Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Fading away.

Two weeks ago we had 80 degree+ daytime temps, with semi-cool nights. You know, open-window weather as opposed to the preceding months of AC or the coming months of forced-air heat. About a week ago a storm blew in and rained a bit, the temps dropped and for the first time in months never really rebounded.

With the changing colors it'd be difficult to not notice that fall has arrived, but it never really hits home, for me, until the first frost hits.

Suddenly realizing that the precious short alpine riding season was about to snap closed, I rallied Dreamboat to head up Lands End and do a singletrack loop atop Grand Mesa with me.

We rolled out at a reasonable hour and chatted as we spun through Orchard Mesa. Dreamboat's pace seemed a little too spirited for me given what we were hoping to achieve, so I spun easy and watched as he climbed away from me on the lower slopes.

We regrouped as the pavement ended, then chatted about whatever topic presented itself and simply enjoyed the unfolding scenery. Here's Dreamboat on the lower flanks of the climb:

Leaving the PJ behind and working our way up into oak brush and aspens. The higher we got the more obvious it was how advanced the season really is. Still-green leaves on some of the lower trees in this shot, while higher up many are already denuded.

~2/3rds of the way up we pulled over for a snack and a look-e-loo. Short minutes into that break I was surprised to find myself shivering, and even Dreamboat commented that it was chillier than he'd expected.

Dream-a-rama decided that this was to be his high point for the day, so I continued up alone. Ascending into the alpine always means cooler temps, but on this day it was obvious that the temps were dropping, period, and it was all I could do to stay warm even when climbing hard.

Comic relief moment came courtesy of a man and woman (A couple, I assumed) that passed by in a sandrail as I was taking a picture. Assuming I was photographing them, the woman called out "Don't show that to my husband!" as they motored up the hill.

Snapped this one during a brief break to add a layer on the climb. Love how you can see the sinuous roadbed, as well as the desert below fading upward into alpine. I haven't checked the exact numbers but I think this ride covers a range of ~4500' to over 10k'.

From the base of the climb we'd seen a peculiar whitish spot on the capstone of the Mesa. I was without a theory on what it was, but Dreamboat seemed convinced that it had to be ice. As warm as it had seemed at the base I couldn't imagine how ice could have formed, but as I rounded the next to last switchback, chilled to the bone, it was no longer difficult to imagine.

Not necessary to imagine at all, actually.

Chilled beyond rational explanation now that I had wet hands and feet (from scrambling for closer pics), I topped out on the Mesa and went into TT mode to try to warm up a bit. The cutting wind ripped through my resolve in just a few minutes, turning me homeward without a second thought.

Dropping back through the capstone I searched out a protected-from-wind spot to eat some lunch and try to warm up. This one did the trick.

Although I wasn't more than a stone's throw from the icefall, I was tickled to find these guys clinging ferociously to life.

I could think of nothing other than friends around the world that like to live in denial at the thought of impending winter.

I executed a highly flawed CX remount and started descending, fast. Despite the sunny skies and warm 'look' to the day I had no choice but to stop, twice, and seek out wind-sheltered south facing slopes. I hid from the wind and napped in the sun until I was warm enough to continue, but even after hitting the valley floor I wore every stitch I'd brought all the way home.

Good times. May they happen to all of us more often as we tilt toward the darkness...



  1. Great stuff Mike. Yes, Fall is knocking at our door here in the Pac NW as well. Big rain drops are falling on my skylight s I write this. I also know the chill of descent. Last year a buddy of mine and I made a similar trek from sea level to 6000 feet and ended up in large snow banks lurking at altitude. He had no gloves and we ended up butchering my emergency blanket to save his hands. Lesson learned...I think.

  2. I want you to know Mike doesn't use the term Dreamboat lightly.