Tomodachi ( 友 達 ) is the Japanese word for friends. Komorebi Tomodachi are friends we have invited to ride with us on a team adventure. We ask them to share a write-up on their experience - which we now present to you.
Anna Ryan is the Sales and Inventory Analyst at Velotech, Inc. She thrives on adventure and is always planning another bike ride in the company of friends. Follow her on Instagram.
The Week Before:
On Tuesday morning I didn’t expect to be here. I was excited to have a weekend in town. It felt like I had been out of town and busy the last few weekends. I was reaching out to friends, trying to get ideas for rides that weekend when my friend asked if I’d be interested in a gravel camp-out because she couldn’t do it. There was a voice in my head that said “you really do need to do some laundry” but the rest of me was screaming “DO IT!” So, after about an hour of thought I responded to Kristin’s email with, “In! I just can’t so no to adventure!” And I never looked back.
I ended up borrowing almost all the gear I needed. I loaned out my lightweight bag and pad to a friend backpacking in Peru. I didn’t think I’d need it. But, some great friends stepped up and loaned me a bike, bags, a sleeping bag, and tent. When I picked up all the gear Tuesday night I was given a quick tutorial and soaked everything in and told her that I’d test it out before Friday. I had every intention of trying stuff out but… you know, life. So on Thursday night I shoved all my clothes and gear into random bags with the intention of getting organized later. I start everything off on the right foot.
Friday afternoon came and I pulled up to PDW with mild confidence and my gear nice and disorganized. I was ready! I looked around and it looked like that everyone was already super organized. Oops. Meh, I know I can pull myself together in the morning. The drive up to WA and the camp out Friday night gave me the chance to get to know a couple riders I had never met before. Everyone was really great and welcoming, I was excited to get to know everyone better. This time also gave the other riders the chance to get acquainted with my awesome-ness (aka shy-ness)!
Friday night I kept having dreams about Saturday morning. It was basically Groundhog’s Day dreams over and over. When I actually woke-up I was excited to find that there actually wasn’t a carnival happening outside my tent. Yay! I immediately started getting my gear together. That little part of me that goes backpacking and spent a couple months doing trail work kicked-in with great efficiency. I pulled my knowledge from my tutorial and strategically strapped everything onto the bike with great… ease… organization… who knows, stuff didn’t move. I think that’s all that matters.
We left the campground with great anticipation and giant grins. The road from the cars was smooth and almost clear of traffic. It was great! Then, we turned onto our gravel road and immediately started up-hill. A hill that would seemingly never end. It didn’t really end. We ended up going up-hill a considerable amount of time. Only coming down the last 20 miles of our 10 mile ride. Someone with a Garmin could give out the exact stats.
It actually wasn’t bad at all. Initially I was worried about pedaling a bike up-hill that weighed as much as I did but, it worked out well. I did take a spill within the first few hours. As it is with most of my falls on my bike or skiing or in life; it was a slow fall going up-hill and my leg got the worst of it and now some nice bruises are blooming. After that we continued to pedal up hill without any incident. We took over a campsite by a stream for our lunch. It was a welcome break and I was excited to dig out my first burrito from my bike. And I ate it all! Which ended up being a terrible idea. Little did I know the steepest, longest hill in existence was looming ahead (i’m over exaggerating a little but, it was long).
I saw it coming. I was told it was 4 miles. At one point someone told me we had gone ¾ of a mile up that hill. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t believe it. I decided to lie to myself and say we had gotten further. Sometimes you have to lie to yourself. I ended up walking some parts and I fell behind for a little while. There was a small part of me that felt bad, I should be able to keep up. But a larger part of me was screaming for water. I listened to the part that wanted water. I continued to pedal up and found a couple other stragglers and chatted with them. We talked about the lake at the top and saw the tree line coming. Once at the top we caught our first vista of Mt Adams framed by trees over the top of the lake. This would end up being a theme for the rest of the trip.
We had to leave the lake and keep pressing on. More lakes waited for us! The gravel road from here was wonderful. I had regained my spirit and was ready to keep being stupid positive. I was still tired but I could tackle whatever came my way! Until we came to the single track decision. I wasn’t used to riding a bike that weighed as much as I did and I didn’t trust myself riding on single track. I knew the trail was only 2.5 miles but I didn’t really want to walk my bike anymore. If I rode that I would have preferred my little hard tail that was at home. I looked around at the faces of the other riders and I recognized that a few others had similar thoughts going through their head. Luckily there was a bail-out. So, three of us took the gravel road to the next lake with the rest tackled the single track that ended up being full of ruts and had a few down trees. I felt ok with my decision.
