Bikepacking in the Burnt Bush.
Who? Nick Kohn, aka @strokeofstoke and founder of Yews, Views and Brews
What and where? Old mate is having a crack at bikepacking as many dirt roads as possible to get him from California, through Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana. From there, he will cross into Canada, moving from BC to Alberta and then head West.
Highlights? Exploring dirt roads and riding through recent burn regrowth.
Recommendations (who and when?) This is easily accessible for anyone that has some level of camping experience. While it is not dangerously remote, you definitely need to carry a few days of food and water. Awareness of local hazards, including weather and animals is essential. If you do get caught out, you may be stuck for a few days due to the roads getting muddy. Take care and pack excess food if the weather is looking like it could change.
Essential gear? Plenty of food and water, a whistle or some form of bear irritant and a massive sense of adventure.
Home: Sydney, Australia
Favourite activity: Bikepacking
Favourite brew: Coffee or Shiraz
Favourite snack: Peanut butter.
Nick Kohn is an outdoorsman who spends most of his time bikepacking, though he has hiked, dived, motorcycle toured and travelled throughout SE Asia, the Indian subcontinent, Central Asia, Europe and Australia.
He has cycled through Italy, France, Spain and across the Silk Road from Mongolia through to Turkey, as well as a little in Australia. Next stop - USA and Canada.
I am sat on a carpet of pine needles and cones, all freshly charred. I have ridden down a US Forest Service trail in Klamath National Forest, having left Shasta-Trinity National Forest just a few days ago. The Oregon side of the forest is, thus far, more sparse and dry than the Californian side, however this may have something to do with the significant drop in elevation. The underbrush is almost completely gone, from what I imagine to be a prescribed burn before the peak of summer. I guess this because only the eastern side of the trail is blackened, with the west remaining shrubby with a thirsty-looking dark orange dirt filled with animal burrows rather than bolette and coral mushrooms of higher altitudes.
The grass is long and waltzes with the wind, patches of bright, fluorescent moss that attaches itself to both the live trees and the decaying logs that moves so minutely that you have to sit and concentrate to see it shake when the nor-westerly gusts blow. Most of the charred trees that remain that are of any noteworthy size are variety of pine. Their trunks are all blackened at the bottom, though gradually return to their natural brown ridged bark as you ascend. Their perpendicular branches seem to me like feeble climbing ladders. They are short and weak at the bottom, gaining stature as it grows taller before declining again up towards the peak.
Much of the low hanging needles that are still attached to the tree are a delightful autumn orange and brown which gives a remarkable contrast to the ordinary dark green that I am now so used to seeing.
Chipmunks scurry from one scorched log to another, hardly looking around for predators or maybe some food. Squirrels scamper up the trunks suddenly appearing halfway up when the colour pallets changes, revealing their tiny bodies and pompous tails. I leave the bike leaning against a tree and get up to walk through the burnt mess, enjoying the crisp crunch of the coal disintegrating under the soles of my boots.
The crude and robust smell of charcoal that spreads through the air with every step and flies through the wind when it blows is a pleasure for my nostrils, leaving me mesmerised, unintentionally walking around aimlessly, with no goal but to enjoy this nature and the audio nd olfactory overload.
I return to where I was sat before and clear space to lie down with my food. I lose track of time as I get lost in the slow, graceful movements of the tree tops as the wind filters through them. The sing-song from the feathered varieties is putting me to sleep while the gentle breeze keeps the mosquitos away. I lie there, shocked that nobody else is out here. I am really not that far from town and the trail has been maintained to a reasonable standard by the Forest Service. I doze for a minute until a bull-ant begins its climb from my sock up my leg.
As much as I do not want to leave, I am incredibly excited for the trails and wild places that lay ahead. I investigate the topography on my map, finding it trending downhill - perfect for this hot and bright day.
I gaze at my bike, loaded with equipment to keep me out in this special place for at least five days, depending on how long I go fishing and picking mushrooms. The fat tyres and mud-caked frame seem almost begging to be ridden down the flowing, rocky gravel road. I want to hear the crunch of dirt under the tyres, kicking up dust behind me.