Navajo Youth Bikepacking Program

Booked Thru October!

We’ve been so busy! Steve and I both took separate vacations at the end of August, me on a weeklong, 150-mile bikepacking loop tour from Mancos, back to Mancos, through the La Plata mountains (see photos & other photos) and Steve packrafting some sweet backcountry terrain in Idaho for a week. But, since we’ve been back, we’ve not stopped moving.

Doom has been working on the Scullbinder Ranch Community Barn. Check out the progress he’s made! His creativity and resourcefulness blow my mind! And I’ve been busy scheduling tours through October and taking care of all our other business needs.

Please note, we've recently learned that we may not be able to get permits for the Glen Canyon National Rec Area in 2021 because some giant corporation has bought up all the permits. This is a huge bummer, but we will be working hard to see if we can squeak in another year. In the meantime, there’s still some room on a few of our small group October tours, and we've got plenty of available dates in early November, when the weather is still nice. As well, while it's colder and weather is less predictable in late November and December, if you're dying to get on the Dirty Devil River, we'll take you. Call or email us to schedule today! And check out photos here.

Finally, we've been working hard on acquiring needed equipment and cash for the Navajo Youth Bikepacking Program. Jon Yazzie and Nadine Johnson, full-blooded Navajos and owners of Dzil Ta’ah Adventures, are the brainchild behind and organizers of this program.

Navajo Youth Bikepacking Program

The Black Lives Matter movement has affected us deeply. We’ve been reading, listening to podcasts, and, at times, agonizing over the right steps to take to support our friends of color. After months of feeling a bit lost, a good friend told me the best thing we could do as a business was listen, show up, and provide assistance to showcase the good work people of color are doing around us.

Since Jon and I met a year or so ago, we had been talking about his and Nadine's idea for a Navajo Youth bikepacking and bikerafting program. A few months ago, I gave him a call. I told him I was all in and ready to start fundraising for their program. Since their own permits were stalled due to the closure of the Navajo government, they'd been thinking the same thing. Why not start the program this fall? So we decided to go for it!

Jon and Nadine are passionate about getting Navajo kids on bicycles. Not only are they badass mountain bikers (Nadine on her single speed, rigid frame Kokopelli Warthog 26+!), but they are also inspiring humans, dedicated to bettering their community and getting as many people on bicycles as possible. How cool is that? You can still donate!

Navajo Youth Bikepacking Program
Navajo Youth Bikepacking Program

A Work in Progress

The program is a work in progress, and things are changing in real time. We thought we’d take the kiddos bikerafting right away, but, says Jon:

“Sitting at the drawing board that evening, I remembered how hard it was to properly outfit the bikes the community youth were bringing, it just didn’t seem possible. They lacked the proper bikes, equipment, know-how and I was throwing them to the wolves (Doom). It made sense to build some background first. Get them out riding locally. We can still follow CDC guidelines. We are outside. We can mandate masks. Nature is perfect for social distancing. The Navajo nation lockdown orders still allow for exercise within five miles of our residence. Why not take another shot at it.”

So, they decided to run a series of three adventures for the kiddos.

“Nadine and I wanted to build some background first. With two trips prior, kids will learn how to attach carrying systems to their bikes, pack bags properly, get the feel for riding loaded, and setting up camp. That way they don’t get overwhelmed when the packrafts are put into the equation.”

But then, Jon joined the Silver Stallion Bicycle & Coffee Works crew for a weekend of fixing bikes and riding bicycles.

“The Silver Stallion is a 501(c)(3) organization that is working to lift barriers to industry access and participation by providing a dynamic, systems approach to address the social, geographic challenges to riders of Dinetah (Navajo Nation). With its Mobile Ride Center and nonprofit bike shop/coffee shop in Gallup, NM the Stallion seeks to open doors with programming, ‘to empower and develop in youth and young adults vocational skills in the bicycle repair and specialty coffee industries.’ ... Members of their NICA/Dine Composite team will be the first group to participate in our Navajo Youth Bike Pack series and I am finally able to introduce myself properly and have face to face conversation about gear, equipment, and logistics.” ~Jon Yazzie, “Dzil Ta’ah Adventure’s Navajo Youth Bike Packing Adventure Series: Nazlini, AZ

Though a successful weekend, where Jon connected with numerous Navajo youth and their families, he discovered that most of the kids joining the series were between 10-15 and had little experience riding bikes, let alone doing overnight adventures on bikes.

