Veteran rides through Craig on his way down to Mexico | CraigDailyPress.com

Veteran rides through Craig on his way down to Mexico

Mike Umbarger with Warrior Expeditions rode through town Monday, Sept. 9 on his way south from the Canadian border.
Clay Thorp/Staff

He sleeps under the stars most nights when he’s in the middle of nowhere.

And on Monday, Mike Umbarger, 50, rode into Craig a few days before the anniversary of Sept. 11 after a long journey from the Canadian border as part of Warrior Expeditions’ Ride the Divide for Warriors.

The 501c3 has been sending America’s veterans across the country into the great outdoors for years now after it was started by Marine Corps veteran Sean Gobin, who hiked all 2,185 miles of the Appalachian Trail in 2012 and founded the nonprofit soon after to recognize “the therapeutic effects of long distance hiking,” according to the organization’s website, warriorexpeditions.org.

Umbarger, a veteran of Desert Storm from Orlando, Florida, said he’s one of 37 veterans across the country participating in a Warrior Expeditions events this year. The group also has hiking and paddling expeditions for veterans in need of nature’s solace, but Umbarger’s expedition will take him on a bike from Canada all the way down to Mexico.

“I have everything to be totally self-supportive,” Umbarger said of his bike loaded down with camping and survival gear. “…The majority of this trip is all wilderness camping.”

As he caught his breath Monday in front of Alice Pleasant Park on Yampa Avenue, a hungry Umbarger swiped at his phone looking for a good meal in Craig.

“Where’s a good place to eat?” he asked.

On Sunday, Umbarger said he had his fill of the area’s scattered thunderstorms.

“Yesterday I got hit by a huge storm and it turned the dirt road I was on… to a muddy mess,” Umbarger said.

Luckily a local sheriff’s deputy was out hunting in the isolated area, so Umbarger and his mud-locked bike were able to hitch a ride to the nearest town.

“My drivetrain wouldn’t turn anymore,” Umbarger said.

Umbarger said his group is currently fundraising to send five additional veterans on expeditions next year. Those wishing to donate can do so at Warrior Expeditions’ Facebook donation link — a good cause, according to Umbarger — as the tax deductible donations help ensure veterans get all their gear and expenses taken care of at no cost to them. He said those donations go mostly to gear that each veteran gets to keep.

“They get to keep the gear when they’re done,” Umbarger said.