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Riding Free

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The dictionary uses an interesting phrase to define freeriding:  “The original concept of freeriding was that there was no set course, goals, or rules to abide by.”

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This simple phrase can encompass the entire season of rides that took place in a location that has been dubbed “Area 52.” Not a place that one would happen across, a strange sequence of events led to our discovery of this off-road gem. Between local oil exploration and my work in wilderness rescue, I happened across the landscape and knew it was a special place. The nearby plains suddenly sink into a large series of sandstone swells and valleys. Sage brush gives way to sandy estuaries, cliff bands, and unearthly rock formations. Knife-edge ridges separate valley walls that give way to impossibly steep sandstone slopes that average thirty to fifty degrees. I can only imagine that a waterless sea would look much the same.

Hazard and I stood atop the ridge pointing out features, adjusting helmets, and straddling our mountain bikes. These forty-five pound beasts were built for the sole purpose of riding what was previously not able to be ridden. We were in search of a route down the sandstone slopes to the valley floor, located one thousand feet below.  All we needed was the lone offshoot that snuck through the cliffs and impossibly-steep slopes. We knew our line was hiding somewhere amongst these rocks; we could hear it taunting us for months.

The valley bottom is a series of sandy washes that are accessible only through a network of unmarked oil exploration roads. Our hopes were that we could get a better view of possible routes from the valley floor. Armed with enough gear to support a small army, we loaded the Jeep and headed into the sand. The diesel chugged up and down sandy washes without a complaint. Sometimes it would almost seem as though the Jeep was as curious as we were – anticipating what lie around that next corner. However, once we hit a dead end the Jeep would seemingly become discouraged, turn around, and promptly bury itself in the sand. The Liberty has turned out to be quite the companion in the backcountry despite an occasional tantrum.

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