Some days it’s hard to get out of bed in the morning. Other days it’s easy to get up at the crack of dawn, excited for the promise of a big day. Such is the case today - May 13th, and only two days left to rip singletrack on Orcas Island, WA, where the upper reaches of the island become a hiker-only area from May 15th to September 15th annually.
Our bicycles are tuned up, backpacks loaded, camp gear dug deep from the recesses of a dingy basement. We shake the propane canisters to ascertain their ability to feed a crew of ten-plus hungry dirts through the weekend and load the cooler with glacier freshness.
The crew gradually accumulates and the bed of our ’79 F150 fills at an alarming rate. After a bit of cursing and rearranging, we fit everything in - high fives all around and three deep in the cab. The old shuttle rig smiles at the first full tank of gas she has seen in 15 years.
Lounging in line for the boat to take us away from reality, we meet old friends and new. Island life is a different kind of life. While time doesn’t stop, it comes pretty close. Seems like it’s a lot cheaper to leave as many vehicles on the mainland as possible. At least the ferry lineup gives us time to stack as many people, bikes, and camp gear into one truck as possible. Smuggling over-amped bike friends across the island only adds to the excitement of leaving society. At least while cruising through the breathtaking archipelago of islands the team can set up camp chairs on the back deck of the boat and share a few choice beverages.
At Mountain Lake, tents are hastily splayed, the coolers come out, and picnic tables disappear under the promise of good nights to come. Everyone picks out their favorite Doug Fir tree to lean against and take in the beauty of nature that is all around. Skateboards? Yes! Time to go surf around on the concrete wave - Orcas is home to one of the best parks in the state. I guess we’re not that far from civilization. Now it’s time to return to the lakeside and eat, sleep in preparation for a spectacular day of riding bicycles down a lush coastal mountain covered in Salal and Oregon Grape plants with an orange/green backdrop of pre-historic Madrona trees. Clear, blue skies promise the first wave of summer in the Pacific Northwest in the days to come.
The tents begin rustling early as first light rises from the east. Groggy eyes are met with fist pumps from those who slept out beneath the stars. We fire up the grill, still warm from the night before, and stack it with bacon. The only way to shake off said bacon is with a solid cross-country ride before 11 am.
With ten miles of buffed-out XC under our belts, the team re-assimilates at camp and decides it’s time to load up the truck for the afternoon. Ten bikes and eleven dirtbags somehow fit - looks like it’s time to head to the summit. Atop Mt Constitution we share breathtaking 360-degree views of the San Juan Islands, the Cascade Mountains, the Olympic Mountains, and the Lower BC Mainland to the north with a growing horde of tourists.
Photographer Colin Wiseman catching Matt Shelton in the act.
There is only one thing to do now: drop in and ride, 2000-plus feet of ripping singletrack to the lake below. We will later explore a hidden jump trail on another part of the island, find the burned remnants of a tequila-filled watermelon in our fire, and run into a few complications leaving the island. That, however, is a story best saved for another campfire…
Photographer Colin Wiseman snapping the landing and air time of that said train. Justin Blevins and Jason Sams.
Photographer Colin Wiseman witnessing the air train with Justin Blevins, Jason Sams & Matt Shelton.
Writer Jared VanderGriend quickly captures Colin Blevins stepping it up... got the shot!
Stay tuned for more Dirt Bag Diaries throughout the summer.
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