wtb nano

Oregon Outback : The Final Stretch

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I am awaken in the middle of the night by the freezing cold. I throw on my rain jacket for some extra insulation and eventually drift back off to sleep. I can hear Dave packing up as the sun rises in the distance. Our journey together ends here as he’s got to be at his sag wagon by 1pm. There has to be over 40 Outbackers sprawled out on the grassy lawn in Shaniko. With just over 60 miles to go it’s everyone’s last day on the Outback. We’re back on the road. The pavement points downward and my body feels surprisingly fresh. The road begins to roll and it stretches out as far as the eye can see. The ground begins to crumble as paved roads become gravel rivers rippling into the distance. My body is shattered and I immediately fall off the back. John and I unable to keep up the pace. We silently agree that we’d just take it easy and get through this together.

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Oregon Outback : Prineville to Shaniko

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The sun rises in the high desert illuminating the canyon surrounding the Prineville Reservoir. One by one we crawl out of our tents. Our weathered hands reach for the sky as we stretch sore limbs and rub sleepy eyes. Brad offers to make everyone coffee and one by one we fill our empty cups. We take our time cleaning up camp and enjoy the beautiful glow of morning. [portfolio_slideshow id=4537 width=1200]

Today is another big push of a 100+ miles. My knees feel broken and it definitely hurts to sit down on the saddle. I take some Advil and try to put the pain behind me.

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We hug the canyon walls as we descend down the Crooked River. Fully tucked, teary eyed, the descent is fucking amazing. We pour out onto rolling roads with the Crooked River to our left and towering Canyon walls to the right. The river runs a 125 miles long and is a tributary to the Deschutes River. Its a short push to Prineville.

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Call it a coincidence, call it fate; I rather believe it was our destiny to eat at yet another place called Brothers. Yesterday it was Brothers Stagecoach Stop and Cafe and today would be breakfast at Brothers Restaurant in Central Oregon. Coffee and the best Chicken Fried Steak I’ve ever fucking had. Enough said.

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It’s a long paved climb into the Ochoco National Forest. My knees crack and I tell everyone to push on. I climb in silence. It’s beautiful here. Alone with thought. Alone with the dizzying pain each pedal stroke makes. I push on and thankful for the friends that await for me at the top. It’s always worth it. Always. The descent through the Ochoco National Forest was good; really fucking good.

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It’s our first time that we’ve had to filter water on this trip. It’s exciting and I don’t know why.

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I’ve been looking forward to this section of the Outback. River Crossings and incredible remote roads that traverse through ranch lands on the edge of the Ochoco National Forest. This feels like Bikepacking.

My knee hurts so I pedal off the front to give myself ahead start. I approach the first creek crossing. There is a group of cyclists on the other side cheering me on. “Stay to the left. Stay to the left.” I stay to the left. My cadence is high as I cross the rocky creek bed. My feet are soaked and I am properly doused in water. I am smiling. I must be smiling. Fuck. This is so good!

Theres a few more creek crossings. The last one is deep. Dave almost makes it but pinch flats. I dip my cap in the ice cold water while we wait in the hot Oregon sun.

We descend. My front wheel hits a pot hole. I am going fast. I am loosing air and my front wheel is feeling really soft. I corner and my wheel sends me out of control. I panic knowing that I could be going down hard on this fast gravel descent. I have one foot out and carefully apply the brakes in hopes to not skid out. I loose control and point my bike towards a ditch. I feel lucky to walk away.

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After I fix my flat we regroup at what looks like an abandoned church. There is still a lot of riding to do. My legs are tired. We fill our bottles in someones yard and push forward. We’re climbing. The road is steep and the gravel is loose. I crack. The sun is really intense, sweat stings my eyes. My legs will not turn the pedals. I walk up the rest. Frustrated; I look down to realize I had been in the big ring the entire time. Fuck. Back in the smaller ring John and I decide to go at a more sustainable pace.

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It’s the final stretch to Shaniko. We’re on pavement now and it feels really good. The climb into town seems to go on forever. We’re buried deep in our own thoughts. The sun is setting and the light is incredible. Such an amazing and tough day on the bicycle. It’s rare to live in the moment these days. Setting up camp I come to realize what that truly means. We’re in the moment now and thats something I will now forever search for.

Eagle Rock + Big Basin Jay Camp

I didn't really let my buddies Mike and Brian know this but my goal for this trip was to suffer. The original route made its way through UCSC and up Empire Grade to Eagle Rock. At Eagle Rock we'd hop on the fire roads to Big Basin and make our way up Middle Ridge to the Butano Fire Trail. From Butano Fire Trail we'd connect with Olmo and drop into camp at Butano State Park. The route featured over 6000 ft of climbing which was mostly on dirt. I quickly realized that the route would be too challenging for this trip so I went back to Strava and made some tweaks. The final proposed route was 37.8 miles with 5490 feet of climbing which can be viewed here. EagleRock_BigBasin

The first 20 miles of the trip was pretty much one long climb up Empire Grade. Brian was running Odyssey BMX pedals and Mike was on a borrowed bike (thanks Jackson!). I've only climbed sections of Empire so I was stoked to finally get a chance to climb the entire stretch.

