I turned 40. 40. Yes, I turned 40 and even as I type it is seems a bit surreal. It sounds like such a destination….40. Truth be told, I’m not much of a birthday person, although I do love any excuse to get together with friends to celebrate. So for this milestone birthday, while the world is still toppsy turvey with a pandemic, while there are questions of ‘what do I want to do with my life’ hanging in my head, while the magnitude of how grateful I am for my life and the immense love I have in it, I decided to plan my own adventure for this epic birthday.
I landed on a mix of mountain bike adventure, road trip, desert hiking, Halloween party fun for my 40th, mixed in with Grand Canyon hiking and finishing up with some Sante Fe festivities. Last year, my girlfriend turned 40 in Moab, surrounded by beautiful terrain, friends, mountain bike gloriousness, and I had such a beautiful time, I knew I wanted to incorporate some of that into my big 4-0.
First stop Durango! This town was chosen not only because it was halfway between Sedona (which is where Bike Gang would reunite!) but I had never been here AND there was great mountain biking. The ride from our house was a smidge over 6 hours, so I packed a ton of car snacks and we headed out Tuesday, October 27. Traveling over Wolf Creek pass, we encountered more snow than either of us had anticipated (we looked at each other and said we should have brought our skis!) then submerged into a foggy abyss where there was low visibility – a bit sketch! Another hour or so and we rolled easily into Durango – a lot bigger of a town than either of us thought. Our Airbnb was between 9th and 10th street, in the heart of town. Unpacking just the essentials (including the bikes of course) we popped into our sweet little pad. Mike cleaned off the bikes while I poured some chili chocolate stout – and we cheers’ed to the first night of our adventure.
The morning came, cold and sunny, so we decided to have a leisurely morning in town. Mike found an amazing French bistro, Jean Pierre’s, where we ate flaky croissants and quiche in a beautiful old building. The waiters even played classical piano while we waited for our meal! Full of French deliciousness, we headed back to our spot to change into hiking gear – it was still a bit too chilly (40’s!) to bike, so we selected a relatively easy hike in Horse Gulch. We were able to walk to the trail head through town. Terrain was dry, dessert, and I was glad to have my gloves , as the limited amount of shade still made it quite chilly. A brisk loop, blue bird day, only passed one hiker heading into the canyon, while heading back, as the day warmed up, we passed several bikers. A sign we were ready to switch to bikes!
We ended up hiking almost 7 miles, so back at the house, we stretched a bit before putting our bike gear on. Choosing trails on the other side of where we were staying, we were able to bike directly to the trailhead. A spaghetti system of trails, we stopped quite a bit to try and figure out where we were – a mix of loose shale, packed dirt, fast downhills where we descended through luge-like single track that had been carved out by water. The Star Wars Trail was by far the gnarliest, with fast berns and several large drops. Popping out into a neighborhood (of where we should have started the trail, Mike pointed out) we headed back with huge smiles on our faces. 7 miles, over a thousand feet of vert – it was a good, big day, my favorite kind, with lots of outdoor adventure.
It was time for some beer! First stop ska brewing, a facility about 5 minutes outside of town, a pretty big operation, two story tap room with juicy, hazy delicious IPAs. One beer here, then back to Durango for some grub and more brews at Steamworks Brewery. Quinoa burgers, beer battered fries, side salad & another IPA. One more night cap at Carter’s Brewing, Oatmeal Stout, and back to bed to put a fabulous fork in this awesome day.
Morning came and we bounced out of bed, gathered all of our belongings and headed south to Sedona! The drive was full of long red stretches of rock, dry dirt and vast nothingness. Indian reservations dotted the vastness and I tried to put myself in the shoes of the Native Americans, who had been stripped of their land and given these pockets of land, where nothing grew. A very hard pill to swallow.
The road finally led us down a windy, wooded ravine, and I couldn’t believe this was Arizona. Lush vegetation and babbling creeks lined the way. Finally we emerged and red pillars came into sight – Sedona! Pulling up to the large house, the beautiful foyer, the amazing wood stove, the babbling broke behind the house. So beautiful. After a stroll down to the creek, a swing in the hammock, some yoga, the gang arrived with gourmet pizzas.
Moonlight walks to secret slickrock trailhead to see the full splendor of the moon across the Oak Creek valley, Cathedral Rock cutout in the sky. Beautiful night!
