Monday, February 4, 2013

Into the Gila.

Crisp, clear, bluebird dawn.  Cold breath vaporizing out of sleeping bags into arid, warm, low desert air.  Clear vistas to mountains distant and near.  Moist soil, good friends, laden bikes, empty trail.


Time to ride.

Shortcut to the goods.

The bikes feel awkward at first--more than the added load of overnight gear can account for.  Coming from a deep-frozen and snow-covered world, it just feels odd to ride with so little effort.  Almost as odd as nekkid skin caressed by morning sun.

In January?  Pinch me.

Actually, wait.  Not yet.

Skippy was mentally overwhelmed at the outset of his virgin overnight bike mission, but soon settled into a groove.  Just like ridin' a bike, kid.

Desert sentinels loomed, friendly, or maybe just indifferent.  Perhaps on a blue sky day like this everything seems friendly.

The trail was an intermediate paradise.  Neither technical nor boring, it required a bit of attention but left plenty of moments for attention to wander.

My attention kept getting pulled above and to the right.  "Scott!  I wanna go over there!"

"All part of the plan!" came his reply.

Like the rest of us, Skippy allowed his attention to drift away from the trail tread.  Unlike the rest of us, Skippy hadn't filled his tires with desert-proof goop.  Thus we had ample opportunity to relax, eat, and snicker in his direction while he paid the price once, twice, thrice.

Scott led us up and to the right, where the views, scenery, and light all seemed to be pulling our winter-weary carcasses.

This here view made it all worthwhile.

Vast desert, little us.

And on we climbed.

Greg is visible at right-center, for perspective.

No one was sure what this saguaro was trying to tell Scott.  We decided to act as though we hadn't noticed.  Meanwhile, That Guy fixed yet another flat.

Drooping shadows matched my fading legs.

Scott sings Skippy up the hill.

Please continue to refrain from pinching me.

And still we climbed as views increased, here looking south toward Mount Lemmon.

Greg and Scott seemed to have boundless energy, while Skippy looked as rough as I felt.

And still we climbed.

Sunset loomed, the trail remained eminently rideable, my legs were hollowed out husks, and still we couldn't see the top.

Not that I was in any hurry to be elsewhere.  Wrapping around a fin and into this inner gorge was a surreal, stop-and-take-note moment.  Am I really here?

Is Scott really there?

Greg?  Izzat you, here, now?

I've always maintained that living in the Arizona desert must make one weak--no snow to shovel, nor bracing mornings to head out into, no dead car batteries to force a readjustment of one's day, mood, priorities.

And I stick to that.  But I'm also glad that the Arizona desert is where and how it is, giving those of us with some semblance of real winter a relatively easy and worthwhile escape.

Eventually the climbing ceased, or at least we reached a flat place with room enough for four sleeping bags.  And there we stopped, dropped, ate, and crashed, not necessarily in that order.

Thanks for checkin' in.