This summer, Vamos Outdoors Project was able to offer our first ever Bikepacking overnight experience with the support of Adventure Cycling Association and the Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition. For years we have shared backpacking experiences and after-school mountain bike rides with Latine youth living in Whatcom and Skagit County. This new opportunity combined two of the favorite activities for many of our middle and high school participants.
Vamos serves Latine youth, providing outdoor experiences at no cost to families. This includes transportation, food, mentorship, and equipment. Vamos works to provide access to the outdoors, to foster connection to the land, and to support youth in their journey as they develop.
Many Latine youth experience trauma or hardship due to intergenerational trauma and the structural inequities that perpetuate cyclical poverty of migrant farmworkers. Providing supportive, positive experiences can help mitigate the long-term negative effects of growing up with chronic stress or trauma. There is so much joy to be found in playing outside and connecting to the land, and the Vamos experience is cherished by staff and participants alike.
Over a three-day weekend in August 2023, 11 Vamos participants rode more than 34 miles, camping two nights at Larabee State Park, connecting with the Chuckanut Mountains and Puget Sound. This was the biggest ride of any Vamos program, and the participants all did really well.
We started out on Galbraith Mountain where we normally ride with the Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition. Everyone got fitted for their bike and helmet and completed the safety check. This ride would have more road riding next to cars than we had previously experienced.
Everyone rode the trails down to Lake Padden for lunch and some stretching time. We re-grouped and continued out through Fairhaven along the Interurban Trail towards the Chuckanut Mountains and Larrabee State Park. The ocean slowly slid into view to the west and forests surrounded the trail on all other slides.
While the group was riding with the WMBC Ride Leaders, the van brought the food and camping gear to Chuckanut to be ready when they arrived. That night, we set up our tents, ate burritos, and walked down to the ocean to look at bioluminescence and shooting stars. One of the joys of this trip was that participants were able to experience so much more than biking. This bikepacking trip was also a beach trip, a time to make new friends, a transition from high school to life after graduation, and a challenge of many miles.
On the second day everyone woke up to sunshine and a little haze from forest fires that blew down from Canada. We loaded our bikes into the trucks and shuttled up to the Cleator Lookout at the top of Chuckanut Mountain. No time for photos, everyone wanted to get biking! The group pedaled new trails down Chuckanut Mountain towards Fairhaven Park for a late lunch. It was very challenging to some and others wanted to do laps and laps. Everyone made it back to the campsite for an afternoon playing in the ocean and relaxing on the rocks. Smiles were bright and everyone was pleased with their day.
The third day we packed up camp and biked back to downtown Bellingham towards Waterfront Park where the bikes would be dropped off. Everyone got more practice biking safely on roads and navigating the streets and paths of Bellingham. We dropped the bikes off and finished with ice cream cones from Selkie Scoop.
Vamos would like to thank Adventure Cycling Association, Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition, Washington’s Recreation and Conservation Office, and Selkie Scoops. We learned that running a bikepacking trip is logistically challenging, and we worked hard to ensure all riders and equipment got to where they need to go at the correct time.
We hope to continue offering bikepacking trips, as students get to connect skills they learn across different programs. The empowerment participants experienced as they pedaled to a place that brought joy and connection was palpable. A memorable weekend for all involved.
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