Many years ago my friend Tyler and I traded my Soma Sandworm for his Alpacka packraft. Both of us were ready for an upgrade in our respective realms, so we traded. Years later we now have these two items, which are so storied and niche, that we can’t let them go and even if we could, we’re not sure anyone would want them. Stuck as we are, let’s have story time and walk down memory lane.
Way back in 2018, Spencer picked up an Alpacka Caribou Packraft when he went to visit Alpacka Raft HQ and then proceeded to paddle the East River in NYC. During the time since, he’s spent a lot of time in his Caribou and other boats in Alpacka’s lineup, so he figured it was time for a thorough long term review and clear up some other details about this packraft’s position straddling the cycling and water worlds…
I love being alone all day, deep in remote and wild areas, reliant only on myself to move through the landscape, over difficult terrain, and in bad weather. I enjoy utilizing the various ultralight backcountry travel skills I’ve gleaned since my early twenties. And I feel immense joy when I can be efficient and accomplish goals. I’m also really afraid of the dark. Not so much of wild animals, but rather of wild weirdos who wander the woods and kill innocent middle-aged women. I know. Super unlikely. But I never sleep much at night while on solo adventures.
Mostly I have backpacked alone or solo aid climbed big walls. But I stopped climbing after a gnarly accident where a friend fell 100 feet and nearly died. I also quit backpacking because the annoying arthritic autoimmune disease I suffer from incapacitates me if I hike more than a few miles with weight on my back. Luckily a few years ago I discovered the horizontal world of multi-sport adventure travel.
Dzil ta’ah Adventures LLC was created to offer sustainable cultural experiences in the backcountry via bikes and bike packing with most of the commercial tour proceeds helping to build a bikepack community on the Navajo Nation. Whether it be creating routes or mentoring native youth.
Our year to launch was spring 2020. The COVID pandemic resulted in all non-essential businesses being shut down including the Navajo Parks and Recreation department. Parks and Rec are the issuing authority for permits.
For anyone as uninitiated as myself in Minnesotan lore and legend, the Boundary Waters is a immaculate sprawling maze of lakes in Northern Minnesota that share a border with Canada. I can’t remember who, but someone a few beers deep around a campfire eulogized about the boundary waters for quite some time, since then its hung in the back of my mind to check it out if the chance ever arose.
Forgotten Highways looks at some of New Zealand’s most breathtaking scenery along the Whanganui River, Explored by Mountain Bike and Packraft.
Last Fall when planning my trip to Colorado for a beta-trip with Lizzy Scully and Steve “Doom” Fassbinder of Four Corners Guides bikepacking in the Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Park, they invited me to double down for the week and do a bike rafting trip near Kayenta, AZ on the Navajo Nation. If you are like me and have literally spent hours pouring over maps and cryptic hints trying to decipher some of Doom’s trips then the obvious answer to being invited on a bikerafting trip with Dr. Doom himself was a no-fucking-brainer. I just had to prep myself to not be too star-struck.
Quicksand, Camaraderie, and Existential Optimism in Canyon Country
Words and photos by Spencer Harding
Sometimes you plan a trip months in advance and mother nature decides that the normally dry ground you planned to ride your bike will now be a raging soupy brown milkshake of a river.
Sometimes you help a random couple push a broken down vintage Jaguar in the middle of nowhere in the rain.
Sometimes you get stuck in waist-deep quicksand in said raging soupy brown milkshake river and have to yell for help until your friends come to rescue you covered in cockle burrs.
Sometimes you ride your bike even though the map says you are underwater in Lake Powell.
Sometimes you decide to drag your bike and raft upstream for some damn reason.
Sometimes your overnighter was shorter mileage-wise than an average grocery run.
Sometimes in desperation, you make a pipe out of the darndest things and then eat it.
Sometimes you realize maybe you should have left the damn bike at home this time.
Sometimes you decide to go for a leisurely ride to see pretty fall colors on the way home, which turns into a two hour long hike-a-bike ending with Y’all running from a snowstorm.
And finally, sometimes none of these things matter because the people and places around you are so dang beautiful…