By LAURELLE WALSH
One man. One bike. One goal. To travel by mountain bike from British Columbia to the Oregon border, touching as little pavement as possible.
Dr. Larry Smith of Mazama sets off on this 15-day journey on Aug. 6, starting at the Chopaka/Nighthawk border crossing, and finishing on the shore of the Columbia River near Carson, Wash.
In the meantime, he and his crew – devoted spouse and support-van driver Missi – are scouting routes, pouring over maps, and raising money for First Descents, the outdoor adventure program for young-adult cancer survivors.
Smith, an avid mountain biker and cancer survivor himself, saw an opportunity to raise money as a “Team First Descents” member when he began researching this overland bike route five or six years ago, he said.
“The goal is to follow the Cascade Crest and stay as high up in the mountains as possible,” sticking to singletrack bike trails, off-road motorbike routes and forest roads, he said.
Riding a bike in wilderness areas, national parks or on the Pacific Crest Trail is a big no-no, so Smith has had to be creative with route-planning along his roughly 500-mile ride. “The route will zig-zag somewhat, but I’m going to try to keep it pointed south,” he said.
Smith lives in Lost River and works in Yakima eight to 10 days per month as an emergency room physician at Yakima Regional Hospital. When he is not working, he skis, bikes and kayaks, and serves as medical director for First Descents, setting policies and overseeing the committee that reviews the medical status of each participant who attends the outdoor camps.
Smith became involved with the nonprofit in 2006 when he volunteered at a First Descents summer kayaking camp. It was one year after he received his own diagnosis of lymphoma and went through cancer treatment.
First Descents runs around 45 programs per year for cancer survivors aged 18-39. “Young adult cancer survivors are typically an underserved community,” with few financial resources, huge medical bills and often no insurance, Smith said. “They are also regaining emotional control after being cared for for years,” he added.
The First Descents camps this summer run from two days to one week and feature kayaking, climbing and surfing expeditions free of charge to 515 participants, “with a waiting list of around a thousand,” Smith said. The waiting list is what really bothers him, he said, because donations drive the organization, and funding is what limits the number of people who can be served.
The fundraising goal for Smith’s trip, dubbed “Singletrack Across Washington,” is $5,000, according to the fundraising site, teamfd.firstdescents.org/2013/fd/singletrackacrossWA, where donations may be made.
For more information, call Larry or Missi at 996-1871.