Monday, September 22, 2008

CDT ST, day 6+

The wind slapped us around all night long, whipping the tarps into a flapping frenzy and guaranteeing that real honest-to-goodness sleep never happened for more than a few seconds at a time. Camped as we were near the lakeshore, each time a gust ripped through the trees it'd bring a succession of waves landward. Waves lapping at the shore sounded an awful lot like a large carnivore whetting its whistle, or slopping noisily along the waters edge.

Easy to imagine that last while half-sleeping in a strange place through the deep dark of a blustery night...

Dawn seemed to come later than usual, finding us chilled and groggy and needing a good climb to get warmed up and clear out the mental haze. Fortunately, we had no choice but to ascend semi-steeply right off the bat.

So groggy and out of sorts was I that for the first few hours composing pics held little allure and I simply rode, and gawked, and enjoyed each moment as it passed. A rarity for me and not an unpleasant one. Eventually the alpine scenery aroused me from that strange slumber and I leaned the bike near the edge of a talus field for an on-high perspective of Scott riding past. I pushed buttons, twiddled dials, sighted my subject and then, with an altogether inappropriate-to-the-grandeur-of-the-scene 'beep' received confirmation that my perspective of that moment had been immortalized.

Then on we went.

Although the motivation to snap pics had returned, the coordination to do so wasn't necessarily present. Seconds later I clumsily exited a switchback and saw another perspective that seemed worthy of a pic. Knowing that Scott was close behind, I rushed to dismount the bike, lean it, fetch the camera, power it up, aim, fiddle, and fire all in the space of about 6.2 heartbeats. Somewhere before I'd extracted the camera things went awry, with the result that I became entangled in the bike and went tumbling down into a talus field. It was an ugly fall.

I came to rest on my chin with the bike on my back, and needed more than a second to disentangle myself enough to take stock of the situation. Dabbing the back of my glove to my chin showed no blood (yet), so I turned my attention to the other apparent aches slowly clamoring for attention. The most obvious was a finger pointing roughly 90 degrees to any orientation I had yet seen. Ow. I removed my glove to verify the injury, then relocated the digit using inline traction. Examining closely the already bulbous joint produced an odd queasy feeling in the pit of my gut, which rose quickly and threatened to dislodge the meager breakfast I'd eaten short hours before. Without much thought I remounted the bike, determined to ride (and encourage) the wave of adrenaline that followed the crash, in hopes that it could override the nausea. Seemed to work, as joint swelling and an immediate dull ache were the worst I'd have to complain about through this day and the next.

Blazing ever downward into Idaho, the trail reentered the trees and, confusingly, became more rocky, ledgy, and technical as it descended.

We bottomed out over 3000' lower only to find a virtually unrideable ascent stretching back up to the divide. Lacking any other option, we pushed our bikes up the unrelenting pitch, occasionally breaking to snack on trailside berries as they presented themselves. By the apex of the climb my gut was full of fruit and my gloves were permanently stained from their juices.

Life seemed pretty good at that moment. It was then that I realized I had achieved what all vacations should at least set out to do: I had shed the concerns of my day-to-day existence and was living, as they say, in the moment. The broken digit, the endless slaving ascents, the lack of sleep, the incessant wind, the interminable filthiness--all of it added up to something not much worthy of consideration as I grinned through gaping mouthfuls of overripe berries.

Perspective thus adjusted, I grinned even bigger.

The ensuing miles were different from those past only in that my perspective had altered and with it came a lighter frame of mind. Gentler grades, sweetwater springs, duff trail, and slanted light that spoke of autumn more than summer.

On into the afternoon and evening we followed the ridgeline separating east from west, Atlantic from Pacific, distant panicked snobbery from less distant groovy-hippiedom. At some point the trail tipped upward at an attention getting grade, and up we pushed for a time. Regrouping at a knoll a short discussion ensued, wherein it was decided that given all of the collective route knowledge that we possessed, backtracking to a forest road and descending to a highway was likely our best course of action.

And that's just what we did.

The trip wasn't ended there--they never are. More effort and struggle was involved than either of us had expected, intended, or planned for, but a day later and with rejuvenated spirits we found ourselves smiling and recounting the finer points of the trip as we drove easily southward to resume our everyday existences.

As always, we're already discussing and looking forward to the next one.

Thanks for reading.

MC