Another Sea Otter Adventure
To outsiders looking in, it may seem like new bikes, shiny parts and epic adventures are just part of the daily routine for the lucky ones in the bike biz. While it usually beats the alternative, the reality is, starting a new business and running this website has consumed our lives. Time that used to be spent on a bike seat taking in the views is now spent on an office chair staring at a screen. While we love what we’re doing and believe in our purpose, the crew here at the Wolf Den has developed a rabid case of cabin fever.
The Sea Otter Classic presented itself as the perfect excuse for a work trip/ one-year anniversary celebration. Instead of the typical flight or rushed drive to The Otter, we decided to road trip from Bend, Oregon to Monterey, CA without a clearly defined route. I flew up to Bend with one of our regular testers from Los Angeles and we were more than pumped to visit some new places and ride new trails.
A light rain picked up steadily as we drove back from the Bend airport. Our flight had been re-routed and delayed, leaving me without luggage, tired and cold. Sure it was a bit of a bummer, but there was no way to wipe the stoke from my face as we flew through the mist in the Drew’s van, aka Vandito. Rain meant that the typically sandy soil in Bend would be tacky and ready to shralp.
Wanting to make the best of our delayed Day 1, we decided to go for a ride on some of Bend’s finest. There was a calm silence as we climbed through the trees – the only sounds in the forest came from our tires and the wet snowflakes hitting the trees around us. For Drew the experience has become a normal one he knows as “prime”, for us wussified SoCal types it was a special treat. It was an incredible experience to pedal in the snow. And cold.
By the time we reached the top, everything was covered in a soft blanket of white. Our tires cut dark lines through the snow as we dropped into the trail, hooting, hollering and throwing dirt up to the sky at each of the alternating slalom corners. The only sections of trail left white were the ones we jumped over as we flew through the pines. It was completely surreal and one of my all time favorite experienes on a bike. Waiting for delayed luggage has never been so fun.
We ended the ride and raced the sun back to the van, stopping only long enough to thaw out our fingers. With empty bellies and muddy clothes we decided to class up the local all-you-can-eat sushi joint. We plopped down right in front of the conveyer belt and grabbed plates as fast as they came around.
On the Road
My luggage arrived late that night and we were stoked with how well the trip was going, and we hadn’t event left yet! The next morning, we were up early and ready to roll. Normally, people plan their camping and riding trips weeks in advance. They figure out what trails to hit, where the good camping spots are, and how to meet with friends along the way. We didn’t do any of that. With almost zero plan other than driving down the coast in search of loam, we headed southwest out of Bend.
There’s no better feeling than a full tank of gas, bikes loaded and no real destination. Well, actually the best feeling is all of the above plus some homemade donuts from a hole in the wall shop in the middle of nowhere. As we crept over a snowy mountain pass in the Cascades, we decided to set our sights for Arcata and Humboldt. We needed sun and ocean after freezing our asses off in Bend. Plus, we had ridden Arcata before and had a hankering for some greasy forest riding. After a quick Taco Bell stop in Crescent City, CA we hopped back on the winding coastal roads and just before we almost got second view of lunch we pulled into the parking area and geared up. We smiled as we stared up at the monstrous trees above. It was time to ride.
It’s not all co-eds, weed and parties at Humboldt State. Much like UC Santa Cruz, there is a sprawling web of kick ass MTB trails just above the campus. It makes us wish we could go back to school. Take a 15-minute pedal from campus and you’re neck deep in heavy fern filled forest teeming with swooping singletracks and jumps.
While pushing up, we ran into local rider Evan Mercure. Thankfully he offered to show us around so we didn’t get lost in the woods. Little did we know he absolutely shreds on a bike, throwing style and steeze into everything he hit. We couldn’t have had a better tour guide through the labyrinth of trails. Sadly, we only got one top to bottom run before the sun set. We were muddy tired and smiling from ear to ear.
After finding a shower at the local public pool, we hit the road south to get a little closer to the next day’s riding. Pro tip: Don’t set your stuff down on the benches at a public shower, nasty things touch those benches. At about 11pm we were feeling worn and ready to park for the night. A quick search yielded nothing. Cell service was sparse at best, which made finding a spot even harder. Just when we were about to give up and continue on, Drew remembered an epic and secluded road he pulled off on during one of his Harley trips to Sea Otter in previous years.
We put faith in his ‘I think I’ve been here before’ senses as we crept down a winding road beneath towering redwood trees. After driving for what seemed like ages, he called out, “This is it!” We pulled over, backed Vandito into the hillside to remain inconspicuous and popped up our CVT tent.
As we turned off all the lights we joked about how dark this canyon was. The expression certainly rang true as we literally could not see our hands in front of our own faces.
The next morning, we woke up to an incredible sight. We had stayed the night in one of the most beautiful redwood forests I’ve ever encountered, but we didn’t know it until the morning light filled the sky. One of the best parts of travelling on the road is being surprised by new views when the sun rises.
After packing up, we headed into town for a warm meal at a diner, and hit the road south. With some discussion we settled on Mendocino. We had heard rumors of top-notch singletrack hidden in the coastal forests, so we knew we had to give it a try. With only the Trailforks app to guide us, and some less-than-clear directions from an old man on an XC bike, we headed out.
We aimed for Manly Gulch and pedaled our asses off to get there. We rejoiced upon finally reaching the summit, and the trailhead. It was all downhill from there and we were stoked. The trail crossed steep ravines, with redwoods on our left and a long drop-off to our right. A skinny trail, tight trees and high consequence trail edge made for an unforgettable ride. Tight switchbacks were intermingled with fast straight sections that swooped through the trees on the edge of the ravine. We charged ahead giving it our all, carving up onto the sides of the trail any chance we got. We figured that since we’d climbed up so far to reach the trailhead, it would be downhill the whole way back. We were wrong.
Instead a grueling fire road climb up and around the ridge stood between the van and us. By the time we got back, our light trail snacks and water bottles had long since been consumed. Famished, we fired up the grill and had some trailside hot dogs topped with shredded cheese and crushed Doritos. It was gourmet food at it’s finest.
With an upcoming engagement in Santa Cruz the next day, we hit the road early so we could camp and make it through San Francisco early the next morning. We were excited to be getting closer to Santa Cruz with the opportunity to ride some new BMC bikes.
Trading our sleeping bags for beachside beds wasn’t all bad and we welcomed the clean shower and toilet after a couple days on the road. Our stop was just long enough to sit in for a product presentation of the new BMC Trailfox AMP and Speedfox AMP. You can check out more from the media camp here.
Sadly, our time at the beachside hotel in Santa Cruz was limited and Sea Otter was calling. We loaded the van and prepared for the long days ahead. But first we had to make it…after driving through rural, desolate highways the last few days, it felt odd to be surrounded by suburbia and endless traffic. We contemplated playing hooky and pointing the van another direction, but our bank accounts suggested otherwise.
As we stared at the long line of cars creeping into Laguna Seca, our stomachs began to tense up. It was like the butterflies we used to get before a race weekend but a bit deeper. Sure we love socializing with friends and checking out all the new stuff, but we also know the fate of our little homegrown operation greatly relies on the support from the big wigs in the expo area below. Soon enough the smell of sunscreen and donuts filled the air as we signed in at the Media Center and we were off. The butterflies were gone and now it was time to race.
Thanks for coming along for the ride and stay tuned for part two of our journey! Anyone down for a party caravan to Sea Otter next year?