stories • happenings • adventures

NEW BIKEI have a brand new bicycle! Or rather I have an old bike made new again. I had this frame built 10 years ago as a 29” singlespeed touring bike, greatly inspired by Pat Irwin who I heard refer to himself once as a “dirt roadie”. This was long before gravel bikes had been “invented”. Surly’s red Crosscheck was out then, and Pat rode one with flat bars and I rode my current bike with a 42:20 ratio on a 200km brevet around the Homer, AK. Ten years later, I still can’t call myself old, but my knees are older and singlespeed touring is still the best thing ever but sometimes there are cool mountains that are easier to ride up with camping gear on your bike if you have a rear derailleur. When I was in Portland, OR, last fall I hand-delivered the frame back to Vanilla and the kind folks there gave me wicked nasty new dropouts, cable stops and a new coat of paint.

In the last 10 years bikepacking has exploded and now all I have to do to get maps for a new and interesting area is plug my GPS into a computer and download some GPX files. is an amazing resource and I took the New Mexico Off-Road Runner and Monumental Loop tracks from here and called it good.

The NMORR route is awesome. By early afternoon I was far from any city and in the Santa Fe National Forest on chunky jeep roads that could suddenly change into swoopy two track through big meadows bordered by pine trees. I dabbed on some of these initial roads but was able to ride almost everything. A spring, which should be a good water supply, had an oily sheen and was murky and skuzzy.
IMG_5292 copy 2

I hemmed and hawed and decided not to take any water from here: there’s always more water in the desert than you think there is, and this was a forest not a desert, and besides, there were tons of cows here and they needed to get a drink somewhere. A few miles later I passed a spinning windmill churning out beautiful clear water not on any map. Camping on the NMORR is easy. Even if you’re not on BLM or National Forest land — which you usually are — there’s always a wash to duck down into or a big juniper to snuggle up next to as a wind block. Get water, make hot food, get your crossword puzzles and headlamp and get in your sleeping bag, because there’s 11 or 12 hours of darkness this time of year and it’s too cold once the sun goes down to watch the stars with only have a few thin layers of nylon and wool to keep you warm. At night, until south of Magdalena, it would be in the 20°Fs and I would sleep in a down jacket and rain pants inside my 32° bag to stay kind of warm.

Pico Ladron

Pico Ladron

Usually if I had big winds on this trip they were from the west, and the following day was no exception. I crawled towards the Very Large Array along the pavement but did not take the detour to go there given the headwind I had. Instead I cruised up Mt. Withington and saw a huge bull elk cross the road right in front of me.IMG_5100 copy 2

There were tiny sections of snow in the shadows but none of them were deep. Eagle Spring on the backside of Mt. Withington was almost frozen solid. I used the lid of my cook pot to skim a 1/4 oz of water at a time from the surface to fill my bottles. Later on a creek bed paralleled the road and it was running with what I assume was snowmelt. I chugged and refilled bottles from a pool in seconds whereas at Eagle Spring this took hours.

Chloride Canyon

Chloride Canyon

The Chloride loop was a highlight of the route for me. Instead of going straight to reach Winston and Chloride directly, you take Highway 59 west for a few miles, delve into the magical Gila National Forest, and cruise deserted roads until sneaking onto the CDT and then bombing through Bear Trap and Chloride Canyons. The graceful swooping downhill trend in Chloride Canyon was a delight, and I saw some thin 700c tracks in the dust ahead of me (700×32? 35?) and I was so happy this wasn’t me. Because I have ridden most of the rest of the CDT in New Mexico, it was extra special to be on this new section of it, if only for a mile or two. Winston has a great general store but the last hot dog on the hot line had been swimming in there for a little too long. Mayonnaise on dogs is always good and I wish I had had two regardless. In T or C the next morning I had a Big Az chicken fried chicken sandwich from a gas station and this had 720 calories. Riding above Elephant Butte dam is spectacular, almost as much so as that sandwich, and the powerline roads that follow this are initially big chunky rock moves but quickly become fast two track riding. Coming into Hatch along the railroad tracks and then the levee roads reminded me of cutting across Anchorage — or any city, really — on the informal social trails that crisscross it. It was early Sunday morning and Sparky’s was closed and I wasn’t going to wait for an hour just to have a famous cheeseburger, so I left Hatch with more gas station snacks and rode the climby gravel roads in Organ Mountains – Desert Peaks National Monument. As (usually) always, there was more water here than expected, and I was able to resupply my water easily. One packet of Orange Crush singles powder works for 2 litres of water flavoring. Scenic Canyon and Broad Canyon are magnificent. Maintained dirt roads led me to Corralitos Ranch road and then I went left on the powerline road, camped, and then made it into Las Cruces the next day. Pablo at Outdoor Adventures offered me a place to stay, and if anything the friendship I made there was equal to or greater than all the amazing riding and camping I’d had in the eight days prior. That’s warm and fuzzy, but it’s true.

