Tired Legs and a Full Heart
Ali Halpin lives in the outdoor mecca of Bend, OR and races cyclocross and mountain bikes at the elite level for the Eliel-sponsored PDXTi Team. Ali found her way to cycling after a series of three knee surgeries took her off the snow and onto the dirt. When she’s not racing, Ali manages events and coaching for Ladies AllRide and travels the country helping ladies improve their mountain bikes skills, fall in love with the sport, and gain confidence on and off the bike. She recently reconnected with a friend through a mountain bike adventure and shared the story with us here.
By: Ali Halpin
My legs grew heavy as the trail morphed from a clearly defined singletrack ribbon to faint dirt stringing together grass patches. The sun beat down as the sweat rolled off my nose. An uncertain feeling grew in my belly as I began to question if I was still on the correct trail. I stopped to pop some snacks and check my map to ease the growing angst of trekking deeper into the woods in the wrong direction on the wrong trail. These are the moments of adventure I love most.
One of the things I’ve been missing the most during this year on pause is seeing friends from across the state and country. Part of what I love about racing is the camaraderie and coming together of friends and competitors alike. Many friendships have been forged over long car rides, plane flights, and hard-fought battles on the race course. I’ve deeply missed these connections and people.
While there have been lots of FaceTime and Zoom hangouts, they are no replacement for spending the day in the woods with friends.
Naturally when my dear friend Serena reached out with an adventure idea this past month, I was overwhelmed with excitement to scratch the itch for venturing in the woods with a close friend. I immediately committed to our mini training camp which consisted of two big days deep in the woods of the Cascade Range in Oregon.
After hashing out the details of our camp spots, snacks, and routes, we loaded up our bikes and hit the road towards the North Pyramid trailhead where we would start our day. The routes consisted of roughly 25 miles with over 7,000 feet of climbing on primitive single track. Around four years ago, several local trail builders decided to reclaim the Old Cascade Crest trails, the very trails we would be setting out to explore on our mini training camp adventure. These trails lie about an hour and a half to the North West of Bend, OR. A far cry from the dry arid climate of the high desert, the Cascade Crest trails are nestled in the dense old growth forest of Douglas firs, cedars, and pines. The original trails were built over 80 years ago by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the same group which built many of the trails we enjoy still to this day in our National and State park systems. The Cascade Crest trails were originally created to facilitate transit between fire towers in the area and were also used for animal grazing and gold mining. On this day we hit gold: clear skies and optimal temps for an all-day backcountry adventure and only one set of hikers along the whole route.
We traveled through the old growth forests which provided a much-appreciated reprieve from the midsummer heat. Mid-way through the ride, we enjoyed an ice cold stream crossing that refreshed us for the second half of the ride.
At the top of Scar Mountain, we shared trailside snacks with views of the Cascade range I’d never seen before while catching up on life off the bike with some sorely missed in-person connection.
The final descent off Scar Mountain was long and flowy through the most perfect loam tread. My legs were tired, smile was bright, and heart was full as I pedaled myself back to the van where an ice cold fizzy water, high fives, and an ice cold river plunge awaited.