From Racing to Volunteering: Uniquely Trans-Cascadia

September 02, 2019

Hiking up the misty ridgeline with my trail tool in hand, I was so excited to be back. A little less than a year before I was pedaling my bike along the same ridgeline, about to drop into Stage 6 on Day Two of Trans-Cascadia. On that day of the race, the ridgeline gave way to a 3,400′ descent over seven miles of primitive single track, backed by a perfect view of one of the Cascades’ infamous volcanoes. This was only one stage of 14, and all 14 were just as spectacular. One of the pro-men racers even described this stage as “a spiritual experience,” another “the best trail of my life.” Walking along these same trails brought back all the memories and excitement that came with racing the event 2018–which remains one of the best experiences I have had as a mountain biker. It felt so good to be back at Trans-Cascadia, this time to volunteer.

Laura Schmitt goes from racer to volunteer at Trans-Cascadia
Racing at the 2018 edition of Trans-Cascadia.

Trans-Cascadia: The Race

Trans-Cascadia (TC), a blind-format, backcountry race in the Cascades, had always been on my radar since the event’s inaugural edition in 2015 which also happened to be my first year trying my hand at mountain bike racing. I was introduced to XC racing and didn’t quite understand the race format of Enduro racing let alone a multi-day stage race. I specifically remembered reading some race updates and was immediately enchanted by the idea of riding my mountain bike deep in the wilderness for days on end, only having to think about riding, eating, and sleeping. Racing the TC wildly surpassed all of my expectations of what this event would be like.

Trans-Cascadia's multi-day stage race relies on hundreds of volunteer hours.
A labor of love. Volunteer days at Trans-Cascadia.

Volunteer at Trans-Cascadia

The Mission

Now I was back, but this time to give back. Racing the TC gave me a newfound perspective and appreciation for the trails I ride. Not to say that I’d never appreciated all the singletrack I’ve ridden, raced and even hiked throughout my years as a cyclist, but I had never experienced a race that was founded on reviving remote trails and sustaining them for future users to enjoy. That is at the core of the TC’s purpose, and at the end of day four, I started to understand it really isn’t just about the race. The racers have the pleasure of being some of the first to enjoy the untouched and forgotten singletrack that was brought back to life, by TC trailworkers and volunteers. The nearly week-long event also helps promote and fund the greater mission of TC as a non-profit—to restore, promote and build sustainable trails in the Pacific Northwest.

Get Involved

Much like the race, the trail Work Party was full of hard work, good company, and a little “partying in the woods.” Just getting out to the trails was an undertaking in itself, and was followed by some long physical days to get the trail in prime riding condition. Fortunately, TC knows how to take care of its trail crews and all us volunteers were well fed by our own personal camp chef! I recognized and knew many of the same people at the Work Party who had also volunteered during the race, including the race organizers themselves. It was pretty obvious everyone was there because they love to ride mountain bikes and they know that work like this is what keeps the most worthy and inspiring trails rideable.

For the Work Party I participated in (Trans Cascadia hosts around three each summer) we joined forces with a chapter of The Backcountry Horsemen. It was awesome to see two user groups come together to improve these remote trails with the shared purpose of creating a sustainable system for future user groups. With the help of the horsemen and their horses, one of the workgroups was able to put in a bridge over a water crossing that was unrideable during the previous year’s race. After the third and final day of trail building, all the TC trail builders were invited to join the Backcountry Horsemen at their camp for a pig roast in celebration of all the hard work accomplished, and in true TC fashion, we ended the pig roast with an epic bonfire.

Bonfire celebration after a successful Trans-Cascadia Work Party!
2019 Trans-Cascadia Work Party

Being a part of the 2018 race felt like a special gift that was given to me, one that was not to be taken for granted but to be cherished and taken care of. That’s why I wanted to go back and do my part to keep these primitive trails maintained and rideable so that the group of 2019 racers could have the same gift of such a unique backcountry race experience. Something unmatched in the mountain bike world.

Trans-Cascadia has the best backcountry trails.
PNW scenery never disappoints.
One of the Cascades' infamous volcanoes in the distance.
Volunteer, ride, repeat at Trans-Cascadia.

2018 Trans-Cascadia

Related Posts


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published