun Valley, Idaho). I mindlessly re-packed my freshly laundered gear from my previous trip and called it good. In a stuff-sack, just a couple of feet away on a shelf sat my “ohhh shit” gear. Rain pants, wool jerseys, arm warmers, knee warmers, warm gloves, etc., etc., etc.. For some reason it just didn’t register that I would possibly need all of this extra gear.
I arrived in Durango and began to shop for the trip under threatening skies. I watched later that night as the weather channel show clouds marching our way with big fat bellies full of water. I have two rain shells and plenty of warm clothes I thought to myself.
The first day went fairly smooth as we drove out of town to the trailhead for a nice long pedally downhill. After we loaded back up and headed for camp, I watched out of the window as our destination seemed to be sitting under quickly stacking clouds. Of course as soon as we arrived it was starting to dump. I managed to pull enough warm dry gear out of my bag to make it through the evening. That night I zipped up my tent and began to contemplate the week ahead. All I could think about was the weather. I rifled my bags again, taking inventory and suddenly remembering the stories from my co-guides. Trips in Colorado where the only time they weren’t in their “crabbing suits,” they were on their bikes. I snugged in my sleeping bag and said a little prayer to baby jesus hoping to be delivered from inclement weather and waited for the next day to arrive.
And so it did, with clouds and spitting rain. We packed up camp and began what would be one of our hardest days. The riding was phenomenal as well as the views and wildflowers, but yet we were plagued with intermittent rain. Stopping and starting. Jacket on, jacket off. The weather proved to make the day challenging for everyone, stretching the ride out to nearly six hours. I felt fine on the bike, but my mind was uneasy about the days ahead. “Am I really prepared for this kind of weather all week,” I asked myself. We are headed up higher each day. “i think not,” was my answer.
Because of the potential for weather we were up early every day and out of camp by 8 a.m., and rolling into camp by 1 p.m. or so to avoid building afternoon storms. The following three days held out to provide us with fantastic riding weather. Needless to say (possibly more so for me), we lucked out. As we rolled out of camp the last day I thanked my lucky stars that I was spared from my stupidity. I knew better and it wouldn’t happen again, I told myself over and over.
Our trip was finishing relatively uneventfully as we pointed our steeds towards the barn. Oh yeah, with the exception of a torn sidewall and around six flats from your own Mr. Steve Crossley alone (haha, sorry Steve, had to rib you a little).
So word to the wise. Make a list and check it twice. Be aware of the terrain you are riding in and it’s weather patterns. Especially if it’s all new to you.
And if you are riding with Steve bring lots of tubes and a patch kit. Haha, just kidding.
I hope to see you out there on the trails and perhaps show you around my office. It’s pretty sweet when you are prepared for it!