There are a few things that stick out from trips with my grandparents growing up, but the main takeaway is the idea that it’s not really a trip until something goes wrong. And sure, back then it looked like getting lost down a winding road and not desperately fumbling around in the dirt looking for anything that can hold our bike together in hopes of simply making it home; but, nonetheless the sentiment still rings true. Our latest trip to the Sequoias was nothing but a reinforcement of that notion.

In summation: we broke bikes, not bones, and learned the true power of duct tape.

This was one of those trips where the issues came in without warning. After a quick shake out ride through the towering Sequoias, we were feeling good and how could we not be? With wide open trails, the smell of gasoline mixing with the evergreen scent of falling pine needles, and the sun beating down on our backs it felt like a recipe for complete freedom.

Following a quick debrief and unloading of the trucks, we couldn’t contain ourselves and decided that there was no better time than now to see what the bikes were really made of. With the first kick and pop of the bike roaring to life I can feel myself be transported back to simpler times. Memories come flooding in of days before my feet even dared reach the pegs, of times where my oversized helmet would come flying down onto my neck as I latched on in desperate hopes of making it through one more turn. But today? Today it was time to chase the unknown and create some new memories, so off we went.

There’s a sort of unspoken level of stoke that can only be expressed by the look on someone’s face on rides like this. It’s the kind of look that anyone who has ridden has not only seen on the faces of their companions, but experienced. It’s the pure unadulterated look of joy that comes when the only care in the world is what the next berm holds. No thoughts of work, no stresses of the day, just the pure freedom of being in the moment. That is until one wrecked bike, two bloody hands, and three looks of defeat later. The words of my grandmother rang loud and clear in my ears and all we could do was look at each other, laugh, and decide that ok now the trip has truly begun.

With morale at an all time low and after limping our way back to camp we decided there would be no better way to solve our problems than busting out the ol’ sailboat. After all, the best medicine is distraction right? Sure, the boat has been dormant for years, quite possibly since the last time my Dad pushed me off from the edge with next to no knowledge of how to operate it. With the boat now covered in cobwebs and clearly showing signs of a life spent baking in the sun, the same pit in my stomach I had on that day came crawling back, but I survived then so why not just dive in head first? After all, what could possibly go wrong?

Somehow, some way, despite stripped screws and an unhealthy amount of duct tape we were ready to set sail. I mean, worst-case scenario the boat would sink in the middle of the lake. But hey, at least if that happened we’d get a much needed cleansing dip for those fresh wounds. Despite the vocal cries from on-lookers and frankly our own internal dialogue wondering what we were truly setting ourselves up for we pushed off from the edge of the lake and set sail. Sure the inch of water sitting in the base of the boat wasn’t the most comforting sight to see and every gust of wind led us to stare at the flapping duct tape praying it held up for just a little bit longer. By the grace of God the duct tape survived, the water stopped rushing in, and we made it to our destination with no one in sight ready to plunge into the icy lake for a much needed refresher.

The next day consisted of more memories, more miles, and yes more broken down bikes. Being immersed in such a vast, rugged landscape has a way of humbling you. It’s a land that despite harrowing fires, a destructive logging practice, and more, still stands tall in the wake of it all. As you stand surrounded by trees taller than any skyscraper you’ve ever seen you can’t help but feel a childlike wonder come over you. I can still remember the first time I saw one of the giant Sequoias. Your mind begins to try and calculate how something like this could even exist naturally, how many wingspans it would take to wrap around the base, and then of course the inevitable question of ‘can I climb this’? Quickly proceeded by feeble attempts to scale it.

As we revisited this famed spot I felt myself immediately transported back to those moments and feelings of reverence. It’s inescapable. The complications of life seem to have taken away some of the beauty of the everyday. We continuously find ourselves inundated with information, data and frankly heaps of bullshit. It’s in these moments where we’re surrounded by close friends, vast beauty, and no service that make us fully see the beauty and peace found in these moments of pause. The silence has a way of refreshing the soul, of making you realize what really matters. At the end of the day life is about the moments you create and the people you spend it with.

As we rode back to camp for the last time I couldn’t help but reflect on the journey we had taken. The softness of the sunset juxtaposed across the sharpness of the outstretched peaks perfectly reflected the nature of trips like this. The harsh landscape threw our bikes, our bodies, and more through the wringer, but at the end of the day we came away refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready for more. And while we may not be able to control our situation or the inevitably of our circumstances we can control the simple things. Things like the people we surround ourselves with and the things we choose to do everyday. these are what truly matter. For when it all goes to shit and the inevitability of life hits, or as my grandparents would say “the trip truly begins” these are the things we can cling onto.

Photography: Peter Amend
Story: Matthew Linman