SHIPROCK — Echoes of conversations were heard as bike riders paused after riding to the base of the Shiprock pinnacle.
They gathered at the rock formation on Nov. 26 during the Ride to the Rock, a fitness activity organized by Strong Warriors and NavajoYES to celebrate health and wellness and to honor Native American Heritage Month.
When they resumed the ride, some zipped down the decline from the base then continued on nearby trails.
That exploration was one reason the activity took place at the pinnacle. The other reason was to unite families and community members through fitness.
“To me, if it’s a positive experience and a positive memory, it’s going to encourage you to want to continue,” Strong Warriors founder Toqua Ticeahkie said.
Strong Warriors has been organizing community fitness events in Native communities since 2010 – starting in Oklahoma then in the Navajo Nation when Ticeahkie started working at Four Corners Regional Health Center in Red Mesa, Arizona.
Ride to the Rock was Strong Warriors first event since the coronavirus pandemic began.
Approximately 50 riders were at the location when the event started after 10 a.m. Riders were comprised of all ages, from intermediate biking skills to advanced.
Shane Rakestraw completed 10.3 miles, including riding the trail that loops the rock formation.
“The ride was awesome. It was beautiful,” Rakestraw said.
The event received help from NavajoYES and its Diné Bike Project, whose personnel offered bike repairs, distributed trail guides to places on the tribal land and answered questions about the pinnacle route.
Diné Bike Project coordinator Aaron Beauford said that during the pandemic, people turned to the outdoors to stay active, and Ride to the Rock builds on that as well as providing space for people to gather safely.
“I feel this is a good way to bring people closer to each other again,” Beauford said.
NavajoYES program staff Rygie Bekay explained that it can be costly for families to participate in activities held in border towns, so an event like this brings fitness to the local level.
“Biking is not here, but all around,” Bekay said.
Diana Yellow rode with family members to the pinnacle.
She said what spurred interest “was the activity, riding the bikes, being out in the open and seeing the Shiprock rock,” Yellow said.
She lives in Fruita, Colorado, and has been visiting family in the area.
Since she is from out of town and did not have a bike, she borrowed one from Strong Warriors, which had several bikes for adults and children to use for the ride.
Yellow said the ride inspired her to think about purchasing in a bike when she gets home.
“I liked trying to go up a hill and working my legs – challenging myself,” she said adding that she told herself that she can complete the route.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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