Hell ya! I was thinking as I banked around the last bend of the paved bike path and saw the bar on the opposite corner. I was so excited to finally be to the bottom of the hill.
As I come to a stop my cohort, my 16 year old daughter, Gabi, comes to a stop next to me.
“We made it!” she says smiling back at me.
We cross the street and hang the bikes on the back of the RV and see if my family, who have been patiently waiting on us for four hours, wants to go grab a drink at the bar. My two youngest kids are in the middle of playing cards and choose to stay back with my oldest son and so I walk across the grass and sit down at a picnic table with my husband, Victor, Gabi, and my other daughter, Isabelle. (Yep, 5 kids in one 30 foot class C)
“You made it?” a cyclist at the table next to me asks.
“Yes, finally,” I reply.
We had just briefly met him when we were only a few minutes down Jimmy’s Mom (and were already walking our bikes) when he reached the top of a jump and stopped to see if we were okay.
“Does it get any easier?” I had asked.
But it was his first time ridding Jimmy’s Mom and couldn’t give us beta other than saying that eventually we’d hit the Old Pass Road later down the hill or we could jump over to Philips’s Connector. One look at the rocky connector and we decided to keep trying our current path. We had had enough bumpy rides for one day already.
We had started out three hours before this on the easy dirt MTB trail, Arrow. But when we reached a summit and saw a turn off for Snotel trail I thought, why not? I mean Trail Forks and MTB Project rated it 5 stars so it must be great. It was, but it climbed for what felt like forever and sure enough, when we reach the next summit and the crossroads for the Ridge Trail and Snotel, we inadvertently turn onto the Ridge Trail thinking we were staying on Snotel.
We did not want the Ridge Trail as I remembered that it was a black diamond trail and having just started mountain biking a month ago when we were in Squamish on the perfectly groomed downhill of Cliff’s Corner—causing us to instantly get hooked on yet another adventure sport.
My internal compass is going berserk because I know we are heading in the wrong direction but something about the jaw-dropping views that are reminding me of being back in the mountains of Europe keep me pedaling along this extremely rocky trail that’s definitely skirting along the ridge of the mountain, but I keep scanning ahead thinking it’s going to bank right 180 degrees at any moment and send us back to our camper that is sitting alongside the highway with my family, who is probably going to start worrying soon since we said this was going to be a quick one hour ride.
Thirty minutes and a lot of braking later, a cyclist finally passes and informs us this is definitely the Ridge Trail. My daughter looks at me tired and frustrated but knows she can’t yell at me because she too was sucked into the thralls of adventure that being in a new town on a new trail always brings. We complain half-jokingly half-serious that it wouldn’t be so bad if our legs just weren’t so tired. We had already hiked the four miles on the nearby trail to Ski Lake that morning and the previous day we had hiked six miles to rock climb two routes that were deep in the center of City of Rocks, again, getting slightly lost there by also taking a wrong turn and having to spend an extra twenty minutes backtracking in the blazing heat with no water while carrying heavy climbing packs.
It’s a slow retreat back along the ridge where we eventually realize our mistake and course correct down the even rockier section of the Snotel trail to where it thankfully turns a bit smoother and more flowy until we reach the trailhead and grab water from the motorhome.
We should’ve called it a day. I mean ten miles of hiking in the past 24 hours, a few hours of climbing, and now this intense bike ride!
But Ranger Randy was so excited this morning when we asked where we should mountain bike and told us we had to do this downhill section and explained with extreme passion how he and his friends had built this trail and named it after their rich friend’s mom who bought them all bikes some forty years ago. I had to see what exactly all the excitement was about.
There’s a reason curiosity killed the cat. We had no business being on that trail. This was the equivalent of getting barreled while surfing or climbing 5.12, sure you can skirt all the big jumps but still, you had to have skill—which we didn’t. When we finally reached the pavement, we flew down—happy to not be vigilantly scanning five inches in front of our front tire for the next rock to crawl over or root to drop down.
Next time I ask for beta on the best rides, I need to hide the guns (the ones attached to the side of my body). This is a common occurrence. Just because I look “fit” people assume I can handle so much more. It ended fine—it usually does. Better than fine actually. It was amazing, incredible, spectacular, and, my favorite, memorable.
Another gorgeous day spent outside in nature with one or all of my kids and spouse. Taking in the scenery while pushing our bodies physically, learning to adapt, being reminded of what’s really important in life and that maybe one day I should work on being a little more prepared.
The real beauty though is how we just happened to be at the top of Teton Pass at the same time as Ranger Randy.
Living a life on the road is a constant experiment in what we refer to as Planned Unpredictability. It always goes something like this: We have three potential plans, we could stop at Idaho Falls—it’s supposed to be a nice city; we could camp down in Swan Valley—it has great bike paths and a gorgeous waterfall; or we could go to the mountains and hit Driggs—the backside of the Tetons. We definitely know we shouldn’t go to Jackson because the crowds will be horrendous (it’s the weekend before the solar eclipse). But we stop to get supplies in Idaho Falls and quickly see this is not our type of town; we start to set up camp near the falls at Fall Creek Falls (how creatively named) but there really isn’t much space for the kids to play so we move on; we get halfway to Driggs before pulling over and going to sleep on a large pull off. I wake early excited to get us to Driggs, hoping to find a nice coffee shop with decent wifi so I can get some work done. But then it happens.
I’m driving through Victor, Idaho. “Hey, Victor, check out Victor!” and start thinking this is a lot of farmland—not my type of town. I pull up to the light where I can go six miles north to Driggs where I doubt there is much more “nature” or go south towards the huge forest of trees. I tap the brakes for a split second and follow my instincts.
Plan four. “Kids, we are going to Jackson.” And before you know it, we are standing on Teton Pass while Ranger Randy, who is also a climber, surfer, hiker, biker extraordinaire and happens to be from our hometown—is telling us all the great hikes, climbs, and bike rides we should do while we are in the area.
Yep, this is the nomadic life of a family of adventurers. For us the mountains are always calling and we must go. But some mornings it’s the oceans and others it may be the high desert covered in huge rock formations. It’s rarely the city, unless we are low on supplies and need to restock or miss family and want to say hi. Though we often get stuck for days in small towns and revel in the simplicity of one cafe, a family run market, and the ability to walk or bike anywhere you need to go, that is, as long as the brewery has a good IPA. Where being in a rush could be against the law, along with not stopping to say hello and smile when you pass someone.
But as great as those few days can be, the open road still calls to us. It lifts my spirits and feeds my soul. As I say in my Playful Life courses, it makes me excited to wake and start each day wondering what adventure awaits my ever changing backyard. And shouldn’t we all wake up excited to start the day?