We allotted ourselves ten days to make it from Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Sandy, Oregon, where we were excited to spend some time with friends throughout the Pacific Northwest this fall. This route has some serious gems along it, so as long as ten days may seem, we found it wasn’t nearly enough. Some places surprised us for different reasons. For instance, we were expecting to love Moab, yet found it so steeped in passive tourism, the lack of authenticity detracted from our experience of its beauty. Conversely, we were astonished at our enjoyment of Park City in the fall and on the vast system of mountain bike trails. We discovered beauty we didn’t know existed only slightly off the beaten path in Logan, Utah, and found the city of Boise to be one of the friendliest cities we’ve visited to date. Here are some of the highlights:
MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK
One of the more underrated parks within our national park system, Mesa Verde gave us a great history lesson about the lives and well-preserved ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings of the Anasazi in the period of 1200-1300 AD. We toured Balcony House, a small multi-family dwelling entered using two large wooden ladders. Throughout the park, it was interesting to use our binoculars to locate other cliff dwellings on the opposite walls of the canyon. We also hiked the Petroglyph Point Trail, a short 2.4-mile jaunt listed as almost a footnote in the brochure, but which turned out to be a stunning hike in the footsteps of the Anasazi.
PHIL’S WORLD (CORTEZ)
Not the most scenic from the parking lot, not the most difficult of trails we’ve ridden, but certainly one of the most fun and skill-building rides we’ve been on. An amusement park for MTB lovers, it is absolutely impossible to wipe a smile off your face as you ride. Phil’s World is a well-engineered mountain bike park and has such variation in its trails from slick rock to swooping roller-coaster-like single track, it’s a can’t-miss. Everyone will tell you to ride Ribcage and they would be right. Hoots and hollers are definitely included.
Although located among some spectacular natural geological features, Moab is sadly reminiscent of a low-rent beach town filled with sub-par restaurants, t-shirt shops and storefront windows blaring ads selling the grand adventure of driving Jeeps in line like ducks on sandstone “safari roads,” leaving behind a trail of fumes and tire marks. In spite of all the tourists, you can’t deny the stunning nature of Moab. We opted to enjoy it from above by visiting the canyon rims at Dead Horse Point State Park, one of the most photographed scenic vistas in the world. Since we had just ridden bikes in Cortez, we opted for a hike there with dramatic views of the Colorado River 2,000 feet below the very edge of the canyon rim.
SALT LAKE CITY
While the city of the Great Salt Lake is still not one of our favorite destinations, it still has a number of things going for it. For one, it’s definitely close in proximity to the natural playgrounds of Cottonwood Canyon, Park City, and the like. Secondly, the food scene is really starting to shine. Be sure to check out Pizzeria 712 in Orem for some dynamite Neapolitan pizza (read our review on TripAdvisor) and the East Liberty Tap House in SLC for some out-of-this-world tasty sloppy joes of all kinds. (Thanks to some of our local friends for introducing us there.) In SLC, we also got a chance to visit the Goal Zero headquarters and meet the team behind our product sales. Here’s Martin climbing in the lobby of company headquarters.
Most people visit Park City for the skiing, but we were surprised to find it such a great mountain biking destination. With the fall leaves in all their glory, hiking and mountain biking here was a sight to take in. One of the best parts of traveling full time is getting the chance to be in every area’s “best” season, and fall is definitely a cool time to check out Park City. The Wasatch Crest trail is the one to do, especially for an epic fall color tour, but be prepared for some brutal climbing and some big mileage unless you opt to make it a shuttle. We enjoyed linking a few trails together for a nice 15 mile loop of riding the steady uphill Armstrong Trail to Mid-Mountain to Spiro and back to base camp.
After Park City, we continued our trek north with a short stop in Logan Canyon. A fun college town with the Wasatch-Cache National Forest in its backyard, accessibility to trails, trout, and tremendous views is literally right at one’s fingertips. After doing a cool video shoot with Dylan Magaster (check out his YouTube channel here), we did the short but strenuous Wind Caves hike and a little trout fishing along the Logan River just minutes from town.
Everyone kept telling us that Boise was THE outdoor city to visit, filled with tons of abundantly friendly adventure-enthusiasts, and we had to agree that the hype matched the reality. Unfortunately, we had just one day remaining to explore, and it was tough to choose our adventure. We decided on an exploratory bike tour around the city on its iconic Greenbelt trail. Mostly paved and criss-crossing the Boise River multiple times and for dozens of miles, it was easy to create a nice 40 mile route culminating with some excellent VPN-certified Neapolitan pizza at Flatbreads in downtown Boise. Don’t miss a trip to Payette Brewing, where they not only serve up some of the city’s best brews, but they were cool to let us park in their lot for easy access to the Greenbelt during our short stay.
On our day-long visit in Bend, we first made a visit to Earth Cruiser and will update our truck research article accordingly. The owner was kind enough to give us a quick tour and fill us in on some of the details that make them different from GXV and some of the other manufacturers. We had intended to ride Phil’s Trail but ended up hiking the steep and scenic Misery Ridge trail north of the city at Smith Rock State Park instead. We love visiting Bend for its vibrant and bike-friendly downtown, but quickly find ourselves longing for the more lush and waterfall-soaked parts of Oregon to the west. On a cold afternoon, don’t miss a cup of the Grandfather’s Tom Kha soup at the Wild Rose downtown. It’s velvety, coconutty and full perfectly par-cooked vegetables with a custom level of spice.
From Bend, we arrived to our friends Stefani & Quade of @The_Wonderbus in Sandy, Oregon. They’re building out a truck similar to ours and we can’t wait to help them get it ready for life on the road in the coming months! We’re hoping they’ll tag along on our trek to Alaska in the spring and then to Patagonia in 2018!
The duo took us on our inaugural waterfall rappel in some of west-central Oregon’s plethora of waterfalls. In one of our most fun adventures to date, we canyoneered and explored in the water and along the rocks of the slot canyon at Abiqua Falls. Sounds of laughter filled the canyon and any shred of fear over the 94-foot descent was easily dissipated. From Sandy, we cruised in to Portland ready to embark on a classic Stumptown foodie fest. It’s going to be a fun few months in the Pacific Northwest!