Hey folks! Scotty here with another installment of Art’s & Crafts. As the years have passed and I’ve grown older, I began to realize that most Europeans have seen more of the United States than most people who were born and raised here. For instance, I was born and raised in California, and have yet to leave. I love it here so much and don’t foresee leaving anytime soon, but I realized that I needed to get out and see some of the wonderful things that the United States has to offer. First up is the classic Western U.S. National Park loop that many folks do, and for good reason. The following was my own version…modified mostly to include biking.
I packed up my car with a cross bike, a full-squish machine, a pair of trail running shoes, and the basic camp gear. Here’s the rough guideline for my trip: Joshua Tree, CA. Sedona, AZ. Grand Canyon, AZ. Bryce Canyon, UT. Moab, UT. Fort Collins, CO. End destination: Boulder, CO. Then back home to SLO.
Stop #1) Joshua Tree National Park, CA – The campsite was full…weird, right? No reservations and a full campsite. Who would have seen that one coming at one of the more popular National Parks in the States? Anyhow, I went into the park regardless, grabbed my CX bike, and blasted around all of the chattery, washboard dirt roads that I could find. It was so much fun! I got in a solid three and a half hours of riding in gorgeous Joshua Tree. About an hour before sunset, I found out that there are some great backcountry campsites available that require a hike in. I am always traveling with a roof box (aptly titled the “Party Box”) that is equipped with a backpack, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, tent, a few camp necessities, skate pads, skateboard, extra wetsuit, and fins. This box came in handy because I just stuffed the necessities into the backpack and headed on my merry way to find an extremely uncrowded (read “nobody else”) campsite out in the hills to enjoy some peace, quiet, solitude, and sunset. I enjoyed a lovely pour-over the next morning and started on my way out to Sedona.
Stop #2: Sedona, AZ – Having heard so much about this place over the last three years, I knew that I had to go. It was a show-stopper. I wanted to stay my entire two weeks there. The riding was incredible, the scale was massive, and the beauty astounding. I felt so small so fast, and enjoyed amazing interaction with all of the natural and wonderful offerings of Sedona. Sedona itself was quite touristy and not really my scene, so I quickly avoided that and kept to the hills and the campgrounds. I ended up staying for 2.5 days in Sedona, riding until I couldn’t ride anymore, which is when I headed off to the Grand Canyon.
Stop #3: Grand Canyon National Park/Cottonwood Pass Road, AZ/UT – PIcking up somewhere between Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon National Parks, I woke up, got straight to the road, and made my way to the Grand Canyon through some wind that made me terrified to have the bikes on top of the car. And yes, it was that windy.
I personally didn’t have the best Grand Canyon experience. Massive crowds are always a bummer to me, and I found the massive scale of this place hard to understand. Sitting atop a valley floor that has been chiseled away over the past 1,580 MILLION years isn’t something that’s really easy to grasp. Nor does it lend itself to contemplation without setting an entire day aside to interact with it. The hikes in and out of the Grand Canyon require a good bit of time and effort, so my Grand Canyon experience involved my sitting in a quiet spot away from the crowds, and being absolutely dazzled by one of the more massive natural features on this planet. After this, I made my way onto Cottonwood Pass Road, a 50 mile dirt road detour that cut out the freeway travel and took me to a spot just outside of Bryce Canyon.
Stop #4: Bryce Canyon National Park, UT – As I drove towards Bryce, I watched the clouds approach, the temperature drop, and snow begin to fall heavily in the distance. I debated ditching this specific portion of my trip, but then realized that this was a great opportunity for a unique experience in Bryce Canyon. Fewer people and some snow-covered beauty sounded absolutely lovely.
I got to Bryce at 12:30, the temperature was 24 degrees, and the snow was steadily falling. I grabbed some water and snacks, stuffed them into a day bag, and went out for a nice 7 mile walk amidst the beautiful and oh-so-peaceful surroundings. All was calm and quiet, with only the light pitter pat of snow hitting my insulated jacket. Very few people were out, and the snow covered surroundings were more beautiful than words might ever describe. After finishing the walk in the afternoon, I posted up in the tent and ignored the rapidly falling temperatures with a book and a fresh cup of coffee. All was well in my little world.
Stop #5: Moab, UT – Moab was a place that I’d been looking forward to visiting for about three years. After hearing of numerous friends’ trips, and the endless hype/stories that the internet told me about, I knew I was in for something special. I stayed for two days, and had a pretty fantastic experience.
As soon as I got into Moab, I headed straight over to Captain Ahab’s full loop. The riding in Moab was unexpected…not unenjoyable, just REALLY different than anything I’d ever ridden before. It was very demanding terrain since there’s never a true and dedicated downhill. There always seemed to be some technical uphill turn, section, or maneuver necessary to pay for that little bit of downhill that you’d just gotten. It wasn’t bad, but it was very tiring and kept you on your toes, which was a fantastic change of pace.
After the ride, I got myself into a solo trail run and scramble up a slot canyon across from my campsite. It was so still and beautiful up in the canyon, with a lovely little stream running the entire way down, ultimately making its way to the mighty Colorado.
Stop #6: Fort Collins, CO – After Moab, I blasted a long eight hours or so up to Fort Collins, where a friend was gracious enough to host me for about four days. My intention in visiting Colorado was to decide whether or not it was worth relocating from San Luis Obispo to Fort Collins or Boulder.
The Fort Collins leg of my journey went something like this: frisbee, hike, beer, food, bbq, beer, hike, bike, on and on and on. I got acquainted with the town and people and got a feel for the activities that were in store for me. It was absolutely lovely. To finish off my trip to Fort Collins, a friend of my friend, who works in the Sour Beer Production portion of New Belgium Brewery, took me on a private tour on the day that they were closed to the public. A true VIP event! What an incredible thing that was. New Belgium won me over with their friendly staff and absolutely MASSIVE sustainability efforts. I left Fort Collins after the tour, sober and oh-so-happy. On to Boulder.
Stop #7: Boulder, CO – I blasted on down to Boulder to check in with a friend and his girlfriend who had moved from California to Boulder. I wanted to see and hear their take on Colorado and all its glory. I spent two days in Boulder, leaving with the strong feeling that if I ever made my way out to Colorado, I’d end up in Boulder. I got in a gorgeous afternoon ride at Heil Ranch before an evening of beer and food. Next it was time to head to San Diego and visit my family/say goodbye to my 21 year old cat Rocky who was on her last legs.
I had planned on staying in Hurricane, UT and riding Gooseberry Mesa in order to break up the drive into two manageable pieces. When I got into Utah, however, I ran into a true wind storm (as pictured above). I came over the hill and the scenery immediately changed. The winds were so strong that they blew power out of many different parts of Utah, killed someone on the freeway, and almost broke my Party Box off of the top of my car. It was insane…like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. In light of these events, I opted to blast all 16.5 hours in one straight shot from Boulder, CO to Fallbrook, CA. It was a long haul, but much better than trying to sleep with my tent slapping me in the face.
My trip totaled 14 days, 2,988 miles, and was one of the many great experiences I’ve had in my life. Extended solo time is heavily undervalued in this society and is something I’d recommend for anybody at almost any point in their lives. Adventure starts when things start going wrong. Get out there.