Once we all came back together we were already to figure out our camping situation and relax. We pedaled on to the next lake with more views promised to us by some people at the last lake. It was only 2 miles away! Yay! The campground we arrived to was beautiful and we also learned that, according to the Forest Service, 2 bikes = 1 car… um, ok. After some confusion, some talking, and some more single track riding someone negotiated a better rate and a double campsite with a crazy view. Woot!
Saturday night was spent lounging and eating as much as I possibly could. A few cookies, a Probar, my next burrito, more jerky, a couple beers. It was all to make the next day lighter. There was totally a reason. We gathered wood and relaxed by the fire. Talking about life, bikes, boys. You know, the usual.
I woke up early. I was worried that I would be the last one ready. Simona (the other guest rider) and I ended up being the first two up and basically ready. It felt like we were pacing around the campsite getting ourselves organized. It didn’t take long for everyone else to get up and pull their gear together. The only thing that delayed us was filtering water. But, I was totally cool with that. I would rather carry too much water than not enough.
We started riding. I have to say the rolling gravel coming out of the campground might have been my favorite eight miles. It was cool outside, the sun was shining and the mountains were out in full force. We stopped a few times to take everything in. It was beautiful. But that can’t last forever. You have to “earn your turns” or “earn your views” or “earn your downhills”. However you like to justify a painful hill. And it was another big one with some big rocks masquerading as gravel. To be honest, it wasn’t as bad as the first day. I only walked a little bit of the more technical/washed-out-y sections of the trail. The rest I could tackle at full force like a creep of tortoises. I was excited I could do it. I was more excited riding the ridge and catching views of Mt Rainier. The second mountain on our trip and, quite possibly my favorite mountain. We have a history.
We finally got to the top of our climb! Some of us celebrated by resting and other celebrated by riding out a mile to another lake. I was happy to eat more Probars and fuel up for the upcoming descent. Once we came back together we bombed down the gravel road for a couple miles. More rocks pretending they were gravel and more roads thinking they’d like to be streams some day. It was tricky but fun. We re-grouped at the next cross-road and got ready for the next descent. Easy gravel and big grins filled the next few miles. We were closing in on the cars and little could go wrong! Well, the team did experience the only flat on the trip in this time. But, what’s a long gravel right without a flat?
The most disorganized I felt was when we pulled into the parking lot and started unloading and loading our gear. I didn’t know what to do first. I went with taking off all the bags, making a pile and then changing. Looking back, I might have felt better changing first. Oh well. I was ready for more food and a nap. I happily got those two things on the ride back to Portland; Along with some serious conversation about what picture to post on Instagram first. I went with Mt. Adams, it was the theme after all!
When all's said and done, I would do it again. Always say “yes” to adventure.
Post by Anna Ryan.
Anna's Packing List
Shelter and accessories: tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, headlamp
Food and prep gear: 3 burritos, 2 servings of oatmeal and trail mix, Clif Shot Blocks x4, 4 Probars, jerky, 1 Clif fruit smoothie, tea, hot chocolate, 2 Sierra Nevada beers, 1 Rainier Tall Boy, Jet Boil, lighter, warm beverage cup, squishy bowl, spork
Clothing and toiletries: helmet, gloves, sunglasses, cycling cap, baseball cap, convertible wind jacket, liner shorts and Patagonia overshorts, Icebreaker tank and 1/4 zip long sleeve, sports bra, 2 pairs of socks, comfy pants, t-shirt, swimsuit, puffy jacket, Chacos, cycling shoes, toiletries, TP, hand disinfectant, sunblock, chapstick
Tools and etc.: tire/tube repair supplies, 3 extra straps for bags, 2 small zip ties, first aid kit, rope, spare waterproof matches, pocket knife, trowel
Packed in: Revelate Designs Jerry Can, Sweet Roll, Ranger frame bag, Mountain Feed Bag, Gas Tank, Viscacha seat bag, hip pouch.