IMG_5394 copy 2

The Monumental Loop route leaves from Las Cruces. The NMORR is mostly fast, non-technical dirt road riding, whereas the ML is mostly sort of fast, semi-technical rarely-maintained dirt road riding mixed with a good amount of tiny cattle trails, swoopy flowy singletrack, and some rocky mountain bike trails. I had a blast on the ML! From the University where the ML starts, you immediately enter an area which locals refer to as “The Sandbox”. Let some air out of your tires, unweight your front wheel and try not to turn your handlebars! I had a 2.1 tire on my front wheel and did alright, but a 2.5 wouldn’t have hindered anything. Going around A Mountain and then Observation Mountain on those rocky trails was slow going for me, and I was happy when I got back to the sandy cattle trails and then the swoopy flowing trails leading to Leasburg State Park at Radium Springs. The key to the first day’s riding was to consciously avoid any fast, easily-ridable dirt road you crossed, and instead look for the faint singletrack leading away from that nice road.

rr road into Hatch

Heading towards Hatch

I was in Hatch (again) by early morning on day two, and (again) Sparky’s was closed so I did not get a world famous green chili cheeseburger. I didn’t climb Mt. Tonuco for the special uphill and downhill hike-a-bike; instead I walked the sandy powerline road for a mile or two until I got to the levee roads and biked into Hatch that way. After Hatch eventually the ML meets up with the NMORR route, and the two overlap for several miles. But the two meet coming from two opposite directions, and I at least had no idea this was happening until recognizing the same stock tank from a few days prior. Once I also recognized my own tire tracks from three days earlier, I stopped toggling in on the GPS so much and was able to cruise a little easier for a while. The clouds started doing what they’d been promising to do all day, and I woke in the middle of the night to a drizzle that turned to rain as the day drearily wore on. Eventually my brakes clogged with enough mud that I could no longer spin my wheels. At all. Even when pushing. So I detoured to Highway 70 and came into Las Cruces that way, missing the final route miles in Prehistoric Pathways National Monument. There are dinosaur tracks out there. It poured all day the following day, and I was happy to sleep on Pablo’s fold out couch again like so many previous cyclists and enjoy a day off.

Monument Loop singletrack

Monument Loop singletrack

Looking down to White Gap

Looking down to White Gap

The ML is shaped like a figure 8, divided into a northern section and a southern section. The southern section is more stark and austere than its northern counterpart. Remove the volcanic rock, change the mesquite to spinifex, and lots of its two tracks could easily be from central Australia. The Sierra Vista Trail was an all morning downhill cruiser run that ended in Texas in Franklin Mountains State Park. I camped near the northern edges of El Paso’s farthest suburbs and bought food in Vinton early the next morning. In Las Cruces I’d gotten ahold of Ray Molino, who lives near the route, and he was gracious to offer me a place to stay and tell me where the potable water was in his house. Unfortunately he was in Alaska when I called him, getting ready for the Iditasport, and so I didn’t meet him like I had high hopes of doing. The route past Vinton traces the rim of Kilburne Hole, a maar volcanic crater, and the views into this big hole are amazing.