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After making the long ascent up Empire we found ourselves at a dead end. We could see Eagle Rock and the abandoned Fire Lookout that sits at the peak but we couldn't find the entrance. We did however find two locked gates. Are only other option would be to back track up Empire and ride down Jameson Creek which would have just felt like a defeat. We could see the Lookout spot and we could see a labyrinth of trails leading its way up to it. Brian and Mike found a pretty clear depression on the barbed wire fence next to one of the locked gates which made us think that it's used quiet frequently. I decided to do some recon while Brian and Mike tried to rid their legs of all it's lactic acid. After pedaling down the trail a bit I was pretty set on taking this route up to the Lookout so I pedaled back with the good news.

Getting loaded bikes over tall gates is never an easy task. Team work is generally required. I definitely do not condone trespassing but we were left with no choice.

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After taking runs around a motorcycle track that we found it quickly became clear that the trails we had found would not lead us to the Fire Road. Mike is an Arborist and was the most qualified person for a recon mission in the woods. He quickly found a route through some bushes and up a steep section of loose dirt. With some team work we were able to get our bikes up onto the Fire Road and we were on our way!

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I don't think any of us expected that the view would be so damn good. Eagle Rock sits at 2488 ft of elevation on Ben Lommond Mountain which is located in Little Basin. The Panoramic view is absolutely breathtaking. From mountains to oceans; here you can see them all!

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I am pretty sure Brian's brain was turning when we got to this place. Brian's photography is next level so I could only imagine how much fun he was having capturing the vastness of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Brian wrote an awesome article which is accompanied by some incredible photographs from the trip onThe Radavist!

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After Eagle Rock we got to shred an amazing ascent down the Eagle Springs Fire Road. Eagle Springs dropped us off right into the Little Basin Campgrounds. We got a little turned around here but with a little help from some strange wilderness instructors we found our way to Pine Mountain Road. The initial climb up Pine Mountain Road was really steep. I watched my Garmin top hit 30% which is definitely the steepest incline I've had the privilege to climb. Brian was motivated and made it up the steep section as well but you should have seen his face! Everyone has a Pain Face when it comes to cycling. Brian and Mike both found them on this trip. As sick as it sounds I am pretty stoked I was able to curate a trip that would do that to them. We all walked away stronger and I am sure Mike and Brian would agree.

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After reaching Blooms Creek we came to a group consensus that we should wrap things up and camp at Big Basin. Big Basin has a really nice Hiker / Biker campsite and it's within walking distance to the camp store which is over flowing with beer, chips and all that other good stuff. The nice part about ending the trip a bit early was that we had time to sit back, relax and really enjoy the redwoods.

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We rolled out of camp fairly early. The climb out of Big Basin was cold and slow. Once out of Big Basin we basically had an endless descent into Boulder Creek. Nothing like an early more descent down twisty country roads to wake you up and put a smile on your face. Once in your Boulder Creek there aren't too many options to get back into Santa Cruz. Mike worked out a cool route that took us down highway 9 to Felton. In Felton we'd pedal through Henry Cowell and pedal along the train tracks back into town. Highway 9 could be a world class cycling route if it weren't for all the angry drivers. Its safe to say that we all just wanted to get down into Felton and the hell off of 9.

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Rolling into Henry Cowell felt like a huge achievement. We made it down Highway 9 unscathed and now we were in the redwoods jamming over tree roots and hobo single track.

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This was the last of three railroad bridges that we'd cross to get back into town. As we got closer to town we slowly found ourselves near Heroin Hill AKA Pogonip. Small encampments could be seen littered through the brush and we occasionally passed a group or two of the lost, the high and the soon to be dead. It's a dark side of Santa Cruz that is rarely seen.

Towering redwoods opened up into blue skies. The sound of the ocean. The sound of the Boardwalk. Lost in our own thoughts. What a rad fucking journey.

+ If you liked this make sure to check out Brian's write up on out trip at the Radavist!

Monte Bello + Castle Rock State Park Trail Camp

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Sam and I have been talking about going on a BikePacking trip ever since I moved back to the West Coast. Life threw me a bone and work brought me out to the beautiful city of Santa Cruz for two months. Since Sam lives in Santa Cruz it didn't take long for us to plan a trip. Castle_Rock_BikePacking

Sam rode a full suspension Santa Cruz Nomad. Josh had a hard tail On One. I had All City Macho Man cyclocross set up. We all pretty much had the same bag set up.Castle_Rock_BikePacking-2Castle_Rock_BikePacking-3

Less than a mile from the car we were quickly greeted with a notorious Bay Area climb called Monte Bello which was one hell of a way to start the day. My cyclocross bike flew up the road giving me the opportunity to shoot some photos of the guys and taunt the road bikers. It's always a good feeling when you can pace with a road cyclist when your fully loaded down with gear.

