From Racing to Digging – Uniquely Trans-Cascadia

Laura riding on a re-established trail overlooking the blast zone near Mt. St. Helens.
Racing the 2018 edition of Trans-Cascadia.

Hiking up the misty ridgeline with my trail tool in hand, I was so excited to be back.  A little less than a year before I was peddling my bike along the same ridgeline, about to drop into Stage 6 on Day Two of the Trans-Cascadia. Seven miles of descending 3,400 feet of primitive single track with a perfect view of an infamous Cascade volcano. This was only one stage out of 14, and all 14 were just as spectacular. One of the pro-men racers even described this stage as “a spiritual experience,” another “the best trail of my life.” Being back here and walking along these same trails brought back all the memories and excitement that came with racing the Trans-Cascadia–which remains one of the best experiences I have had as a mountain biker.

The Trans-Cascadia (TC), a blind-format, backcountry race in the Cascades, had always been on my radar since its inaugural year in 2015 which also happened to be my first year trying my hand at mountain bike racing. I was introduced to XC racing and didn’t quite understand the race format of Enduro racing let alone a multi-day stage racing. I specifically remembered reading some race updates and was immediately enchanted by the idea of riding my mountain bike deep in the wilderness for days on end, only having to think about riding, eating, and sleeping. Racing the TC definitely satisfied my ideas of what doing the race would be like and so much more.

Crew working on a section of trail.
Laura digging trail with fellow trail crew.

Now I was back, but this time it was to give back. Racing the TC gave me a newfound perspective and appreciation to the trails I ride. Not to say I never appreciated all the singletrack I’ve ridden, raced, and even hiked in my life, but I had never experienced a race that was founded on reviving remote trails and sustaining them for future users to enjoy.  That is at the core of the TC’s purpose, and at the end of day four, I started to understand it really isn’t just about the race. The racers have the pleasure of being some of the first to enjoy the untouched and forgotten singletrack that was brought back to life.  The nearly week-long event also helps promote and fund the greater mission of TC as a non-profit, to promote and build sustainable trails in the Pacific Northwest.

Much like the race, the trail work-party was full of hard work, good company, and a little “partying in the woods.”  Getting out to the trails is a big trek, and we put in some long physical days to get the trail in prime riding condition, but all the volunteers were well fed by our own personal camp chef.  I recognized and knew many of the same people at the work party that were volunteers during the race, including the race organizers themselves. It was pretty obvious everyone was there because they love to ride mountain bikes and they know that work like this is what keeps the trails that are the most worth riding, rideable.

For this specific work party–Trans Cascadia hosts three trips each summer–we joined forces with a chapter of The Backcountry Horsemen. It was awesome to see two trail user groups come together to improve these remote trails with the same purpose of sustainability for future use by all user groups. With the help of the horsemen and their horses, one of the workgroups was abe to put in a bridge over a water crossing that was unrideable during last year’s race. After the third and final day of trail building, all the TC trail builders were invited to join the Backcountry Horsemen at their camp for a pig roast in celebration of all the hard work accomplished, and in true TC fashion, we ended the pig roast with an epic bonfire.

A bonfire to close out the work party
clothes hang from a line made of sticks to dry near a fire after trail work.

Being a part of the 2018 race felt like a special gift that was given to me, that was not to be taken for granted and a gift that should be well taken care of.  That’s why it only made sense in my mind for me to go back and do my part to keep these primitive trails maintained and rideable so that the group of 2019 racers can have the same unique backcountry race experience I had. Something unmatched in the mountain bike world.

Laura's bike leaning against a dead tree as Mt. Adams looms in the distance from an overlook.

2018 Trans-Cascadia

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Laura is a Colorado Native who now lives in Portland, Oregon. Her history with bikes started with recreational mountain biking while living in Crested Butte, Colorado. Once she moved to Portland, biking became a way of life for Laura. She is an avid bike commuter (even when it rains because it rains a lot in Portland!). After finding her bike community within her local Portland bike team, The CX Pistols, she started racing cross country mountain bikes and cyclocross. On her days off when the sun is out, you will find her on the local trails shredding on her Kona Process. One of her goals as a female biker is to always encourage other women to try riding, even if it is just for fun.

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