mammoth stones

The rain that had fallen while I was in Las Cruces was still plentiful on my third day of riding. Unexpected mud and puddles were very much in effect all morning, and I carried my bicycle over these frame-clogging messes more than I expected to. Not as bad as some of the clay roads in Colorado, but nonetheless not ideal. Chloride Canyon was the highlight on the NMORR and the woolly mammoth stones were the highlight of the ML. On a small spur from the main route, there is an ancient volcanic remnant called Providence Cone, and on an even smaller, one mile spur from this is a rock outcropping were mammoths used to scratch their prehistoric itches. These rocks were a power spot: wind and rain sculpted mini-monoliths set in a sea of sand and mesquite. Super amazing! It was surprisingly sandy after Providence Cone, and I pushed more than I expected to in this last section of the trail. Eventually I reached county roads and was able to pedal into Las Cruces with the help of huge tailwinds. I took my shirt off on the final downhill to the Mesilla Dam, not because it was incredibly hot, but more because I’d been wearing it for three days straight and it seemed like a good time to air out. I thought of my friend and fellow shirtless biker Nicholas Carmen while I did this, and waved gleefully at the first vehicle I’d seen in 24 hours while I bombed down to the dam. I had a bison burger with green chilies and cheese in Las Cruces and everything was grand.

IMG_5605 copy 2

Dylan Kentch is a decade long ambassador and friend of Revelate. He’s currently guiding trips for Adventure Cycling. You may find him eating oatmeal or drinking cold coffee somewhere along the southern side of the states.

As the holiday season comes to a close, the adults among us inevitably turn to plans for the year to come, from rudimentary reminders to lofty ambitions. The list spans the chasm from “exercise twice a week” to “race around the world in 80 days.” Regardless of your zest for resolutions, long winter nights are a good time to dream. Dreams make for an inspiring start to the year, as these visions of our future are usually optimistic – these are the things we want to be doing with our precious time! But dreams are a difficult medium to draw boundaries around. They can be ephemeral or palpable, transitory or enduring. Dreams are also inherently unique and no two are the same! We each have it in us to dream something enormous, inspiring and life-changing for our foreseeable future.

With kids attached, dad’s train rolls at 15 mph on the flats and they pull back-to-back 60+ mile days.

With kids attached, dad’s train rolls at 15 mph on the flats and they pull back-to-back 60+ mile days.

This time last year, I was busy dreaming about riding bikes across the tundra wilderness. Tundra pictures were everywhere in our house! The background of my computer was plastered with a family picture from a Yukon peak. That image shone through the dark days of winter, when my motivation slips. Within that image, the northern light, the smiles on our faces, and the total lack of people inspired me for much of the year. This one picture fostered wanderlust, and a desire to escape our hectic home-life.

Ava Fei and Colby on the Dempster Highway.

Alice and Colby on the Dempster Highway.

Moving from idealistic dreams to actionable goals is the pitfall of many a New Year’s resolution. Dreams are the springboard for goals, and goals represent tasks which are action steps that are 100% achievable. Here are a few steps to move from dreaming to doing:

1. Carve out the time in your schedule. Request the time off work. Clear your schedule, or at least don’t book anything extra in the time you hope to be away. Make sure your loved ones are on board, and help them clear their schedules if need be.

2. Pick a destination. Look at coffee table books with big glossy images that pull at your heart and have you saying, “I want to go there.” In these early stages of the planning process, know that you are painting with broad brush strokes and you have lots of time to sort out the details. You might say to yourself, “I want to go to Mongolia.” Take some pressure off yourself at this stage, realizing that the trip you dream about will likely be totally different than the one you set out on. You will learn many things through the planning process, which is part of the fun of dreaming and researching your adventure!

3. Decide on the focus of your trip and make sure everyone who is going shares a similar outlook. Are you riding from Point A to Point B, or basing out of one location and taking off somewhere different each day? Is this a no-expense-spared vacation, or a dirtbag endeavour?

