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  • leepanecki

Regression and Recovery - Part 3

Updated: Mar 26, 2023

I'd like to apologize to whomever I sat next to on the flight from Boston to Seattle... my

nervous taps and restless legs were surely annoying indications that I felt likely to spontaneously combust. Touchdown was at 10pm, and I had driven across the border into Canada before allowing myself to sleep. First thing the next morning was a ride at Mt Vedder, a fantastic trail system that often gets overshadowed by big brother Bellingham and Vancouver’s North Shore. It was glorious to be in motion again (to say nothing of the trail's Even Flow that made me feel Alive). After dispensing with the jitters, I hit the gas toward Revelstoke, approaching the Canadian Rockies for the very first time.


I was flying solo once again - Kathleen had prior plans to see friends and family on the east coast for the month, and we were scheduled to reconvene later on Labor Day. It was a bummer to be without her for so long, first due to hyperacusis in July, and now again for August. But on the flip side, I was happy she'd be able to make up for lost family time, and I’d be able to travel quickly and make up for lost bucket list time.

One of the worst parts of long term illness is losing your sense of self. I’d always been mildly hyperactive, and prided myself in being able to control the mania and direct it toward constructive tasks. After my ear issues though, my motor was gone. There was no desire to do anything - to get up out of bed, to excel at my job, to be a good friend, partner, or son. There was just nothing there. I was coasting and cashing in on all of my built up political capital. All of my energy went toward making it through the day and keeping up appearances. I was not myself, and I struggled to figure out who I wanted to be (or could be) if this lesser version was here to stay. I never reconciled this (mostly due to the reality of extreme hyperacusis - thoughts constantly interrupted by impossibly loud bangs and pops), but it’s something I think about frequently now, a couple months removed. What if this happens again, or something similar? What kind of person would I be without my motor?


A motif of struggle is hyper-focusing on what we would do if the struggle was overcome. It's usually a self destructive thought process, creating a deep well of "if onlys" that are all too easy to drown in. In this case though, having so quickly gone from incapacitated to functional, all of those "if onlys" very quickly became "let's actuallys". Now in a period of relative health, my motor was in absolute overdrive. When I arrived in Revelstoke, I immediately took the ski lift up as far as it would go, and then rode my bike up an additional 2000ft to the summit of the mountain range. I was out of shape and unacclimated to the altitude, but standing at the peak gasping for air was one of the most cathartic experiences of my life. It was breathtakingly scenic, and the views were otherworldly. The weather was perfect. There were eagles and paragliders floating around in the valley below. It could not have been more beautiful, and I was so overwhelmingly glad to be there. Just completely overcome with that feeling of being small and at one with my surroundings, a feeling that’s probably familiar to those who spend their time engaging in outdoor pursuits. Admittedly, a few manly tears may have been shed (which were of course thoroughly wiped away before the video below). This cathartic feeling would present itself again and again throughout Canada, completely reversing the poor first impression from a month prior.


***


After a few days riding in Revelstoke, I headed south through the western edge of the Canadian Rockies, hitting Silver Star and Big White bike parks along the way. The riding was epic, and I was starting to get into a groove, trusting my body and its newfound sense of stability. A little voice in my head thought maybe, just maybe, I was ready to give Whistler another shot. I drove further south, back into Washington to partake in my good friend Glenn’s overlanding bachelor party. It was a great time, meeting some of his friends for the first time while reconnecting with others, with only one earplug required. My only regret was accidentally directing Glenn’s camper van into a low tree branch, creating a long scratch down the side (I still feel bad about this, but at least my truck now has scratches to match). Afterward, Glenn and I got to scheming about a little bachelor party addendum - a few days at Squamish and Whistler since they were now in peak season. It was a bit of a dangerous time to do it, being right before Laura and Glenn’s wedding and with me still a bit wobbly on the bike, but we decided to take advantage while we had the time. Whistler part two was on.


I’ve thought for a long time about how to describe those few days in the Sea to Sky, but I’ll just say this - it was the most fun I’ve ever had on two wheels. Riding with a buddy knocked the final cobwebs off, and I was back on my A game. Jumps were hit. Berms were toasted. Rowdy descents were cleared. The trails in this region are simply on another level, pushing you to your limit and beyond. Don’t get me wrong, I was still absolutely rocked by crashes, but this time it was on my own terms. If risks were taken, they were calculated, and always within the realm of possibility. I was no longer nihilistically launching myself into the abyss like I did during the first grim Whistler visit. It felt like redemption, mentally and physically, and it was such a massive privilege. The whole trip felt worth it just for that week.

Final stats:

Total pedaled ascent - 13,075ft

Total descent - 34,408ft 🤟


For anyone planning a similar trip, I can’t recommend Top of the World enough. Epic views the whole way down, along with tech, flow, steeps, huge berms, and tabletops. It has a little bit of everything, and was so nice we did it twice. Equally awesome was Lord of the Squirrels across the valley, although there’s no lifts and a 3000ft pedal to the top. Crank It Up is excellent for jump practice (10-20 footers) if you’re not feeling A-Line quite yet (20-30 footers). At Squamish, I loved Rupert and it’s techy rock rolls, along with the Half Nelson flow trail at Diamond Head. Don’t sleep on Pemberton either, the Nimby climb and Overnight Sensation descent were both bucket list-worthy. If the balance holds up, I will be back to this place. The hype is justified, and I’ll always remember it as the spot that almost ended the trip, but in the end confirmed that I should keep going.


I hope these last few posts helped explain the delay in my recollection/documentation of this summer. I don’t take any of this for granted, and I’m trying to take advantage of every day, hour, and minute spent healthy in the mountains. I know that if my motor goes again, this will be what I look back upon for inspiration. I still take days off, but only when my body needs it. Otherwise I’m out there, appreciating my relative health and living accordingly. I love writing these posts, connecting with everyone, capturing pictures and video. But right now, I’m in the mountains, enjoying the wealth that I have.



Brace yourself, there are a lot of pictures...


Taking in the views from the top of Revelstoke


Alpine riding at the top of Frisby Ridge


Otherworldly


Canadian Rockies - bucket list material


Alpine meadows


The Bike of Thesius


A crusty selfie


More alpine goodness from Revelstoke National Park


Early fire observation point


More bokeh = more artsy?


Another great camp spot in the shadow of Mt. Begbie


Wheeling at Glenn's bachelor party


Pondering (photo credit Ryan)



Views of Rainier, foreshadowing the upcoming wedding


4Runner surfing


Lakeside with Wanda the Flamingo


Looking like my dad in the 80s (photo credit Ryan)


Top of the World at Whistler (photo credit Glenn)


Accurately captures our mood/state of mind


'Cheesin


Epic 'cheesin


Deploying the landing gear


No better feeling


Post crash giggles


"Get off my lawn"


Techy Sea to Sky climbs


Techy Sea to Sky descents


Jousted by a downed tree sticking out into the trail


Top of Lord of the Flies


Pemberton views


Ford should be paying me for the free advertising... camp outside Whistler with Glenn


No shortage of beautiful free campsites. Riverside


The Green River (except it's very blue)


Was feeling very Wes Anderson


Heading eastward, taking the scenic route


Final camp in the Sea to Sky










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