Mountain Biking

But the mountain bike puts a big smile on your face the first time you hop on.
The mountain bike is the Macintosh of transportation.

Bill Wilkinson, executive director of the Bicycle Federation ofAmerica. (Smithsonian Vol. 25, No. 3. June 1994. p. 80.)

photo: Mountain bike jumping on the playa.

Mountain Biking Death Valley

The title may seem oxymoronic: Why would anyone want to do strenuous aerobic exercise in the hottest place on earth? Why mountain bike in a valley below sea level?

The answer to these and related questions are simple: because it is a beautiful place with a wide variety of incredible terrain and history. And the cycling is awesome.

The weather was variable. At various times it was hot, dry, windy, cold, raining, hailing, and snowing. Then there was the blinding sandstorm, the tremendous colors at sunrise and sunset, the clear night sky, and the shooting stars.

There were ten of us. A loose collection of individuals from across the U.S., ranging from Alaska to Arizona, and New Orleans to Newport News. By the end we were a tight group, having spent a full week riding, eating, hiking, singing, drinking, laughing, relaxing, and dreaming together.

The valley (and the heat) is formed between mountain ranges. We camped at three sites in the back country and did not see anyone except ourselves. One day we did a 2,000 foot climb from camp to the top of a 5,000 foot peak. Some parts of the trail were steep and rocky, if you lost headway on the way up it was impossible to start riding again.

We hiked to a waterfall (!), saw a wild burro, cycled through old mining towns and explored abandoned mines, saw colorful desert flowers, and rode some spectacular downhills. I wrote a play, took a lot of slides, got some sun, and drank massive quantities of water.

Cycling is allowed on one of the flat, hard, and smooth dry lake beds. We raced each other, chased each other, and jumped off the only outcroppings that could be seen for miles (photo).

After months of intense work and late nights (or early mornings, depending upon how you look at it), it was wonderful to go to bed relaxed, content, and just slightly exhausted at 10 PM, knowing that I would wake up with the sun, and have another beautiful day in the place called Death Valley.

See all my photos with commentary.

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