are steep and punchy, but none are very sustained efforts. Almost every climbing section ends with an eventual break at one unreal view after another. Since it was a family trip, I knew we weren’t going to be riding the entire trail in one go. The plan was to camp in the middle on a viewpoint and spend our days riding outwards towards each end of the trail, exploring. It wasn’t about the miles; it was about the experience.
As a father, there are many life lessons to teach your kids on a trip like this. This was the first trip where my younger son Owen got to use his new pocketknife—a big day for a young kid! We learned some lessons when his older brother Milo got his first pocketknife a couple years earlier, cutting himself within minutes, as many of us did as kids. We started out with a talk about how far we were from hospitals and how an injury would effectively end the trip, so safety was on the front burner. What a great feeling to pass on the knowledge of how to use such a great, albeit sharp, tool with my son sitting on my lap and carving s’mores sticks for the fire that night.
Of course, nothing ever goes quite as planned, and in this case the “stick in the spokes” was high winds. As nighttime rolled around, wood was gathered for the campfire, but as a lifetime outdoorsman, I knew that the forest was a huge tinderbox, and the winds were just too high to responsibly start a campfire. Is it really camping without a fire and s’mores? Well, it’s definitely a staple, but my smarter side won over my emotions, and I improvised. Since we were car camping, I brought a portable briefcase-size Traeger grill that cooks with wood pellets. It’s both safe and delicious. I decided we’d have brats on that and also came up with one of my best ideas: s’mores on the Traeger! Turns out you can cook them pre-assembled on the grill. It’s even better than over an open flame—and a lot safer. It was one of those decisions I felt good about making. No one wants to be “that guy” who lit the Grand Canyon on fire!
Even though we had high winds, the skies were completely clear. Before dinner, we were treated to one of the most incredible sunsets we’d ever seen, and as dusk took us into the night, the stars began to fill in like we were in an IMAX theater. We saw the International Space Station silently move across the sky, with no competition from city lights. The Milky Way opened up directly overhead, and we were all overcome with a sense of scale that the kids had never felt before. Owen said it made him feel like he was an astronaut floating through space, like he could touch the stars. We saw and heard bats flying around above camp, and there was a silence that settled over us as we lay back in our camp chairs just contemplating our place in the universe.
As we settled into the tent, the winds picked up again and shook the tent as we all snuggled into our sleeping bags, the high elevation providing for near-freezing overnight temperatures. Owen later told us he thought the winds might blow the tent over, so he curled up close to us, but he never said a word about it that night, trying to stay tough and not let anyone know he was a little scared. The next morning as we watched the sunrise, we also saw the moon making its way towards the horizon, and nature played a hilarious trick on us. The way some high clouds were moving quickly across the sky, it created an optical illusion that made it seem like it was actually the moon moving. For a moment, we all thought the moon was setting at time-lapse speed, which really got the kids laughing once we figured it out.
Following a standard camping breakfast of coffee, granola and fruit, we ventured east, leaving the view and heading into the forest. Owen was looking for side hits on the trail, just like he does when skiing, finding little bumps to jump off of and making little hips out of mounds. Milo was up front leading the charge while being a good big brother and looking out for his mom. I was sweeping right behind Owen, making sure…