Monday, June 10, 2019

A ride, recently: Pleasantly surprised.

Heading to the alpine in June is usually an exercise in patience while postholing through snowdrifts.  More often it means tucking tail and retreating when the melange of snowslushmud becomes too thick, too sloppy, too unenjoyable, too damaging.

Knowing that the winter past deposited quantities of snow beyond what we think of as "normal", and understanding that spring has likewise been wetter and cooler than expected, Jeny and I lubed the dusty chains on our fatbikes and headed up to ~11k.

What we found shouldn't have surprised us.  At 9k the ground was soft but trees had leafed out and the world felt green, fresh.  At 10k there were few leaves and patchy snow interlaced with fallen limbs and frozen mud.  Above 11k there were few hints of spring as snow 7' deep still covered everything.

The only real hints of spring that I could readily see were this moth -- still alive yet frozen to the surface -- and riotous birdsong hitting us from every direction at once.

Normally we avoid the alpine at this time of year largely because the valley floors are still delightful with reasonable temps and overwhelming wildflower displays.  This year has been different in ways large and small, with the result that the alpine crust remains eminently rideable far beyond its normal time frame.

Early on the surface was frozen hard enough to ride pretty much any tire at any pressure, but within the span of ~3 hours it morphed into silky soft corn.  Consciously and subconsciously you were tuned into the cardinal directions as eastern and southern aspects became loose and challenging while northern and western stayed firm.  I found myself wanting to climb the latter, even aggressively sidehilling as needed, then to cross over and descend the edgeable, carvable former.

Beyond the first 5 minutes we never touched actual trail, opted instead to explore everywhere but: the places we see but cannot get to the rest of the winter.  We quickly tuned in to milking the terrain for advantage -- not unlike riding a skatepark -- where pointing it straight up or straight down was a waste of energy and momentum.  Pumping and carving contours gave the best bang for the buck, the most smiles per mile. 

With so much rock already exposed and so much sun happening here this time of year, crust season may have been delayed but it is still as ephemeral as ever.  Hope to get back up within the week to savor it at least one more time.

Thanks for checkin' in.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

A ride, recently: Date night.

Summer has not yet arrived and already we find ourselves committed to too many things with not enough time to truly savor them all.  

Activities keep us focused, engaged, motivated, yet we seem to have trouble with the balance part of the equation.  Always wondering how it got to be __ o'clock already, and with so much more to be done...

Thus the need to carve out time for us.  Away from work, screens, friends.  Grab bikes, ditch devices, go.

Even still, time is needed to shed the concerns of the day, to let go of that which still needs to be sorted out by tomorrow.  Have to let go before you can hope to find the rhythm to the ride.  Herky jerky climbing and breathing need to be focused on, until they smooth out.  And then they don't.

At some point, different every time, the scenery and the fact that you're enjoying it with your best friend take over.  Laughs come more easily, nods of appreciation automatic as she points out a trailside curiosity or a distant vista.

On this evening the honey light and abundant colorful flora take center stage.  A near-record winter for precip means the wildflower season has been off the hook.  Feels like the year of the mariposa to me, but that could just be because of the specific loops I've been riding.

Our loop is not ambitious, by design.  The point is to be out, and together, and anything beyond that -- conversation, laughs, stories -- is just gravy.

We finish at dusk, the mood light, the feeling relaxed, then head home for a meal punctuated with strawberries from the garden.

Life is good.

Thanks sweetie.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Chasing the desert spring.

Which some might alternately refer to as "fleeing winter".

Anyone that might think that way likely wasn't camping in near/sub freezing temps with us on many of the below pictured sojourns, dunking boots in the river each morning to thaw them enough to wedge feet inside.

Spring in the American West -- west of the divide, east of the ocean -- starts early down low and can be chased for literal months.  River trips taken as the desert shakes off winter are cold.  They are definitely more about embracing what's in front of you than avoiding what's back at home.  Short, chilly days.  Long cold nights.  Achingly cold water.  Bitter driving rains.  Sometimes sleet and snow.

The upshot -- and my main impetus -- is that desert rivers are deserted when it's cold.  Which gives one both time and space to ruminate, and peace within which to do it.

Spring can be chased but never fully caught.  The landscape is too diverse, weather and flows too ephemeral.  Done right, it ends up being less of a chase and more of a following: Proceeding along behind the first sand verbena in January, admiring yet avoiding phacelia in February, chomping onion and aster in March, being happily blinded by arrowroot and poppy in April, primrose and mariposa in May, and finally -- the siren song for the desert spring -- accepting the arrival of globemallow early in June.  Browning meadows spotted with brilliant orange always elicit a sigh of resignation: Summer.

Growing up where I did I vaguely knew about something called "the Mojave" but never fully grasped how much desert there is separate from that.  Pics and video herein were captured west of about the 103rd meridian, in the deserts of Arizona, California, Utah, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, and Nevada.  Haven't touched New Mexico, Wyoming, or Montana this spring -- though deserts exist there, too.

An enormous winter lambasted the alpine with feet upon feet of snow.  Many snotels -- even now, at the end of May -- have yet to deviate significantly from their peak snowpack.

Which means that while desert rivers have been running for half the year, the alpine rivers have not yet roared to life.  Soon.

Which is utterly fine with me.  I hope to embrace the last of the desert river season in Utah over the next few days before turning attention closer to home.

Thanks for checkin' in.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Seasonal gyrations.

Spring continues her slow motion steamroll over us, like so many dank clouds silently stomping across a moody sky.

Rains have been shockingly prevalent and oh so welcome.  A creek that sometimes only runs every 3rd or 4th season unceremoniously ejected us off of it a few days ago with too much water.  Going to have to get used to that this year.

Because spring is also my busy time in the shop, and because so many friends stream through the valley en route out of the mountains and into the desert, a kitten working back to back 14 hour days can start to feel a bit caged and -- if she isn't careful -- begin to sense that she's missing out.

Loading up the van with a bike, a boat, and some food and heading to less traveled pastures for a few days is a quick way to cure that.  Or maybe not cure, but at least tamp it down for a spell.

Checked out a little place in the desert west of here to see about maybe relocating...

...then decided the neighborhood might be a little rough.

Swung north from there to inhale some late winter alpine air, but got sidetracked by the moment of spring that I found on the edge of -- and just below -- the alpine.

Met some friends in a spot that none of us get to often enough, and spent the day moving too fast and being immersed (more literally for some than others) into what we came for.

Headed home for a few days to build wheels, answer emails, order in more inventory, do a load of laundry, and snag a few rides on the fringes where the tourists don't yet know to go.

Key word = yet.

Then headed south and west and met a different subset of friends to poke our noses into a different drainage.

A wise man that probably needn't be named once said that "Life moves pretty fast.  If you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it."

That's a simple summation of how things have been around here of late.

Thanks for checkin' in.