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Monte Bello Rd in Cupertino starts at Stevens Canyon and climbs for 5.3 miles. Monte Bello climbs up to 1940 feet with an average grade of 6.9% (elev. gain/dist) and walls steep as 16%. The road is a dead end for cars but cyclists have the option to take the fire roads to Black Mountain and continue on single track to Page Mill Road.

Monte Bello means "Beautiful Mountains" in Italian.

Stats on Monte Bellow from Stanford University can be found here.

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This is me stoked to be on my first legit BikePacking trip.

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My set up was light and nimble. Check out my detailed post on my bikepacking rig here.

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Sam and Josh ran into BMX legend Chris Rothe on the way up Monte Bello. Karl was one of the pioneers of Flatland and it was an honor to meet him.

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"Black Mountain is a summit on Monte Bello Ridge in the Santa Cruz Mountains of west Santa Clara County, California, south of Los Altos and Los Altos Hills, and west of Cupertino. It is located on the border between Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve and Monte Bello Open Space Preserve, with the summit located in the former. "

Elevation : 2812 ft (857 m)

Click here for a Topo Map.

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Monte Bello O.S.P. offers a handful of incredible fire roads and single track. Some of the routes we took were : Old Ranch, Bella Vista, Stevens Creek Nature Trail, Ridge Trail and Saratoga Gap.

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Sam has been the master planner and navigator for these trips linking us up with some incredible routes. Sam is also a proud owner of the droopiest Revelate handle bar bag ever! Hahaha.

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The views on the Ridge Trail were breathtaking.

"The preserve's grasslands include California poppy, checker mallow, purple owl's-clover, bluedicks, and blue-eyed grass. Large mammals in the preserve include coyote, bobcat, deer, badger and mountain lions. Common raptors include red-tailed hawks, northern harriers, and American kestrels, and less commonly, rough-legged hawks, prairie falcons, merlins, and golden eagles can be seen during fall and spring migratory seasons. Monte Bello hosts a wide variety of owl species, including great horned, barn, pygmy, long-eared, western screech, and northern saw-whet. "

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Download the Monte Bello Open Space Preserve map here.

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Open hands. Open mind.

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Castle Rock Trail Camp is 2.6 miles from the main parking lot via Saratoga Gap.

The camp features 20 sites at a first come first serve basis. There are currently no fires allowed in the campsites. Pitted toilets and running water available.

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Pro Tip : To the right of this gate at Castle Rock is the Los Altos Rod and Gun Club. When open you can go in and purchase Sodas, Candy, Chips and a bunch of other junk food!

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This is where we parted ways. Sam and Josh had another day of riding bikes while I made my way through Big Basin and Jamison Creek back home. I will never forget this trip. With my first BikePacking trip under my belt it would be an understatement to say that I am hooked. Huge shout out to Sam and Josh for such an incredible adventure.

All City Macho Man BikePacking Rig

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I personally don't have a Mountain or Bikepacking specific bike but I do have a Cyclocross bike. Cyclocross bikes are incredibly versatile and after out fitting my All City Macho Man with WTB's 40c Nanos I had one hell of a Monster Cross rig! [portfolio_slideshow id=2752 width=1200px]

Below is a breakdown of my rig and what I bring with me on weekend Bikepacking trips.

Bike Setup :

  • All City Macho Man (key features are the 11-32t cassette and WTB 40c Nano tires!)
  • Camelbak Podium Bottles 25oz
  • Garmin 810
  • Revelate Designs Pocket (fits over drybag)
  • REI 10 liter drysack attached to bars with two 1" Redpoint Webbing Straps
  • Revelate Viscaha saddle bag

Gear Setup :

  • Big Agnes Fly Creek Ul2 tent (The tent is packed in my Revelate Pocket. The Poles and ground sheet are packed in a seperate bag that sits in between my Revelate Pocket and REI Drysack.
  • Marmot NanoWave sleeping bag (packs small and fits in the front dry bag)
  • Therm-a-rest NeoAir XLite sleeping pad
  • Snow Peak Titanium Mini Solo Cookset
  • Snow Peak LiteMax Stove + 100gram gas canister
  • GSI Ultralight Java Drip
  • Sawyer Mini Water Filter
  • Platypus Platy Bottle 70 oz
  • Black Diamond Cosmo headlamp
  • Bic mini lighter
  • Leatherman Wave
  • First Aid kit
  • Lightload Towels

Bike Tools + Supplies :

  • Topeak Mini Plus 18-Function Bicycle Tool (took off unnecessary tools)
  • Topeak Mini Morph Pump (this little tire works really good!)
  • Niterider 500 front light
  • Planet Bike rear light
  • Spare tubes x2
  • Glueless patches x2
  • Sram chain pin
  • Kerb's Mountain Bike Map

Packed Clothes :

  • Pantagonia Nano Puff Jacket (great for layering and has proved to keep me warm down to 6 degrees when paired with a merino sweater. Jacket also doubles as my pillow)
  • Icebreaker merino leggings
  • Icebreaker merino shirt
  • Icebreaker Flexi Chute (most versatile piece of clothing you will ever own)
  • Xero Amuri Cloud Barefoot Sandal (light weight + pack small)