With the threat of mosquitos lurking outside, my husband Joe, our good friend Brandon, and I gathered inside a two-person tent. It was a comical sight, limbs and gear were arranged strategically to optimize space. Cramped within the safety of our mosquito-proof haven, Brandon and Joe played a lengthy round of chess while we simultaneously delved into the details of our upcoming journey.
The next morning we changed into our matching cycling kits, cooked a warm meal, and tore down camp. As we strapped our bags to our bikes we realized how heavy our loads were but the excitement outweighed the extra pounds we would be carrying through the next three days.
Sequoia Bikepacking Adventure Day 1: 53.95mi, 7,963ft
Strava Route: https://www.strava.com/activities/9389954587
We started in the town of Pine Flats. The winding trails led us through dense forests. It was hot but the sequoias shielded us from the furnace above. As I pedaled along, I could hear my saddle bag inching closer and closer to my back tire. It was a frustrating dance of readjustments and attempts to secure the rebellious bag. But in my defense, I am new to the world of bikepacking. It's a realm of adventure where lessons are learned through experience and gear choices are refined over time.
By 10am we stopped to stuff our faces with Scandinavian Swimmers (the superior gummies), and carried on through Portugues Pass singing Linkin Park songs hoping it would uplift my partners’ spirits. The quiet flat green meadows stretched for miles preparing us for more difficult miles ahead.
As we pedaled into the small town of Johnsondale, the humble locals greeted us with open arms. We replenished our supplies, plugged our phones into the outlets of a local rustic laundry room, drank cold root beers, and topped off our water bottles with ice. It was a pause in our journey, a chance to reflect and gather strength before facing the next big climb under the scorching heat.
We veered off the road, shed our gear and stepped into a roadside stream. We washed away the fatigue and heat. We mounted our bikes once more, feeling lighter and ready to conquer the last miles. Like cool cucumbers, we continued the adventure. With every pedal stroke, we left behind a trail of water droplets, only to be completely dry again in less than 5 minutes.
With a wave of relief, we made it to our much anticipated destination, Redwood Meadows, home to our first yurt. (You can book one of these awesome yurts through recreation.gov). As we approached the yurt, the promise of a comfortable bed and shelter from the elements filled us with gratitude. Entering the yurt, we were greeted by a cozy interior, adorned with a chair, futon, bunkbed and a side table. The scent of fresh mountain air mingled with the woodsy aroma put our senses at ease. We cooked ramen, ate chocolate chip cookies, shared pieces of Indian flat bread, changed into clean clothes, and collapsed onto the inviting beds feeling the weight of the day slowly melting away.
Sequoia Bikepacking Adventure Day 2 : 42mi, 6,628ft
Strava Route: https://www.strava.com/activities/9389887497
Some of us woke up feeling more refreshed than others yet collectively ready to take on the next leg of our bikepacking journey. We said goodbye to the cozy yurt as we ventured forth. The journey had only just begun, but the first night in Redwood Meadows’ yurt had set the tone.
We started the day with a 1,477 foot gravel climb. As we crested the first summit, we were rewarded with stunning views and a sense of accomplishment. There were a series of rolling hills, providing brief moments of rest before our next major gravel climb. Towering sequoias stretched towards the heavens, their massive trunks and lush foliage captivated our senses. It was a sight that compelled us to pause, we captured the moment through photos and videos, immortalizing the beauty of these ancient giants.
But our adventure took an unexpected turn as we began our descent—a treacherous and rocky road that tested our bike handling skills and rattled our bones. In the midst of the tumultuous journey, a realization struck us—a crucial item had been lost. My iPhone, it was nowhere to be found. Panic set in as we contemplated the potential loss.
The three of us made a collective decision. We would climb back up the gravel road. Joe led the charge, racing ahead, while Brandon and I meticulously inspected opposite sides of the road. As we climbed, our hearts sank when two massive trucks thundered down the road, raising concerns that they may have passed over the phone. The weight of the setback hung heavy in the air, but we pressed on, undeterred by the challenge.
