I used to roll my eyes at Nick when I worked down in Pueblo, thinking he was being silly. Why? Well, I would ride my bike at Lake Pueblo after work all the time. I was riding alone, on trails I knew and on the easier trails. My rides were usually pretty short - between 60 - 90 minutes. Sometimes I'd run as well, or just run depending on what my workout plans were. But it didn't matter what I was doing. Nick always wanted to know when I left the car, where I was going and how long I was planning on riding or running. And when he wanted to know where, he literally meant all the trails I was thinking about running. Such as - out duke, up rodeo, down rattlesnake, up skull canyon, roller coaster to Stonehenge, up rock canyon... Etc, etc. He wanted a text when I left the car and a text when I got back. Wow. Super detailed for such a short ride. And nothing ever happened. I stuck to my routes (mostly) and behaved. I hardly ever saw another person out on the trails, which made the rides even nicer. Even when I stopped working in Pueblo and was riding in Colorado Springs, he still wanted all the details. And if I was riding with someone, same story - who, where and when. I thought he was just being over protective - I'd never carried a phone with me running or told anyone where or when I was going. And now, well he got annoyed if I didn't check in during my rides. In Nick's defense, he would give me the same kinda information. Maybe not as detailed, but he also carried a spot tracker with him on the long solo adventures. I worried about him, but knew he had everything he would need. But now, I realize why Nick was so over protective and wanted such detail. Especially when I ride alone.
As my own rides got longer and further afield (or just multiple loops up and down the same trails) I started carrying more stuff with me. Hardly ever a map - but I usually didn't venture to far off the beaten path. But I had a jacket, hat, warm gloves and knee warmers. If it was a really big day I'd also throw a long sleeved jersey in my pack as well. Usually over kill, but carrying all the extra weight was fine. Good training! I also always seemed to have twice as much food as I needed and an extra water bottle. It also seems that Nick and I have some what of a reputation about our over stuffed packs - and Nick is far worse then me. He's got spare parts, a first aid kit, plus water treatment stuff and a whole lot of clothes. With water, his pack weighs well over 25 pounds. And I still can't keep up! But generally, we both have a lot of shit in our packs when we head off for adventures. I've debated what I really need many times before, but now will leave all the extra layers, food and water bottles stashed.
Why has my feeling about checking in and carrying so much stuff changed? The feeling of knowing a friend is lost - out of reach and out of touch is scary. There's nothing I could do, but hope for the best. When I woke up Monday Sept 30, I wanted to get a blog post about my new bike posted. It had been my first ride owning the bike and Alicia and I had ridden Palmer/section 16 together on Thursday and had a blast. What do I see on Facebook as I'm posting my story? A cry for help from Alicia's husband Jesse. She had gone riding Sunday and hasn't yet returned. Over night, alone in the mountains. What had happened that had prevented her from getting home? Injured, lost, or worse? As the day dragged on without news, it became harder and harder to see a happy ending. Finally, the SAR team allowed the mountain bike posse to help and I dropped Nick off at the bottom of Old Stage. He and about 20 other riders would help by clearing trails where she could have ridden. SAR didn't let them near the main search area in Emerald Valley, but they were able to rule out other areas. Nick and I are both realists - it was over 24 hours since she'd gone missing and still no sign. A positive outcome was looking less and less likely as the sunset approached. Then finally - the long awaited tweet from EPCSAR - found and preparing med evac. Amazing - over 30 hours lost and no "major" injuries. A testament to her physical and mental toughness. Alicia's full story can be read here and here - it's a good introspective look at a happy ending from a very bad scenario.
Her story got me thinking a little. All the eye rolls and shrugs when Nick wanted all the info of where, when and how long. It would have been really easy for me to crash hard in one of the canyons down in Pueblo. And without giving Nick all the info he wanted, he would have had no clue as to where I might have been. Our overstuffed backpacks have become the joke of the cycling community, but I've needed all those warm clothes when sudden storms blew in and sent snow, rain and temperatures plummeting. Things can happen any day when up in the mountains. It doesn't matter who you are - male or female, hiker, runner or biker. Accidents can be around the corner waiting. Instead of avoiding the risks, we should embrace the knowledge that will help minimize them. To say that a solo woman shouldn't be up enjoying our Colorado playground isn't learning from this story. It's waxing over the risks and focusing on a tiny factor that is really meaningless. Saying we need to remember to let someone know where we are going is taking the lessons and applying them. Focusing on how easy it is to get disoriented in a strange place ignores the fact map reading is harder then it looks, and is becoming a lost skill. Taking the steps to become good at reading maps, topography, etc is learning from this story. Another lesson we can all learn is familar to the Boy Scouts - be prepared. I race, but not every ride is a race. If it's not a race, I'm carrying that overstuffed pack if it's a long day - or if I think it's going to be a long ride. Spare parts, extra food, some clothes. It might not be me that needs it one day. We all need to respect our mountains and take the steps to enjoy them responsibly. Happy endings are awesome - but they don't always happen.