Saving the Lionhead
In a few short months, I have my sights set on a week-long bikepacking trip through Iceland with three friends. I’ve never been out of the country, nor have I really bikepacked self-supported for that length of time, so it’s a dual duty of new experiences for me. I believe that personal growth and wisdom come with challenging yourself and seeking new experiences and I apply this logic to being a dad, too.
Meet Miles, a 7-year-old renaissance man. He fishes, he draws, he creates, he tells jokes, and best of all, he rides bikes. He was on a kickbike by two years old and a pedal bike by the age of four, so naturally, I take him riding every chance I get.
He’s heard me talk about my bikepacking trip and has asked questions about bikepacking, so I decided now would be a good time to introduce him to the concept. The Virginia Creeper Trail is a rail trail in Damascus, VA that travels 34 miles from Abingdon, VA to Whitetop, NC and weaves along route 58 and the Holston River. We set out on the rail trail one Friday afternoon in April to see how far we could make it. My bike was loaded down with all of the camping gear and most of the food we would need. Miles carried his Batman backpack, filled with his own food and tent poles strapped to the handlebars of his 16” Specialized HardRock.
I had planned to ride five miles or so down the trail to find an ideal camping spot. Not today, though. We followed the river and rode over trestles for nearly two miles before he was ready to settle down on what was the very first real camping spot we came across. I encouraged him to push on a bit further, but he was set on this spot. He made a compelling argument about the flatness of the ground for the tent, and a small fire pit that would be perfect for a fire, so we set up camp.
Next, we found a good hoisting tree for our food (so the bears wouldn’t get it) and gathered wood for a fire. With plenty of daylight, we pulled up a spot by the river bank and solved a few of the world’s problems until Miles found a stick, perfect for a home run derby.
As the sun started to fade away, we whipped up a small campfire and had dinner. Miles then pulled out all the necessary ingredients for s’mores from his backpack—his contribution to our food for the evening. We ate our body weight in s’mores, hoisted our remaining food and decided to turn in for the night.
Laying in the tent that night, Miles asked me to tell him stories about my childhood, so I obliged. I told him stories about my brother and our friends pushing an engineless go-kart to the top of the biggest hill in the neighborhood and riding back down with two passengers, inevitably crashing. I told him about the time I missed a 90-degree turn at the bottom of said hill on an old-school road bike that was too big for me and crashed into the neighbor’s fence. We laughed and fell asleep with grins dwindling across both of our faces.
The next day, we awoke to a beautiful spring morning and sat in the tent to have our oatmeal breakfast, coffee and juice. We hung for about an hour then packed everything up and headed back into town where we destroyed some milkshakes and handed out high-fives having just finished our first bikepacking trip together.
I am always looking for opportunities to help Miles appreciate the natural world, whether biking, hiking or attending special events like the firefly show in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. (Seriously, if you’re in my neck of the woods in early June, you HAVE to go see the fireflies!)
Our trip was less about survival and adventure than it was about just having some fun and spending time with each other. If there are two things that Miles and I enjoy doing together, it’s riding bikes and camping. It’s a great way to show him that your bike gives you the freedom to explore and adventure in the outdoors in a way no other vehicle can do.