Golf, Roshambo, Marbles, Washers, other forms of gambling with rocks: it would be easy to confuse the trip for something other than a bike adventure through the desert. And yet, there we were, another night under the crisp sky, playing yet another game. The game was simple: teach the group something – anything – in ninety seconds. The mini-lessons meandered like the Green River far below us, from the history of baseball cards, to famous oak trees, to the importance of ridges on paper clips. One would expect nothing less from a group of multi-generational adventurers connected in some form or fashion to Fort Lewis College.
Besides games, the only other activities we had to do during our four-day trip was to ride bikes and explore the world-famous White Rim Trail outside of Moab, Utah. Although we only spent one night preparing and presenting ninety-second classes, the group did not hesitate to continue sharing stories about family, friends, the desert, food, and everything else under the giant Utah sun throughout the rest of the trip.
In between games and conversations, life was uncomplicated. We rode, explored, ate, camped, and repeated the gloriously simple pattern of bike adventuring. We bumped slowly along, making sure to ride at a nature's pace so as not to miss a single side canyon, archeological site, or geological feature. Each day brought new views and, in true Southwest fashion, new weather as well. Knowing our time on the White Rim was limited, we did our best to enjoy the nights of gale force winds and storms that would scare even the hardiest of desert aficionados, just as much as we enjoyed the warm, sunny days. The rain brought the desert alive in front of our eyes as waterfalls and plants burst with renewed life, taking our breath away and leading to a day filled with more staring in awe than riding bikes. The mud, sticky and red, provided a sloppy, fun ride and some unexpected laughs as we slipped in slow motion and spilled into the fresh, chocolaty pools.
On our final day, as we ascended the Mineral Bottom Road to the rim of the canyon, I climbed extra slowly out of necessity but also because I knew that when I reached the top, our trip would end. With each switchback, the view grew more dramatic and recent memories from the past four days, more lucid.
During our final lunch together, looking down into the giant abyss that the group had just traversed, we played one last game. Each person had to share an observation with the group, any observation. Many reflected on how small we felt in such a grand landscape. Others shared feeling a new vitality for adventure and stated how important it is to connect with nature in this way. And then one person observed how all the Fort Lewis College graduates on the trip seemed to have mastered the art of lifelong learning. We looked around at our fellow Skyhawks, spanning sixty decades in age, and saw a group of people interested in the land, history, our fellow humans, and of course knowing the correct paper clips to purchase when we got back to our respective homes.
This story is Schiefer’s first-hand account of the FLC Adventure Club: White Rim Trail Mountain Biking trip that took place October 24-27, 2021. The FLC Adventure Club invites curious and active alumni, friends, and donors of FLC to checkout future trip dates and destinations at fortlewis.edu/adventureclub.