My first bikepacking trip just happened! It all started with some casual chatter on social media... So often, the banter stops there but not this time and not with these friends. My friends Tricia and Cath are some serious go-getters, and before I knew it, we had a date set for our first bikepacking trip ever! Yikes! We roped in two more experienced bikepackers, Zoe and Vanessa, to help us with tips and tricks. The panic started setting in; I found myself committed to riding up mountains loaded down with gear I knew nothing about, yet the saving grace was knowing that I'd be with some of the strongest ladies I know.
To add to my fears, I am NOT a good climber. Again, Yikes!! It was so exciting…but nerve-racking. What on earth had I agreed to? I've never spent a night in the woods without close access to the things I need, conveniently and closely buried somewhere in my car. Would I be able to carry everything I need? I'm no stranger to being last on a ride…but could I even pedal up with all that extra weight? I had no idea. The anxiety invaded, and I came very close to bailing. Thankfully Tricia was quite compelling and confident in our ability to do this new thing. So I sucked it up and committed yet again (if only in my mind).
Ok, so now the gear. Fortunately, I had the means and the motivation to get the lightest weight gear out there, as well as friends that were ready and willing to carry extra weight if I needed the assist. Zoe & Vanessa pretty much fed me all the info on gear I needed to make this work, and I went out and either bought or borrowed it. Oh, and this girl never leaves home without her lipstick; how could I possibly do a bikepacking trip overnight in the woods without it?! So I loaded my bike down with what I felt I needed (my lipstick) for one night in the woods and pedaled around my neighborhood just to test it out. The bike, a hardtail mountain bike, had the extra gearing I needed to give me an edge on the climbs. My confidence was slowly creeping up, so indeed, there was nothing to worry about... right?
Wrong. The day before we were set to take off, our destination campground closed due to a bear attack on someone sleeping in a hammock! She survived, thankfully. So now, we were redirected to finding a spot in the forest, and we needed to choose carefully… Preferably one with no bears or rattlesnakes, for that matter. Because we were forced to readjust, we talked about what we needed to know to avoid danger in the forest. And even though it was an underlying current of worry (at least for me), I believe, in the end, we were prepared. I learned things I'd never heard before, like how to hang a bear bag so it couldn't be reached from the ground or any given branch. As well as what needed to go in the bear bag besides food & trash, i.e., toothpaste, chapstick, sunscreen, basically anything smelly. Who knew?
Riding the gravel in Pisgah National Forest was just amazing. It was beautiful, it was peaceful, and the waterfalls were lovely, everything you would imagine Pisgah to be. The conversations and camaraderie were the best, and we saw lots of creatures and even dipped our toes (and hair) into a stream. And of course, we took lots of pictures.
Tricia was a perfect guide and adapted with route changes as we rode, based on how much sightseeing we did and how much riding we (I) could handle. We were also watching the weather because a tropical storm was brewing. The day wore on, and despite the impending storm, not a single one of us suggested bailing; these ladies have grit. The positive side to the incoming rain was that there was no shortage of roadside camping; you wouldn't typically see this on weekends in Pisgah. We ended up choosing a spot on Yellow Gap Rd after hours of traveling Cathey Creek Rd, Davidson River Rd (and trail), Headwater Rd, and a short section of 276 (with bike lights for safety). Before nightfall, we had our tents & hammock rigged up and a fire going. All the jet boils were fired up, and the food made by adding boiled water to a bag never tasted so good; we even had time to dig our holes in preparation... Don't ask. So after a long day, we all "hit the hay" early. Unfortunately, both Cath and I had very loud "hay". The sleeping pads made a sound with every move that was much like a growling bear. (I will definitely not be purchasing this pad.)
At 1:13 am, the rain started, and although I remained dry, others weren't so lucky. I'm guessing we all had a restless night, but we survived it! We were fortunate with a break in the rain that lasted just long enough to pack up and eat breakfast (yes, our bear bags were still there!); It really couldn't have been more perfectly timed. Well, maybe if it had held off until we'd gotten home, but who doesn't like riding in the rain? We took Avery Creek Rd and greenways for a quick, mostly downhill, return to town.
My first bikepacking trip was a huge success, even with minor hiccups. No mechanicals, no injuries, no complaints. Being in nature is so healing, and we got a massive dose of it. I am reminded that there is still so much more adventure to be had and that we should never let fear stop us. You just never know what you're missing if you do! Having the support and community of Tricia, Cath, Zoe, and Vanessa helped make my first bikepacking trip truly special. So, I guess I have one question... Who wants to go bikepacking with me???