“Although I had a great weekend meeting other natives and riding bikes, I left with two concerning take-aways. First, I needed to rethink the routes I had in mind for our upcoming trips, as the kids interested in learning to ride with loaded bikes ranged in age from 10-15 and were new to biking. Second, gear. All the series candidates did not have any packable sleep systems nor did they have any lightweight tents or reliable shelter. I discussed this with my partner Nadine when I got home, and we decided to lend our personal equipment to the kids since we are just excited about going out later this month as they were...”

Not only did the kids not have cycling experience or the necessary gear, but unfortunately, 10-year-olds have a hard time paddling packrafts. Hmmm… what to do about all this?

Jon and Nadine first decided to recruit three older kids from a family of five that they knew--Jonessa, Jobe and Jaron Segay--to go bikepacking, in hopes of cultivating mentors for the younger kids. They would loan out their own gear, as the kids shared one bike and helmet between them. According to Jon, the trio was "up for anything outdoors."

“Although they often shared one bike, they are great riders and fast learners. They fit our spare bikes perfectly too. We could also train them to help us. This [trip] will be a great opportunity to discuss the possibility of recruiting them to serve as mentors to the new, less experienced riders for this series. And any upcoming youth programs we may offer. It would be easy, as they lived close and have an incredibly supportive mother. It was on.” ~Jon Yazzie

These new mentors will help guide the younger children on future trips for years to come. And, instead of taking all the kids bikerafting over Halloween, the four of us—Nadine, Jon, Doom and I—will take and train the older kids, plus a couple of the 13- to 15-year-olds from the Dine Composite team. Eventually, the younger kids will also be able to go bikerafting, but not until they’re old enough to paddle a packraft.

And, Jon and Nadine called me. We need clothing, sleeping bags, pads, everything for these kids, they said! OK, no problem. We decided to utilize the GoFundMe proceeds not only for dehydrated meals and transportation costs, but to source equipment for the kids. Jon had already found sponsors to donate some equipment, but we needed more, and I got busy reaching out to all my contacts (see the list below).

We are still looking for a couple bicycles and are hoping for a clothing sponsor for all future kids in the program. We have, however, outfitted the three mentors with a good amount of synthetic and wool clothing and gear they need to be successful helpers.

And, we've have acquired nearly all that we need to run the program this fall. We raised nearly $5000, thanks to all the generous folks who donated via the GoFundMe (you can still donate by clicking here)! With that, we have tuned up bikes, bought clothes and food at a discount, sourced bikepacking bags and camping gear at a discount, and/or had the stuff donated. The following are all the awesome people and companies that have supported us so far:

  • Revelate Designs—Gave us a huge stack of bike bags and panniers that we plan to use for years to come for the program.
  • Big Agnes—Generously donated pads, sleeping bags, and a super lightweight, 3-person tent to the cause, plus gave us a sweet pro deal on sleeping bags and gear that we will use for years to come.
  • Old Man Mountain Racks—Provided us with racks for the RD Nano Panniers.
  • Oveja Negra—Made custom-made frame bags that the kids who are doing this first series get to keep if they do the entire series!
  • Voile Straps—Provided us with straps the kids can keep, and have agreed to provide us with straps for years to come for future kids.
  • Danielle and the Moab Gear Trader—Provided the kids in this first series with sleeping pads, tents, and stoves that they get to keep!
  • Sawyer—Offered the kids purification systems to keep, so they can purify their water for the series and future adventures.
  • and The Radavist—Helped us raise money by spreading awareness about the Series.
  • Shaun Marcus—Let us use his photos!
  • Alpacka Raft—Loaning us gear for the bikerafting portion of the adventure.
  • Durango Cyclery and Kokopellie Bike & Board—tuned up donated bikes for Navajo kiddos.
  • Pine Needle Mountaineering—Supplied us with a much-needed discount on some rain gear, which is really hard to source used right now!

Stay tuned, as Jon is writing a blog post for Four Corners Guides!


Lizzy Scully, CEO, Four Corners Guides

Navajo Youth Bikepacking Program

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