4. Figure out the big logistics, like travel to and from your destination, accommodations, and what gear you need to make this the best adventure ever. Problems that arise out of these logistics can send you searching for new destinations, or may require significant changes to your original intentions. Flexibility will help you get the most out of your time away.

5. Look into the finer details as your time and interests allow. If you want a bit more adventure, figure things out once you land at the trailhead. If you like to minimize surprises, pour over ever resource you can find, but still expect the unexpected.Regardless of your planning process, don’t let anything dissuade you from heading out the door on your adventure. Your world is as big as you make it!

Dan Clark-Instagram Takeover-6

In the rainforest of the Cassiar highway, we had a lot of mornings like this.

Regardless of your planning process, don’t let anything dissuade you from heading out the door on your adventure. Your world is as big as you make it!Looking back at the process of planning our bike trip to the Arctic, I’m amazed at how different the reality was from my initial dreams. The two months we spent riding as a family in the Canadian North were the most challenging and memorable of our entire year. We experienced apprehension and excitement, difficulty and reward, all far beyond anything we could have imagined in the comforts of our home. Looking back at our adventure, we are left with a wealth of intense memories of a wild road through beautiful country, and of generous people who went out of their way to help us. Most importantly, the journey made us stronger as a family and as individuals.

This cycle of dream and discovery also has a way of repeating itself, and may be the most healthy habit you can pick up. As I look into 2018, I find myself dreaming of other distant horizons, sunny vistas, and time outside under a warmer sun. Dreams are percolating in my head as I write this, and I’m confident that these will take me into the New Year with inspired action and a curiosity of what is over the next ridge or around that bend in the road.

Dan, Alice and their two kids Koby and Ava Fei are Simply Propelled. They’ve camped over 500 nights, cycled thousands of miles and paddled an equal distance seeking simplicity and solitude in the wilderness. They produce films from their expeditions to inspire others to take their own adventures. Their next film detailing their most recent adventure, “Simply Propelled: The Canadian North”, will be released on Friday January 19th.

One of their favorite spots, Calingasta, Argentina.

One of their favorite spots, Calingasta, Argentina.

Eric Parsons
October 19, 2017

Nulato Hill Exploration

Posted by Eric Parsons

Luc taps me on the shoulder, “Got a water bottle?” I see desperation in his face. I shake my head, all I had was the full 1 liter bottle I had just purchased in the Fairbanks airport. The drone of the twin engine, eight seater Navajo plane muffled out any small talk, this time for the better. I was sitting right behind the pilot, and could read his GPS display. Galena, a town along the Yukon River in Interior Alaska, was our next stop, 128 miles distant and at least another hour. Though rightfully concerned for the situation in my own bladder, teamwork is essential for a two person group heading off on a wilderness bike trip. I pounded the full bottle in one go and passed the bottle to Luc, he awkwardly unbuckled from his seat and squirmed behind the only other passenger on the flight to re-fill the bottle. I took one for the team, now my eyes focused on the GPS display 124 miles. 123.9..

The plan was to attempt a bike traverse of an alpine ridgeline that spanned almost 100 miles, separating the Yukon River from the Bering Sea Coastline. Luc came up with the idea through talking with friends and intimate studying of google earth imagery. (See his trip planning insight here). Luc grew up in the Kuskoquim village of McGrath and was able to get some key logistical contacts. We advance air freighted our bikes to the Athabaskan Native village of Nulato and had a care package of packing tape for our bikes and dry socks shipped to our planned finish on the coast at Unakaleet. nulato_hills_LM__5928

Upon landing in Nulato, Luc and I picked up our bikes and packed up near the school. The forecast for the week was not great and we were thankful to at least start off dry. That didn’t last long though as right at the end of the road we had to cross the chest deep Nulato River. It was an abrupt entry into wilderness.  Start pedaling. Get soaked. Commence bushwhacking. 



