Mini Epics: 5 Ways to Create Big Adventure Near Home

You don’t need to travel far to have a lot of fun and scratch the adventure itch. This is how two professional adventure racers will keep the fun going this summer.

My husband and I are used to unknowns. As longtime adventure racers, getting lost before finding our way and being adaptable add to the fun of adventure. And while we’ve had plenty of genuine (sometimes brutal) epics, these days we’re making do with what we call “mini epics.”

With races canceled around the globe and many of our trailheads and usual training areas shut down, we need to think outside the box to stay sane, fit, and happy. And with the addition of our two small kids at home full-time due to closed childcare, we’ve also had to curtail our many adventure activities and become extra creative.

If any amount of this sounds familiar and you’re jonesing for some mini-epic adventures from home, read on for tips and advice on how to have fun while also being socially responsible and safe.

Please note that not every one of these ideas is a fit for everyone. Please stay within your abilities, don’t push limits, and adventure responsibly.

Chart a Course With Orienteer.co

We’ve been using this website as a training tool for a few years and find it especially fun right now. Orienteer.co lets you map out a course with virtual checkpoints along the way, and you can then print the map and go out on your mini mission.

Use your phone as a virtual passport that uses a GPS signal to confirm that you visited each location. The app either says “no dice” if you’re not quite yet there or “you are checked in!” if you made it.

As adventure racers and navigators, we love to make courses for each other with harder-to-find points, as it’s great practice for us. But even if you don’t have a background in navigation, setting mini points along your next ride or even around your neighborhood is a great way to entertain the kids or challenge friends to some weekend fun.

The site allows you to overlay several map layers (topo, Open Cycle, satellite) as well as public lands data so you don’t accidentally trespass somewhere. When you’re running the course, you don’t need cell service (as long as you “start” the run before you leave service).

So you can easily create courses way in the middle of nowhere to keep social distancing easy. Best of all, Orieinteer.co is free and actively being developed, so there is always help if you get stuck.

Suggestion: Don’t forget your compass. When you’re running a course, your phone will display a high-res map, but it won’t display your location. The whole point is to orienteer old-school style with a tech twist.

Go Bikepacking

IMG_20200419_143953235Riding on dirt roads for miles and miles, far away from crowds, is always quite appealing. But right now, it’s possibly the best, safest, and most responsible outdoor recreational activity.

Gravel riding and bikepacking have seen an unexpected growth spurt since COVID hit because people can spread apart. This is unlike mountain biking, where people constantly need to stop, get off their bike, and let someone pass.

And lots of recent modeling has shown that riding single file (like we do on singletrack) requires a much bigger distance than 6 feet to be safe.

Regardless of what kind of riding you’re able to do right now, we suggest strapping on some bike bags to make it more of an adventure. Fill them with some camping gear and head out to your local BLM or Forest Service area. Ride some random roads until you get kinda lost and sleep out under the stars for a night or two.

Make it a bigger epic and go out for a multiday trip, or make it a mini and go out for a night. Better yet, plot a course with Orienteer.co and make a game of it.

Contrary to popular marketing, bikepacking is built on the tradition of not needing a lot of specialized gear. So if you’re on the fence about wanting to invest in fancy, purpose-built bikepacking gear, check out this blog for some amazing DIY tips.

Head to the Water

When you’re in a boat or on a standup paddleboard, you’re naturally able to keep your distance from other people. In just a few strokes, you can be 10 or more feet away from anyone.

If you do go out, make sure you’re self-sufficient and comfortable on the water. If you need to be rescued, it defeats the purpose.

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One other way that we’ve been using the water recently is to practice cold-water immersion. And while we don’t buy into the idea that Wim Hoff’s breathing techniques can protect us from the COVID-19 virus, we do wholeheartedly think that sitting in butt-puckering cold water for a few minutes temporarily makes you forget about the rest of the crazy world.

And because many creeks and rivers across the U.S. right now are being fed by snowmelt, it usually isn’t too hard to find a place to soak in cold solitude. Personally, I like to imagine the mountains crying cold tears for all the missed ski days. I’m not sure why, but it helps me stay submerged for a few extra minutes.

And while you’re at it, you might as well give Mr. Hoff’s techniques a try. They probably won’t hurt you, and you might even impress someone by dropping his name when things do get back to normal.

Make a Neighborhood Obstacle Course

This one is fun for kids and adults alike. Take a walk around the neighborhood and look at things as if you were an overactive 10-year-old. Then apply your adult adventure mind to it and create a course.

We suggest heading to your local hardware store (or Amazon), picking up some cheapo surveyor’s ribbon, and using that to mark the route. You can write any special instructions on each ribbon to direct people on how to complete each challenge. Make sure each new ribbon is visible from the last so people know where to go.

See below for a bunch of suggestions from our local course:

  • Move 5 big rocks from this side of the dry canal to the other side
  • 20 jumping jacks or 10 pushups
  • Find and pick 3 dandelions (and keep them with you the rest of the way)
  • Sit and meditate for 1 minute (without fidgeting)
  • Count from backward from 100 to 0 by 3’s
  • Run from here back to your house and back to here
  • Do 5 somersaults
  • Find three clouds that look like animals
  • Climb this tree to the ribbon (be safe)
  • Spin around 20 times as fast as you can

Develop a New Climbing Area

IMG_20200426_130811208Here in Central Oregon, all the popular crags are closed, including the world-famous Smith Rock. But that has led to us revisiting some of the “local” spots that most people never even consider. In doing so, we’ve found some pretty amazing lines that we would have otherwise walked right past.

And we’ve been using our jobless time to develop some of these routes as safe (modern bolt spacing) sport routes. Because we’re following protocol to stay extra safe these days, we’re in no hurry to send. We enjoy the process of carefully cleaning the routes and working the moves on toprope until the first ascent is mostly an afterthought.

But most importantly, it’s a fun way to give back to a sport we love and create climbs in areas that will likely never become crowded and always offer some of the solitude that we’re all starting to take for granted.

Above all, we recommend that you strive to find ways to safely feed your adventurous spirit. Get creative and enjoy the time that you do get outside.

And when this is all over, we invite you to visit us here in the Pacific Northwest. We’ve got this amazing overnight bikepacking Orienteer.co route we’d love to send you on. Make sure you pack your climbing shoes and swim trunks, though, because one of the checkpoints is a new climb called “Wim Hoff was here.”

And when you get to the top, you’ll find a pink ribbon with instructions to the creek, where you’ll be soaking for 3 minutes in some brisk 37-degree water.