Note: Precise locations are not divulged here. With much controversy surrounding geo-tagging and increased traffic to outdoor wild spaces, this writer feels non-disclosure is the best stewardship practice.
Up-down, up-down, pothole, gravel spin-out, open toes, dusty feet. My college bestie flew in from Salt Lake City to spend a long weekend with me—and forgot her sneakers. In solidarity, I left mine in the car at the take-out. Although flip-flops aren't the preferred #girlsgottagnar mountain bike footwear, we were slated to make our own epic.
- K.M. Collins
We pedaled upriver 10 or so miles, along an unrelenting gravel road and a dam, to where we'd already cached the paddle gear. During the ride, a flicker of envy flashed in me for my bestie's Tevas—the extra straps holding the sole firmly in place on her heel, while my throwback gator flops sloppy-joed insecurely.
On a good note, Pine Mountain Sports had sponsored our soiree with actual mountain bikes. I'd only ever shuttled this stretch alone, on a 1970s Australian Bike Company steel frame, thin tires, no shocks and forever forgetting my padded shammys.
And getting to share the ride with company, especially my college bestie, was beyond satisfying. Without her attention to detail, I might have also missed the day's fox sighting. Skirting down the dam and across the road no farther than 50 yards away, the fox then ducked into the woods. We unanimously agreed it was a good omen and imagined what it might foretell.
When we cycled up to the put-in, our paddle gear was as we'd left it when we dropped it there with our car—paddleboards locked to a ponderosa, now coated in sap. I readied the boards and she curried the bikes out of eyeshot, securing them with locks hidden in the forest.
- K.M. Collins
- Combining gravel riding and paddleboarding makes for a fun female adventure.
Five minutes later we were on the water. Dip-pull, dip-pull. Current on fin. Fractals of water on bare feet. Strong upriver wind.
Other river residents made themselves known, including swallows, kingfishers and a bald eagle. Red-winged blackbirds sang us melodies reminiscent of remastered auto-tune lyrics. Ospreys circled overhead, threatening to demonstrate the kind of mastery in fish-catching those holding poles can only dream of. At the tail end of our float, a white belly finally dropped from the sky, plunged to the water, struggled for a moment in the shallows and flapped back to the air, overhead, fish in talons. More mutual agreement of good fortune.
When my right shoulder grew weary—an effect of a recent roller-skating injury—my companion endured my complaints and compassionately whimpered on my behest. In my many lone adventures, there isn't much complaining, as there is no one to hear my cries. I contemplated the consequences of partnership.
We made it to the car, where my college bestie picked up the slack. She loaded all the gear and took over driving. She humored me when I wanted to take photos every other moment. She acted interested when I droned on about the merits of social change in the outdoor industry. She braided my hair, got me a beer and made me take a shower before bed.
- K.M. Collins
In life and wilderness, I am comfortable alone. I am comfortable calculating the details of a strategic adventure. I am comfortable toughing out injuries. I am comfortable carrying all the weight, the burden, the consequences.
However, my college bestie continually helped me realize the epic gift of companionship: togetherness. There are so many narratives for women, together in the outdoors. Sometimes they include big air, adrenaline and achievement—and sometimes that's not what they are about at all.
It's my sincerest hope this story, as part of the Source's Outside Guide, is a pillar supporting and validating the notion of diverse narratives in the outdoors. I suspect other women and non-cisgendered, non-white identifying people have shared in the sentiment I am articulating.