My Year of Bikepacking: The Bucket List

Apr 29th, 2024

This year, I got to check bikepacking off my bucket list. I didn’t just check it off my list; I immersed myself in all things bike travel—from the ocean to the mountain—though not in one ride. My rides started as day trips, progressed to bike overnights, and concluded with a three-day bikepacking 80-mile ride. Bikepacking trips served as an escape from the mundane slog of suburbia. These mini getaways, though carefully curated in some instances, were precisely what I needed,tthough I did not always know it at the time.

With an abundance of caution and an endless supply of doubt, I dipped my toe in the bikepacking waters in a nearby park. I purposely stayed close to home in hopes that if anything went wrong, I could navigate home quickly and without much trepidation of a failed venture. As my confidence grew, so did my desire to venture away from home—even in inclement weather.

On one ride, I planned to camp along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. Unfortunately, wetter-than-expected weather caused me to revise my plans. A 25-mile ride turned into a 55-mile one-way weekend trip. With pannier, handlebar, and top tube bags, I felt prepared for whatever Mother Nature threw my way. She did not disappoint. When I reached Harpers Ferry, every inch of me, my bike, and my bags were covered in trail mud. Thankfully, I made a last-minute shift and opted for a hotel over a hostel.

Though it was a biking trip, I took the opportunity to try something new–hiking. Walking from the hotel to the trail primed my legs for the unexpected elevation that lay ahead. As I crested the trail, I followed other hikers to an overlook of the town. Standing on a nearby boulder overlooking the town, I took in the beauty of the Potomac River, rail lines, and pristine foliage. Unclipping from the norm never felt so good.

With a new perspective, I jumped at the opportunity when a few friends invited me to beach camp at Assateague Island. This would not be a traditional bike camping trip; however, I packed my bike and everything I needed to venture out. My girlfriends and I camped on the beach, played in the salt water, and caught up on each other’s lives. The following day, as I loaded my steed, a group of wild ponies trotted past me without regard. As I rode along the Seagull Century route towards Bethany Beach, I had an epiphany: my riding perspective had shifted from solely for speed and distance to a need for experience and adventure.

Several days at the beach fine-tuned my culinary camping skills. I felt ready for the 80-mile, 8,000-foot park-to-park adventure. As my friend and I pushed off on a warm Friday evening, doubt percolated in my mind. This was unchartered territory, not just the distance or the climb but the place and the people.

As we rolled into the first campsite, I laid down my baggage, including my doubt. Yes, this was a big ride, but I reminded myself that I’d done bigger rides, albeit without four days worth of supplies. Each night, we made our own dinner, pitched our sleep system, and drifted off before most of the other campers. The next morning, we made camping coffee and oatmeal and rolled out before many of our neighbors were awake. As I rode towards my car on the final morning, tears rolled down my face. I didn’t just cross bikepacking off my list; I wrote it into my life.

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