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  • Writer's pictureJoy Ma

Day 52: plopped in a forest of bears

Wednesday July 26, 2023

Capitol Reef National Park -> Escalante, UT

77.40 mi and 7,778 ft (routed)

Cover photo courtesy of Vin Armelin

As usual, the vvonderful Vin made the route for the day. When we saw the whopping elevation gain (7k ft… imagine climbing a mountain that’s a mile straight up, then some more)…well, given the past proven ~resourcefulness~ of the Spokes team, I guess it’s not too big of a surprise that only one person actually followed the route :P.

We’ll go in order of departure time and for funsies, I’ll keep their identities anonymous…can you guess who was who? More clues will be revealed as you continue reading. Answer key at the end!


Spoke 1 left earliest of them all. Bright and early is the saying…but it was definitely dark when they left the campground. The route was a left out of the campsite, then left onto the highway out of the National Park. Naturally, they took a right.

To take photos of the stars, of course!


Spoke 2 stole away in the dead of night to get a head start on the route. 10 miles in, they discovered a shortcut on Google Maps! Cut 10 miles and 1000 ft of climbing, hell yes! We’ll call this Detour 1.


Spoke 3 said they were going to leave at 5:30, but the other Spoke that promised to do it with them left at 4:30. Oh well, 45 more minutes in the heat shouldn’t be too bad. Seeing the shortcut Spoke 2 sent out, they knew it had to have a catch: unpaved gravel. Taking a moment to weigh the pros and cons, they powered ahead: Detour 1--2 takers!


Spoke 4 woke up the previous day fully planning on riding the support van allll the way to the end. Yet, here they were, pedaling out the legs. Past the campsite, past the visitor center, past the visitor center, past the campsite, into the campsite, into the car…for Driver Spoke to take them to the top of the first climb 😊 Driver Spoke needed help packing up the campsite anyways.


Spoke 5 was unwell. They had puked in the middle of the night due to an unfortunate case of mystery food poisoning. We encouraged them to take it easy. Listening to the encouragement, they decided to do the opposite: brave the rocky terrors of Detour 1. Dirt turned to packed gravel turned to chunky rocks. The climbs were even slower as the sharp rocks threatened to pierce their tires and every few pedals, Bike 5 would slip. Plot twist, Driver Spoke picked them up…which wasn’t much of an upgrade. Terrified for the life of the car and now the entire teams’ belongings and their own, they teetered and bounced and slipped along the road, only stopping to give Spokes 3 and 2 water, who soon after got caught in knee-deep mud and a mountain hail storm.


After packing up the van, Spoke 6 routed Driver Spoke with Spoke 4 in the cargo to a campsite near the end of most of the climb. As soon as they took off, Spoke 6 started hearing some odd howling noises, a mixture of a dog and a moo and creaky metallic machinery. Knowing Spoke 6, they happily continued pedaling up the mountain, laladeedeeda, oblivious that moments later, Spoke 4 would be pedaling for their life past the same spot, only now knowing that the howling moos came from a monster-truck size black bear just 20 feet off the side of the bike trail. Unfortunately for us, Spoke 4 was too scared to stop for a picture.

Anyways, Spoke 6 made it to the top of the mountain, past beautiful canyon overlooks and trailheads which Spoke 1 declared the most breathtaking views of the entire trip. Shortly after a nice French couple stopped to offer them water, the rolling hills turned into 14% grade heat-stroke inducing steep mountains, so Driver Spoke was hailed to do a rescue mission. Since Spoke 4 was following a few miles behind, Driver Spoke was able to scoop both Spokes up (Spoke 4 was found taking a nap at a coffee shop right before the climb, a cafe that was built into the rocky mountainside, which Driver Spoke bought a 1904 quarter-turned ring which they decided they’ll learn how to make and Spoke 4 bought a pair of turquoise earrings for their sister. Kiva Koffeehouse has a surprisingly diverse selection of coffee, treats, postcards, and artisan jewlery!)

Thankfully, every Spoke, caked in various amounts of mud, made it to the beautiful lake-facing campground in Escalante. The mud washed off nicely in the lake, the lake washed off nicely in the showers (bless the first showers we’ve had in days!), and the showered Spokes happily ate dinner at esteemed pizza restaurant Escalante Outfitters.

Write down your guesses for which Spoke was who (option left to right from photo below--BUT DON'T SCROLL DOWN TOO FAR-- are Audrey, Kat, Andrew, Lucy, Duha, Joy, and (not pictured) Vin, then scroll down to see the answer!

P.S. have you seen the new home page? The white biker man stock photo has been replaced! Unfortunately, Vin denied the media team’s request to send in a selfie so we’re short some representation, so between putting white biker man stock photo to represent Vin and no white biker man stock photo, the media team went with the latter.

Spoke 1: Vin (the climbing adventurer)

Spoke 2: Lucy (the optimistic tank)

Spoke 3: Audrey (the muddy muddy)

Spoke 4: Joy (the terrified bear-witness)

Spoke 5: Kat (the cake winner*)

Spoke 6: Duha (the 14%-grade conqueror)

Driver Spoke: Andrew (will definitely pass their MIT swim test graduation requirement after those laps at the lake)

How many did you get right?

Special thanks to:

- The French couple who powered up Spoke 4 and 6 with ice water and thumbs ups

- Kiva Koffeehouse

- Escalante State Park Reservoir

- *The carrot cake slice gifted from the worker (the real GOAT) at the pizza place after Kat stared longingly at it for too long without getting it



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