Moab resident Felecia Amundsen found herself with a little extra time this summer. Because of coronavirus complications, one seasonal job ended earlier than planned, and her next employment started a month late.
Amundsen used that window of free time to pedal an epic 1,700-mile loop beginning and ending in Moab, sticking mostly to remote roads and remaining as self-sufficient as possible. This style of trip, carrying camping gear and food on a bicycle journey, is called “bikepacking.”
We asked Amundsen for some more insight into her amazing trip.
Moab Sun News: Can you describe the route you took?
Amundsen: I just created a big loop for myself, about 1,700 miles. I tried to incorporate a bunch of gravel roads that I wanted to cycle. I went up to Green River, through the [San Rafael] Swell, made my way through central Utah, and eventually up to Bear Lake, and then headed north from there. The furthest north I went was to the Tetons. Then I started heading south again, through Wyoming, and went down through Colorado and stayed west of the continental divide and then started cutting back west to Moab from Buena Vista. From Buena Vista, I ended up in Ridgway and then Norwood, and climbed over the La Sals and came back to Moab. It was fun being able to start and end at my home.
MSN: What kind of cycling experience did you have before taking this trip?
Amundsen: My very first bikepacking trip was probably only four years ago. I was like, “I want to bike to Mexican Hat from Moab!” So I went through Lockhart Basin and over the Abajos and through Cedar Mesa, which was really cool.
I’ve done a section of the Baja Divide on my hard-tail—me and my partner, Sam, did that last winter. And then I’ve done a lot of different routes that I’ve created around Moab by myself. During the spring, when the weather’s nice, I like to get out every week on an over-nighter.
MSN: What was it like doing such a big trip solo?
Amundsen: It’s definitely a different experience. It seems like things are a little bit more intimidating when you’re just by yourself and having to figure it out. It’s a lot of time thinking and being alone, which I kind of struggled with at first. Especially since 500 miles of my route I was feeling a really strong headwind, and I was like, “Oh it would be so nice if somebody was here to draft off of, or talk to about being more positive!” I would get into my head and be like “Ah! The wind is getting to me! This sucks!” It’s also kind of more fulfilling to know I did that all alone, which is pretty satisfying.
I did meet up with a friend the last week, and she rode back into Moab with me, which was fun.
MSN: What kind of gear did you bring?
Amundsen: I just have a little gravel bike that’s steel. I had a bag on the front that had my sleeping bag and my layers and my tent, that hung off my handlebars. And then I had a back rack on, that had a big bag that had all my food, my filter and my stove. I had a frame-bag with all my bike tools. I always tried to keep seven liters [of water] attached to various points on my frame. I went pretty minimal—I was pretty stoked on my set-up.
MSN: How many miles did you bike each day?
Amundsen: [The trip] ended up being thirty days. Some days it was really, really windy—actually a lot of days—and I would only go fifty to sixty miles. And then some days, if I found somewhere I really liked camping, I would stay for a day or so and hang out. And then I had a couple really big days. One day I went 130 miles because I couldn’t find anywhere to camp in the middle of Wyoming. And then I had a few different hundred-mile days as well.
MSN: How often did you have to re-supply?
Amundsen: I usually carried enough food for five to six days, so I only ended up having to re-supply like six times. And I tried to make my route be as desolate as possible and not go through too many towns.
MSN: Were you concerned about coronavirus on your re-supply stops?
Amundsen: In the few places I went through to re-supply, it was kind of interesting seeing how different communities were acting. In some of them, I was like, “Oh I’m the only one wearing a mask while going into this grocery store real quick. That’s weird.” Some of them were like, ‘Must have a mask to enter,’ when just a hundred miles ago, this other community was ‘ops-normal.’ The more rural a town was, the less they seemed to be taking it seriously.
I struggled with that a lot, thinking if I should be doing this right now and I was like, “I’m just going to go and see how I feel.” I feel like I interacted with a lot fewer people that entire month than I have since I’ve been back and I’ve had to go to the grocery store more.
MSN: Did you have concerns about being alone?
Amundsen: Being by myself meant being more cautious about where I was sleeping. I also got a lot of commentary from people telling me it wasn’t safe to be doing that by myself. I’m lucky I didn’t have any mechanical issues, but I brought pretty much everything that I would need in case something were to happen to my bike. And I feel pretty confident in fixing most things. I also had cell service a lot of the time.
MSN: What was the most challenging part of the trip?
Amundsen: Probably just getting knocked around by wind. A 20 mile-per-hour headwind is a lot. Also going over the San Juans, I got kind of sandbagged by a friend that suggested an alternate route over a pass, and it ended up being a lot of hike-a-biking through snow, which was really hard. (“Hike-a-bike” means pushing your bike while walking alongside—a technique for getting your bike through terrain that is too difficult to pedal! - ed.)
MSN: What was the most fun or most rewarding part?
Amundsen: Just the human-powered motion of it all is really satisfying. Going that long, seeing so many cool landscapes and areas, and just knowing that my body is strong enough and capable enough to get me there. Going over a lot of mountain passes and being like ‘Oh wow, I just cycled 8,000 feet of elevation today!” That’s really satisfying.
I saw a lot of migratory birds, which was cool. And you’re so quiet on a bicycle on these dirt roads that you can sneak up on a lot of animals, versus being in a car. I saw some elk herds, a lot of pronghorn, which was really cool, and some bighorn sheep going through Wyoming, which was also neat.
MSN: What’s your next adventure?
Amundsen: I want to get on more bike trips. This was pretty eye-opening, I’m thinking it would be so fun to spend a year on my bicycle!
Taken an interesting trip or had a wicked adventure? We want to hear about it! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.