After what felt like an eternity of climbing, Joe descended towards us, a wide grin spreading across his face—he had found the phone! Though cracked, the damage was minimal. But fate had more in store for us. I mustered the courage to reveal that I had also lost my Insta360 camera during the chaotic descent. Without hesitation, Joe embarked on another climb, retracing our path in search of it. Miraculously, he returned with the camera intact, preserving the memories we had captured along the way.
With the setbacks behind us, we finally reached the general store. We took our time! After a well-deserved break, we embarked on the final leg of our journey—a grueling 2.5-foot road climb that would lead us to the finish line. Fatigue weighed heavy on our legs, but the memories of the sequoia grove, the triumphant recoveries, and the unyielding spirit of our team propelled us forward.
As we made it to our second yurt in Quaking Aspen. (Also booked through recreation.gov) everything seemed right. We had conquered the challenges, faced setbacks head-on, and emerged stronger and more resilient.
Sequoia Bikepacking Adventure Day 3 : 36mi, 3,352ft
Strava Route: https://www.strava.com/activities/9389859911
It was the Fourth of July, and I felt a sense of celebration. We knew this day marked both the end of our journey and the beginning of new stories to share.
We began with a road descent through Poderosa and quickly made a turn onto our first gravel section. The seemingly straightforward gravel trail soon turned into a tangled mess of fallen trees and massive rocks, erasing any trace of a clear path. Frustration crept in as we dismounted our bikes repeatedly, navigating the obstacle course that had replaced the intended trail. We made the decision to backtrack. It was a difficult choice, forgoing the natural tubs and slides that awaited us, but the unknown dangers that lay beyond demanded caution. As we descended along the mellower road, a new challenge presented itself. Brandon's bike derailleur hanger started acting up. With a touch of improvisation, Joe and Brandon managed a quick temporary fix.
The next gravel climb tested our resilience. Steep, loose, and sandy, it demanded all of our strength. We paused frequently, allowing ourselves to catch our breath and soak in the breathtaking scenery that surrounded us. We swallowed mouthfuls of dirt, as we descended the loose road. Finally, we arrived at the last gravel section of the day. The smooth and mellow stretch carried us through beautiful vibrant green meadows.
This road led us back to the highway. We descended with optimism and relief knowing that we had pushed through challenges and arrived safely at the end of our bikepacking adventure. We were glad to be returning to Edgar, our trusty Honda Element, that patiently awaited. As we packed our gear, we swapped stories, reliving the highs and lows of the journey. We discussed improvements for future bikepacking bag systems, each of us contributing ideas to enhance our future adventures.
And in that spirited camaraderie, the mention of Cactus Cooler drew much laughter. It became a symbol of the end to our journey, a sweet promise of refreshment awaiting us at home. We embarked on the drive back home carrying the stories of our adventure in our hearts, ready to share them with others and inspire new journeys to come.
Check Out Gemma's Bikepaking Essentials Gear List:
On Bike Clothes
- cargo bibs
- cycling jersey
- gloves, socks
- cycling shoes
Off Bike Clothes
- quick dry top
- sandals/lightweight shoes
- sun hat
- cargo bags
- hydration packs
- GPS devices
- saddle bag tools (extra tire, co2 canisters, levers, patch kit, allen keys, mini pump)
- camping pillows
- water filter
- contact solution/ case and spares
- hand sanitizer
- portable camping stove
- cycling food: maurten bars/gels/mix drink, scandinavian swimmers, coconut sugar, lara bars
- off bike food: Asha noodles, indian flat bread, canned beans, oats, raisins, pasta, spices, chocolate chip cookies
- selfie gopro
- insta 360
- front mounted gorpo
- batteries/ battery bank
- usb c and lighting cable
- outlet plug in
First Night Gear
- two tents
- three sleeping pads