I've seen uglier ways to start a day.
The climb started mellow enough.
But before we even had our heart rates elevated the pitch and chunk level increased so substantially that we had no choice with what happened next.
Walking is a good way to get acquainted with the local flora. If indeed it can be called that.
Back home we have a few sharp rocks and very few cactus. Here it seems that what isn't sharp rock is cactus, and vice versa. Everything is pointy, and all of it will be painful to fall on. Note to self: don't!
After the initial push the climb was very friendly, offering mellow grades and moderate tech challenges over it's ~9 mile length.
With crisp blue skies, low 50's temps, and the trail to ourselves, we fell into an easy rhythm of climbing at our own preferred paces. Only when one of us stopped for a pic would the others pass, which worked out well as we all seemed interested in photogeeking on the new-to-us scenery. Skippy coined the term 'pictopaceline' and it seemed to fit.
Someone felt the spirit of the season so acutely they lugged tinsel and balls many miles to decorate this palo verde.
And then, we climbed some more.
I could see no point in dwelling on the fact that back home they were digging out from a fresh foot of snow, after which the temps had dropped below zero. What good would guilt do me here, now? I decided to embrace the moment and simply enjoy the sun, the sky, and the alien vegetation--I'd be back home soon enough.
Soon after, the trail stopped climbing. We lounged in the sun, ate a bit, then added a layer (or armor, or both) for the descent.
Then down we went. I find myself at a loss for words in trying to describe the difficulty of cleaning this trail. It's not the steepest and it's far from the chunkiest that I've ridden, but somehow it combines the two in such a way that you've gotta be a solid tech rider *and* having a pretty good day to even come close to cleaning every move.
None of us cleaned it--not by a longshot. But we had fun trying certain sections a second or third time to see if we could contort ourselves enough to punch a wheel past a stopper or squeak one through a gap. Lots of laughing, lots of smiling, lots of concentration.
It *is* supposed to be fun, right?
The sun hovered along a western ridgeline, dropping about as fast as we were and giving us stunning warm light to navigate down by.
After ~3 miles of on-the-edge-of-our-seats fun we hit the wash and swooped back to the truck.
In the parking lot big grins and high fives were shared, partly from the goodness of the day, partly from the knowledge that there were 4 more days of it to go.