… to ride our bikes but we’ll see you first thing tomorrow morning!
Long Valley, the Volcanic Tablelands, Lake Crowley, Mono Lake, and in general, the graben known as Owens Valley hold timeless stories beneath the silty soil, sage, and rabbitbrush. This area has long intrigued me, looking past its main attractions: Instagram-famous – or infamous – hot springs and world-class fly fishing. The landscape is rugged and steep, with unsuspecting silt traps enveloping your wheels up to the hubs as winds flex their prowess as shape-shifting forces spanning eons. Yet its magnetism, beauty, indigenous, and geologic history make it prime for bikepacking, touring, gravel riding, and road riding. It will take some planning, the right equipment, and some determination.
A little while back, All-City reached out to me to shoot their new Cosmic Stallion, with one request, it does not look like Los Angeles in the backdrop. Being a geological nerd, I have a list of weird zones surrounding LA’s sprawling megacity footprint that I’ve either found or have known about since moving there in 2015, one of which being Vasquez Rocks, a popular backdrop for Hollywood SciFi movies…
It had been a wild 48 hours at White Pocket in Northern Arizona. At one point, we turned to each other and expressed, rather reluctantly, that we didn’t think it could get any better on this trip. What we saw was a geologist’s dream site and as a photographer, I couldn’t have asked for a better backdrop for a full day’s worth of meandering and analysis. It seems the crescendo had come and gone. Or at least that was our perception. We made our way back to civilization, via a myriad of deep, sandy roads. In order to plan our next few legs of the trip, we needed strong coffee, food, and wifi.
In this zone, there’s only one place to go for such modern amenities; Kanab, Utah.
Speed. It’s a motivation for many on the bike and while it’s not something we necessarily pursue over here at the Radavist, there’s a certain beauty found within documenting it. The desert has a long history with speed. From iconic Trophy Trucks, to the Baja 1000 and the salt flats at Bonneville, the desert offers an iconic backdrop for the pursuit of speed.
As you’ve noticed, much of my free time – in the shoulder seasons anyway – is spent in the Mojave, Sonoran and Colorado deserts, the three zones surrounding Los Angeles. One of those zones that has always resonated with me, in both a geological and photographic manner, is Searles Valley surrounding Trona, a small town with a large mineral mining operation. Trona is named after the mineral they mine there and is very much active. From the supersonic, bird-deterrent sound canons, to the trains leaving with full cargo cars, the industry surrounding Trona extends well beyond the bustling town limits.
Luckily, someone somewhere made the conscious decision to set aside a region that borders this mineral extraction site known as the Trona Pinnacles. These tufa spires were formed as gas exited an ancient lake bed 10,000 to 100,000 years ago. Roughly 500 of these spires litter the landscape, with some reaching as high as 140 feet. The resulting landscape is straight out of a Hollywood SciFi flick, which is why I’ve wanted to do a commercial cycling shoot there since first coming to this region a few years back.
Geological wonders are the largest attraction for Cari and myself to Southern Utah and Northern Arizona. The Kanab, Utah region has countless zones that look like they’re straight from a science fiction film. One of the most popular being the Coyote Butte region and “the Wave.” The problem is, with popularity comes demand and thus, human impact. From people walking on the crypto soil to toilet paper and even the wear and tear on the delicate Navajo sandstone from walking on its surface. The Bureau of Land Management throttles visitors to this space by running an online lottery, four months in advance, or an in-person at the Kanab BLM office, for the following day. Each morning, hundreds of people show up for the Wave lottery, or one of the other Coyote Butte zones; North and South.
Geology Through Bikepacking
Photos and words by Locke Hassett
As humans, we seek exploration of new places and the lessons that such exploration may bring; self-discovery, physical challenge, humility, solitude, community, and unforgettable views to name a few. We refer to this as recreation, which comes from the term “to re-create”. These endeavors are valuable, perhaps necessary, to the self. But, if we only learn about ourselves, the amount that we can give back to the world that allows us the privilege to explore can be limited. Ever so often, we must explore for reasons beyond understanding and re-create ourselves. We must explore with intention and inquiry. If the intention is set to learn not only about ourselves but about the landscape; it’s natural history and current state, we just might be able to become stewards of its future.
The Geology through Bikepacking course offered at Prescott College explores the geology, geography, and ecology of the Colorado Plateau through 3 different bikepacking trips over the course of a month. This course provides an opportunity to learn about a landscape by traveling through it. It uses the bicycle as a means not only for recreation, but for education. This is the story.