Our first day we knew would be hard, we had to traverse 8 miles of trail-less terrain to get close to the ridge line. The area had several forest fires recently and we encountered the full range of bike-schwacking greatness from apocalyptic burnt bogs, low deadfall, and thick, seemingly impenetrable new growth. By taking our pedals off and rotating handlebars sideways we threaded through the worst of it and slowly gained elevation. With fading light, we scrambled up a steep slope out of a small valley and finally hit tundra and easy travel. We setup the Mid and crashed out exhausted.DSC01736




DSC01977The morning greeted us with rain and a heavy fog that stuck with us all day. While technically on the ridge now, it was more a series of hills with bush in the low points. We had no visibility in the clouds and were reliant on using Gaia GPS. Even a small navigation error meant leading into more brush and trees which with the bikes and rain meant a lot more soakings and bike wrangling.



We made steady progress and let out whoops of joy as we put the pedals back on the bikes and started to ride. First only the downhills which were are a soft spongy brushy mess, then later hitting animal trails where we could ride through some of the low points more and more.



“Get up here now!” Luc said in a half yell, half whisper. I drop my bike and run up the hill. Through the mist right in front of us a large musk ox. “So that’s who’s been making these trails”, goes through my mind. It was a mystical encounter, the beast was seemingly unafraid of us and slowly wandered off until we lost it once again in the cold mist. I hop on my bike following a trail to the side around where the ox was seemingly giving a wide berth, moments later I come face to face with the ox again! The ox snorts and rears up on its hind legs while I simultaneously slam on the brakes, jump off my bike and fumble for my camera. Having lived in Alaska for over 15 years I’ve startled more than my share of very large mammals while biking, and I never thought that I’d be adding musk ox to that list.nulato_hills_LM__6045


The next day we continued traversing high point after high point in a cold but now broken fog. We could see more and we moved faster with the easier navigation. Riding more and more as we left the brush behind and the tundra firmed up under our tires. Climbs were all still a push but then we were treated to wild cross country travel and brake squealing descents.





Mid way through the day we had a reality check on our progress. We had an ambitious schedule to keep and were way behind it in terms of pace. Luc ran the numbers and we figured we’d need almost 4 more days worth of food than what we had brought if we kept at it. Our route took us into even higher country, while the riding might get better, there was no way around the amount of elevation gain and loss. Our rations were too thin to stretch and keep going. Decision made, we turned around and started heading back. While dreading the return trip through the bushwack I was somewhat relieved as I felt conditions in the high country would have been rough with the wet fall weather.



Even though we were “bailing” it did not feel like that way. With the clouds and fog clearing out everything felt like new terrain as we worked our way back. Expansive views into Yukon country unfolded and I was still giddy that we were riding our bikes way out here. When trying new trip ideas and exploration the conventional terms of “success and baling” are all relative.





In Alaska, water is almost never an issue. Until you’re on a ridge in the fall. We found no running water after the first day. We had to make gutter systems off the sides of the Mid to collect rain water at night. Later when the rain had subsided, we resorted to sponging water off the tundra using  handkerchiefs and liner gloves. It was desperate but kept us from getting completely dehydrated.

Reaching the one creek on the return bushwhack we celebrated by chugging liters of cold water and electrolyte tabs having not seen running water for days.DSC02009

Though dreaded, the exit from the ridge back to Nulato was not as bad as on the way in. Luc and I shifted into “Go” mode and cut a few hours off our time heading in, reaching the  river crossing at dusk. Luc promptly stripped naked and waded across, a proper cool down and rinse off.




On the flight out we were treated to a tour of Yukon River villages as we made our way back to Fairbanks. It was glorious seeing Alaska’s interior in peak fall colors from the air, all the while tracing imaginary lines of where we could go next.



Thanks again to Luc for several of these photos, and compiling the video featured in this post. You can check out his account of this trip as well as other adventures at Things to Luc at. Our many thanks also go to Jason Johnson of the Nulato school for his logistical help and to people of the village of Nulato who greeted us with smiles and gave us rides to the airstrip.