Sunday, June 7, 2009

Paradise? In *June*?

Hopped onto the road bike yesterday, intent on heading *up* to greener pastures. We've had a delightfully cool June thus far, but that fact hasn't been able to quell my longing for time spent in the alpine.

So up I went.

Two hours of climbing brought me here:

Cool, shaded, zero traffic, and although still on the margin of the desert at ~7500', it didn't feel much like desert.

The overall greenness of the place and riotous vegetation felt decidedly alpine, red dirt beneath the only clue that spoke otherwise.

Another 30 minutes of climbing brought me over 8000' and under this massive monarch.

The circle of shade cast beneath this tree spanned 30+ feet at midday. And it demanded a nap. With The Missus in MN and it being a weekend, there was no reason to rush to get back to the shop.



What a great idea!

With pack as pillow I settled in easily...

... and woke an indeterminate time later, feeling decidedly refreshed and downright cool. Outside the protective circle of shade it was 80+ degrees, inside of it I'd been woken by a shiver.

I checked to make sure no one was looking before peeling off a small hunk o' bark and holding it to my nose. Damn tree huggin' hippies are right--it *does* smell like vanilla...

Feeling a bit lethargic, I decided to up the blood sugar with jussssst the right combo of corn syrup and red 40:

Then it was time to climb some mo'. The ascent thus far hadn't been particularly taxing, the afternoon wasn't hot, and the wind wasn't particularly fierce. Still, for some reason I just couldn't get back on top of *any* gear the rest of the day. Could it have been the break? The nap? The fact that I rarely ride more than 3 hours at a stretch anymore?

Maybe it was due to the grade and roughness of the road? The 9000' of elevation?

Dunno. In the absence of a more compelling reason I'm blaming the flora, and the cool alpine air. Too precious to waste, must be savored...

Pre-ride I had drawn and uploaded a crude GPS track leading to a secluded lake on public lands, and had packed my folding fly rig in hopes of landing a trout or two. That plan was foiled when I followed the GPS track to this point:

The sign gave mixed messages, with the bold text warning against trespassing yet the finer print seemed to suggest that travel on the road was permissible.

After a brief moment of deliberation I decided to move on through, but when I went to open the gate I was met with this:


I checked the GPS to make sure I hadn't strayed from my track. Nope. Since I was still on it, I *knew* that I was on public land. What the H-E-doublehockeysticks was this locked gate all about?

Then I noticed these:

Again, WTF?

Guess I won't get a running start and try to bash it down...

I shrugged it off, hoisted the bike over, then hopped to the other side and continued riding, but only *after* making a mental note to call the USFS and local sheriff on Monday morning.

Although the scenery was every bit as subtly stunning as before, I couldn't shake the funk I'd picked up back at the gate.

Why should I be so miffed at the idea of private property? Would I want just anyone to be able to let themselves into my house/shop/yard whenever they felt like it? Would you?

I can only speak for myself, but of course not--I value my privacy *and* my property. So what was bugging me so much about these folks feeing similarly?

I think it was just the signage that did it. I can respect a fence just the same as a closed door, but the signs seemed unnecessarily blunt and rude, as if they went beyond 'Please respect our privacy' to 'Stay the hell out, unwashed bourgeois free-thinking dirtbag!'.

When I arrived at the shoreline I found a few homes, much earthmoving in prep for yet more homes, a lake full of silty runoff from the excavation, and this:

For the first time in my life I felt like this sign, or rather its message, was pointed directly at me. I pissed on the base of it in disgust, then turned and left.

The remains of the day featured scenery so austere as to be painful. Or perhaps that was just my overly dramatic interpretation of it, now that it seemed so much of it was under lock and key.

Who(m) are these people? Why so worried about vacant land and lakes? I told myself that they must be venture capitalists, or investment bankers--either way they hadn't truly earned this land, hence they were in constant fear of losing it.

The reality was that my oxygen deprived conjecturing could only have missed the mark. I truly didn't know and couldn't guess, so I tried to put the conundrum out of my head by stopping in a meadow and turning my attention to everything within immediate view: Cerulean sky, quaking aspens, verdant grasses, the vibration of life (birds, bugs, rodents), the breeze caressing all of it.

And it was good. For awhile.

Immediately upon resuming travel I came to this:

Which brought out a handful of vitriolic knee jerks, like: Can real sportsmen spell? Or count?!


Continued yet descending, coming to this all encompassing view of Little Park, Glade Park, the Bookcliffs, Roan Cliffs, Grand Mesa, and the bulk of the Grand Valley.

Followed immediately by:


When finally I hit pavement and headed in earnest for home, I was stuck on the idea of private property. Can't blame folks for wanting to have their privacy. But I also cannot understand the massive amounts of signage, nor the mentality behind it.

A genuine conundrum in my teeny little underutilized melon...

The rest of the ride down was uneventful.

Tis the season folks--get out in it every chance you can!



  1. Could be they've been taking lessons from our litigious society. By posting the signs, if you get yourself hurt or worse, they can point to those copious signs and say, "See! We warned them, but they did it anyway."

    The barriers on public roads (or even "private" ones that serve multiple people) irritate me for some yet undefined reason. I'll let you know when I figure out what it is about the gated/closed community that bugs me so much.

    Great pics. Wish I was there.

  2. If there is one thing what I am afraid of, in the land of freedom, called U.S., it's those signs! I like your country but I am looking forward to return to Europe were I won't find such signs on the trail!

  3. Sounds like you've been listening to the Five Man Electrical Band - check out their song "Signs" if you're not familiar with it.

    Signs on private property have become both a blight and necessary evil. Here it TX, public land is at a premium, and most everything is privately owned. Hate to see the signs b/c generally, they do diminish the aesthetics. However, I certainly understand a property owner wanting to protect something they value. I have nothing against property owners & property rights - my guess is that most everyone reading this owns something material - and if you do, you would like others to care for it as much as you do. It's just an indictment of the age that some people don't have the manners/sensibilities to respect another's property.

    On a lighter note - great pictures. After a ride like that, you should be walking on the clouds!!!

  4. Hey Mike, you riding less than three hours at a time? Things have changed since the old days at Donitas! Hope all is well with you and drop me a line when you have some time? P.S. I don't think I'll try your weight loss program. Talk to ya soon, Lortre

  5. It's things like that, that sure make me happy where I am.

  6. Nice post Mike. Got me to thinking, none of this belongs to us....not really. Maybe that's just me though.

    Anyway, those signs are kinda funny, scary, and stupid all at once.

    Just came back from Kansas. Can't say I saw anything like that on the open range we rode through. Yeah...I just said "open range". How much of that are you going to find out there anymore? Gettin' to be less all the time. Enjoy it while you can indeed!

  7. But what happened when you called about it on Monday like you said you would?

  8. Wow, what an amazing collection of signage. I'm always amazed at how many homes are seemingly being built in the mountains, yet all I hear about is how the housing market is dead. I guess it's only dead to folks who aren't uber rich.

    Always an amazing collection of photos and words.