During winter, it took us twenty miles of Nordic skiing just to get there, but the views from Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park were glorious.
The storm clouds surrounded and perfectly framed this majestic formation of granite, before the storm swallowed it completely just moments later.
Fast forward an hour, and the clouds had moved on to reveal the magnificence of the valley below.
That name conjures images of Stalin's gulag camps, thirty feet of snow, and winter temperatures that can actually be colder than Mars.
But now having been there, my enduring thoughts of Siberia are of an incredible blueness of sky, of rugged green mountains, and of soft, grassy fields that were perfect bedding for my tent.
Mostly, and perhaps somewhat cruelly given its history, Siberia offers a magnificent freedom of movement. A motorcyclist can ride in any direction, unrestricted, for hours or even days on end, across wide open fields or through mountain passes. No gates or fences, just wide-open terrain that demands exploration.
And that's how I stumbled upon this particular spot. I'd been riding a dirt track through a narrow river valley, when I spotted this plateau, up high above me. There was no trail or road leading up to it, so I just veered right and executed one of my better steep hill climb maneuvers.
I popped up onto this shelf and was rewarded with a panoramic view of the nearby mountains, while a group of wild horses grazed nearby. It was the perfect place to camp for my last night in Siberia.
For me, magical places discovered by happenstance always create the most powerful of memories.
Less than two hours from the south coast of the Black Sea, there are these exquisite high mountains in the northeastern corner of Turkey. I was so incredibly fortunate to have stumbled upon them.
This path, officially known as D915 and often referred to as one of the most dangerous roads in the world, made less of an impact on me for its potential perils, real or imagined.
It was the stunning views, lush vegetation, snow fields and rocky crags that forever made an impression.
It's never come easily to me.
In this moment, my first night in Mongolia, I had reluctantly tagged along with a quartet of riders as we searched for beds and food. We'd all endured a day-long border crossing, and with darkness upon us, we were shivering, hungry, and weary. As we trundled around a small village, we were beyond appreciative when a kind family took all five of us under their roof.
As the other riders quickly sat down at the dinner table and began conversing with the locals, I placed myself in a ratty overstuffed chair, away from the activity, as always.
And then, the children descended like locusts. It's as if they could sense my shy nature and were determined to draw me out of my introverted shell. They cunningly blitzkrieged around my Maginot Line of scowls then triumphantly climbed on top of me with giggles and smiles.
Curse their bottomless adorability.
I never go looking for those moments to connect with other humans. So, I am most certainly grateful when you all take the initiative to reach out to me.
#mongolia #solotravel #adventurebikerider #adventuretravel #solotraveler #wandertheworld #introvert
I didn't know what I didn't know.
In this case, I didn't know not to rent a beat up, wore out KLR when I rode for almost a month in Chile and Argentina.
Worn sprockets and a bargain-bin chain meant that it kept falling off every few hundred yards on this crater-filled lunarscape section of the Carretera Austral. The rental place had provided a tool kit (free of charge!) with an axle nut wrench that was as round as a full moon.
I was fortunate to encounter these two gentlemen along a particularly remote section of the road that closely resembled the surface of the moon. They were busy attempting to repair a huge dump truck when I rolled up, and using my Chipotle-level Spanish, I explained my problem, which translated out to, “Can you cook my broken carnitas chain taco?”
Fortunately, mechanics speak a universal language: this dumbass wants me to fix his problem.
Willi (the talker) and Sergio (the worker) were reminders to me that there are some wonderful human beings on this planet. They stopped their work to help me, in the pouring rain, in Sergio’s muddy driveway, in the middle of nowhere. Willi explained that Sergio lived there with his two children, the mere mention of whom made Sergio beam with pride.
I was relieved that it took them considerable energy to loosen and make the rear wheel adjustments. I’d have had no chance.
They refused any money for the work, until I demanded and they humbly requested 1000 pesos. I gave them 10,000 each and feigned nothing smaller. They acted like they’d won the lottery, when in fact, it was me who had won.
I fired up the motor and chugged away to their cheers and farewells.
If there's a recurring theme of alpine trips, it's that the mountains rarely give up their best scenery, or their most memorable moments, without making you work for it.
The payoff, though, is always worth the struggle. And it's not just the beautiful landscapes. Trek into the mountains during the winter with 25 feet of snow on the ground, and your reward shall be an unassailable silence, a stillness of a world that is, quite literally, frozen in time.
These photos from a four day expedition into Lassen National Park during a record snow year. We got snowed on and blown on, but it was fully enjoyable and an epic memory.
Photo 1: Snowshoeing with full winter packs/gear requires a somewhat perverse relationship with discomfort.
Photo 2: Properly equipped, sleeping on the snow is a fun experience. Oh... the trees on the right aren't short... they are 30 footers covered by 25 feet of snow.
Photo 3: The two amazing women who adventured with me.
#snowcamping #lassenvolcanicnationalpark #snowshoe #outdoors #outdoorslife #allaboutadventures #roamnation
People frequently approach me on the street and say, "Backpacker Moto, why don't you post more photos of yourself? More selfies? More staged photos of you staring off into distant horizons, trying to appear thoughtful, dark and complex? Don't you understand the point of social media?"
Okay, okay. Maybe that's a sligggght embellishment. But there are about six, maybe even seven of you who enjoy pestering me about it. And it's true; unless I'm standing next to Elvis, it's pretty tough to get a photo of me.
So, here yah go. Granted, it's not my best look. But that is an endangered hawksbill sea turtle in the photo, that I had the pleasure of encountering while swimming in waters off of the Galapagos Islands.
While it wasn't backpacking and it wasn't moto, it was an absolutely amazing encounter. My wife and I were snorkeling with a naturalist, and she had spotted the hawksbill far down below us. I managed to do what was for me a pretty deep snorkel dive (around 25 feet / 8 meters), and the naturalist snapped the photo as I clung to a nearby boulder. The second and third images (GoPro screen grabs) came on my own subsequent attempts.
Snorkeling for several days in the Galapagos ranks as one of my all-time favorite life experiences. We traveled there with no idea of what to expect, and what we got was a heavy dose of underwater encounters with reef sharks, hammerhead sharks, manta rays, puffer fish, turtles, sea lions, iguanas, and best of all, endangered Galapagos penguins, who are like little black and white torpedoes that zoom in and out of sight faster than you can spin your head.
I've always enjoyed scuba diving and snorkeling, yet the Galapagos stand apart as a magically unique part of the planet.
#seaturtles #endangeredspecies #galapagos #snorkeling #outdoorslife #roamtheplanet
When executed properly, it is a mostly scientific process. This will come as a great surprise to those who habitually avoid risk of any type, and who allow their fears to govern every decision. Many are the people who grossly underestimate their own potential and abilities. Fear, or fear of failure, convinces them that they’re not capable.
Pitting one's skills against a genuinely challenging objective and accepting some risk puts a person in intimate touch with life and its preciousness. Those who choose to abstain from veritable obstacles thereby surrender the authentically earned extremes of joy, sorrow, accomplishment and failure.
Most people assess risk only in terms of what they might lose.
Rarely, if ever, do they even bother to assess what they might gain.
This photo from the intoxicatingly serene remoteness of Mongolia.