Sunday, November 8, 2015

November light through the pines

Yesterday I was biking in the canyon and the afternoon light coming through the pines seemed like a gift - an extravagant gift on such a chilly, snow-dusted November day. This time of year the sunlight doesn't reach parts of the canyon until late in the day. The single shaft of light was so subtly beautiful that it was almost heartbreaking.  But maybe it was just my mood.

I ride and hike this trail in every season and never tire of it.  The shadows are different depending on the time of day and of course, the plants and flowers change with the seasons and so there's always something new.  There is a peace and comfort in knowing a place this well.  And since I usually mountain bike it, I sometimes feel like I could ride it blind, like the Jedi force ~ bumping my way down it from sheer memory.  Groove and flow.

The trail is a steady and steep uphill climb to a meadow.  Yesterday I wanted to make it to the meadow where I knew I'd be flooded with light and rewarded with a beautiful view.  But the snow got deeper the higher I climbed and turned to a sugary consistency - I couldn't get traction.  I had to turn around just before the meadow, I was out of steam to push my bike the rest of the way.  But here is the reward - I pointed my bike downhill and let 'er go. First without any regard for the skiff of snow until I had one scary skid that made my legs shake. I stopped to put on a jacket and my chin bar and rode the rest of it a little slower.  But still on the edge of control, letting it rip on the bare dirt, careening over the rocks, popping over obstacles and feeling every molecule of my being entirely alive and in the moment.  When I got back to my truck at the trailhead the sun was low enough in the sky to hit me full on and I finally warmed up, hot tea with honey, sitting on the tailgate of my truck -- and feeling like the luckiest person in the world.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

White Rim in a Day - Canyonlands National Park

I was invited by a dear friend to join her and two other friends to ride the White Rim in a day (WRIAD).  I was plenty intimidated - the White Rim Trail is a 103-mile loop on a jeep road through Canyonlands National Park. We did 85 miles by cutting off the boring pavement section.  

The route isn't technical.  Still, I had to train for it and truth be told, I'm a tad lazy.  My most favorite thing to do is ride downhill ~ as fast as a middle-aged mom can. But it sounded fun: 1) this bunch of women would be a blast to ride with 2) it would be beautiful; and 3) you are only young once (as said to me by a very courageous and adventurous woman that I admire!) But cheese and rice, I'd never ridden more than 50 miles on my mountain bike in day (and the 50-miler was when I was 22 years old).

As for elevation gain, the bulk of the ride is pretty easy. Most of the climbing is tackled with three major climbs (Murphy's Hogback, Hardscrabble Hill, and the Mineral Bottom Switchbacks).  The average grade is only 2% and the maximum grade is 56%.  The killer is at the end with the Mineral Bottom Switchbacks netting 1400 feet in elevation gain in the last mile and a half.

The major climbs add up to 4000 vertical feet, but if you recorded every little up-and-down it's more like 6000 feet total.  Per, most riders spend 3 or 4 days riding this trail and use a support vehicle to haul their gear to the campsites...two days = Monster; one day = Lunatic.

We were going for lunatic, but w
e did have a support vehicle, which met us for lunch and resupplied us with water.  It would have been near impossible to carry enough water for 90-degree heat.  He was also our shuttle at the end.

The riding surface on the four wheel drive jeep road was packed sediment, sand pits, silt pits and slick rock.

It was an amazing and epic trip.   The country is so vast that you can't even fathom it.  The area is by permit only so we only saw about a dozen vehicles and people the entire day.  And at the end of the day, I felt pretty darn good.   I was saddle sore and my triceps ached, maybe from hanging on to the brakes on the first descent.  I would do it again -- but next time I'm riding fat.

I love this picture.  You can see the barest hint of a headlamp on the right, and two morning stars.  There was no ambient light when we started out.  Kristin's headlamp died and so I had to be her wingman on the descent.  It was a little hairy.

These are the Shaffer Switchbacks that we descended in the dark.   We knew it was a drop but I don't think we grasped how big. 

Another view of the switchback descent.

Easy miles - while it was cool out.

Suzanne, who did a fabulous job planning it all!
Kristin.  We put away a good number of miles before the sun even came up.

It wasn't technical but most of the road was varied enough to be interesting.

Emma - who never once walked her bike - not through sand or silt nor up the steepest hill.

Murphy's Hogback was the first major hill of the climb.  We hit it right before lunch at about mile 40.  It was so hot on the back side (with no breeze) that I felt like throwing up.  Except for right after lunch when I ate too much, this was the only time that I didn't feel so great. 

The bathrooms were about 10 miles apart and the only shade.  We took advantage of them.

This is later in the day when we plugged into our music and dug deep.  I was listening to a kick-ass soundtrack (from Where the Trail Ends) and watching these women fly through the vast desert.  It was magical.

It was great when we finally dropped down next to the Green River.  It felt a little bit cooler, at least psychologically.

Emma, climbing everything. 

The last 20 miles or so had a series of sand and silt pits.

Lunch included cold watermelon and ice water, woo-hoo!

Shade at lunch.

Next time I'm carrying my water like this.

There were some fun sections, too.  Punchy little uphill and downhill.

Em and K

My family wrote inspirational messages that were sealed in an envelope - to be opened at mile 40, 60, 70 and at the end.  For me, I dedicated a 10 mile section to different friends and family.  The last 15 miles were for a very special family friend, Chryssie, that encouraged me to do the trip.  I probably wouldn't have done it if it weren't for her.  


This is the end.  Climbing from the river bottom 1400 feet to the top of the rim.

When I finished I felt like I had just joined the bad-ass girls' club.  These women are amazing.

Suzanne - YESSSSS!
Friends, a beautiful sunset and beer.