Bike gang woke ready to rock! Janine and Steve made a delicious egg & apple bake then we headed to secret slickrock trailhead. Secret Slickrock Trailhead, to Old Post, to Sketch – a section of trail that is true to its name! Extremely narrow, with sharp drop offs and rocky sections where I had to hold my breathe and tell myself I was a bad ass and to not look down. The ride was 8.46 miles, with 1,000+ feet of vert – a fabulous kick off to the day. Being able to ride directly from the house to the trail and vice versa is truly the bar to be ser for active vacations. Zooming back to the house afterwards was such a treat. Beers were cracked, tacos were ordered and Janine left to pick up the hikers who had had quite the adventure (creek crossings into gated communities where fences had to be jumped). The house we were staying in had beautiful outdoor seating with creek gurgling in the background. While some of the troops headed for sustenance, the rest of the gang hung and chatted in the beautiful shade of the sycamore trees.
Tacos finally arrived and were exactly what the Dr. ordered…and we all stuffed our faces with guacamole, tacos and chips. Delicious! Fueled back up, we decided to have the non-bikers (Amy & Amanda) to shuttle us to some downhill goodness for pre-sunset. Although some of the sections were extremely sharky, the views and downhill were well worth the effort. The ride was Scorpio to Pyramid – an apropos decent as I am a Scorpio! I almost bailed on riding the next ride, which was our third of the day, as the trail was a bit harder than I had thought. But, I bucked up and saddled up to what would be the favorite of the two – flowy, amazing views, and pinks and blues I had never quite seen before. We scooted into the trail system we had ridden earlier in the day, Ramshead, then zipped right down to the house. Absolutely amazing.
That night, we decided to graze and not do a full dinner, then walked up the hill to gaze at the almost full moon at the beginning of the secret slick . Red rocks silhouetted behind a dessert sky – something truly beautiful to take in.
Happy Halloween!! Day two of Shredrona bike gang and Amy had us covered for breakfast. Quiche, fresh fruit, warm baguettes, mozzarella and tomatoes. Oooo we were ready to shred! The group decided to head to West Sedona, about 20 minutes from the house and because it was Halloween, we decided to get in the spirit and dress up. Janine let me borrow her black and pink tutu and skeleton knee socks, she wore a red and black tutu with rasta arm sleeves and Holly was a cute little bumble bee. It was the coolest Halloween shred ever! Mike did actually endo’d really hard, slicing his forearm pretty deeply – and of course no one brought any first aide! The girls ended up doing a slightly shorten ride – axis to Girdner – which ended up being 8.65 miles which was still a huge ride! At the finish line, we realized we didn’t bring any beers (rooky move!) so we headed to the Safeway to grab some brews for our post ride (such a rookie mistake that we didn’t bring any!!!!) then headed back to meet the boys after their long ride. Beers were cracked, stories were shared and the bike gang cheers’ed to the day. Deciding we were going to pick up some gourmet pizzas, we grabbed em’ and headed back to the house to decompress by the creek. The beautiful oasis in the back of the house was the perfect place to unwind after our long ride.
I had brought a Thai tofu and noodle dish for dinner, so after more bevs, showers, and fresh costumes, we all sat down to feast. Mike had the great idea of hiking to the secret slickrock trail to gaze at the full moon. There’s not been a full moon on Halloween since 1964! We all hunkered down, grounding into the vortex energy. One of the best Halloween’s ever!
The next morning was a little foggy, and unfortunately most of the crew had to head back to real life. I of course, slept in because it was my actual birthday – 40!!! It’s a big one and damn I was ready. That day, Janine, Steve, Mike and I went to hike cockscomb then had margaritas and tacos. Best. Birthday. Ever. That evening, we headed to the house to nap and chill out. Champagne was popped and I toasted to my birthday with the coolest crew.
Morning came and we packed up the house and said a tearful goodbye to the beautiful house we had just spent my epic birthday in. The small crew headed out to hike Cathedral rock that started at the crescent moon park – definitely a cooler hike than cockscomb – and we billy goated around the slick rock and marveled at the beauty of the desert. After the gorgeous hike, we had to say goodbye to Janine and Steve and Mike and I headed to get some more tacos in Sedona, then headed to the Grand Canyon for the second half of the road trip extravaganza.
I wholeheartedly believe you get to choose your life. The smallest decisions we make – or chose not to make – stack up to create your now. This year, 2020, has been an extremely odd one, with many unknowns, plans that were halted, the world turned upside down. It’s given me a lot to think about, contemplate and plan for. This trip reminded me that I have an amazing life, one that is comprised of beautiful friends, exploration, and a world full of possibilities that I have the choice to grab onto. I am 40 and I can’t wait to see what I choose next.