After grabbing my bike again I set out on the trail, and quickly found myself dropping down until I surprisingly came to a canal.
My first thought was that I did not remember seeing this water on the way in.
My second thought was that there had not been this water on the way in.
I was not on the right trail.
I headed up and back to the trail intersection stymied at this unexpected development in my travels.
At the trail intersection (where I had dropped my bike to head up onto the ridges on foot) I looked at the trails.
One led to the dead-end Private Property I had come to earlier. The other led up the hill to the ridges.
I had wandered all over for a couple of hours but what the heck was I missing here?
I stood drinking water for a few minutes (having learned the hard way over many races to think first and move second) trying to reconcile in my mind how I could have lost the trail home.
I was definitely missing something but had no idea what it was, and after stewing for a few more minutes saw a trail on the opposite side of the canal.
If I could find my way to that trail I felt certain that it would eventually hook up with a north-south trail.
Reluctantly but hopefully, I headed back down to the canal............
I dismounted from my bike and walked along the channel looking for a way to cross.
It looked deep.
There were only steep banks on either side of the canal meaning no way to maneuver me and my bike across without getting wet.
And I was concerned about getting mired in deep mud on the bottom.
I decided not to try it.
Since crossing wasn't an option I looked around for another way to get to the trail.
I learned yesterday a few telling things about BLM land:
1. Distances are much further than they look
2. The terrain is not as flat and quiet as it looks - sage brush and multitudes of small cacti make bush whacking a challenge. Different from the dense under growth of both Tennessee and Juneau Alaska, but challenging anyway.
3. There are more hills and gullies than I gave the terrain credit for........
I scoped out my surroundings still trying to find a way to the one trail I could see on the other side of the canal, bush whacked for a good while through scratchy and dense sage brush getting nowhere fast and finally and reluctantly decided "to hell with it".
I was going to get out of the low land, head back up the trail, and straight line north across country..........
I lifted and carried my bike though sage and cactus trying hard to protect my tires from the ever-present thorny terrain.
Eventually I hit one more trail that once again dropped down to the canal.
Over six years of racing there were a couple of times when my team unexpectedly found itself in a vortex.
When nothing made sense - when we found ourselves moving in circles, trying to reconcile the map with the terrain and when the terrain seemed to keep pulling us back instead of spitting us out so that we could continue on.
It always happened late at night when we were tired, when we had either overestimated or underestimated the distance we had traveled, when we were working too hard to make the map "fit" with the terrain in front of us.
Yesterday I was stuck in a vortex..........
Somewhere around this time LC called me and I brought him up-to-speed on what was going on.
As I talked on the phone I looked around me and disappointingly realized that for all my recent time and effort, I had only traveled a very short distance.
I was frustrated with my lack of progress but I was not concerned - there was still plenty of daylight left, I had no food but had water and first aid supplies and a firearm.
Heart Mountain was at 11 o'clock and Carter Mountain was at my 7.
Where they were supposed to be.
But even though I knew where I needed to go I was having difficulty actually moving in that direction.
Frustrated, not concerned, and more committed to just bush whack until I actually came across a trail that was heading in the right direction.
I walked, lifted and picked up my bike and headed across country - up hills, up and down gullies, across flats and sage brush.
At one point I came to a barbed wire fence, lifted my bike up and over it and then crawled underneath it.
As I climbed underneath I realized quickly that I had unexpectedly found a cactus.
Yesterday was the first time I had to pull thorns out of my butt.........
After a long haul I eventually found myself simply walking my bike.
Predictably my front tire was getting softer by the minute - a slow leak but a definite leak, but my back tire was hanging tough.
I had done a lot of bush whacking.
There were hills immediately to my right but they did not feel right.
Heart and Carter were both where they were supposed to be but something wasn't right and hadn't felt right for a while.
What was I missing? What was I missing?
And then I had it.
As I continued walking and pushing I looked ahead of me and saw a very very large patch of green and yellowish vegetation that looked very different from the faded and dusty shades of green in the rest of the terrain.
And that is when I realized that I was again heading for that damned canal.
I realized that I had been veering north-west instead of north and that I had inadvertently worked my way down into the valley.
Since I was in the valley there were no trails.
And that was why the hills on my right had felt wrong to me.
They WERE wrong.
They WERE wrong.
I could not see them, but I instantly knew that the right hills were up over the rise.
And if the right hills were up over the rise so was the trail.
LC called me around that same time and I told him about my epiphany.
He told me that he was heading out that way and I told him that he did not need to do that because I knew where I was and was heading for home. He said that he was already on the trails making his way to me and I told him I would see him soon.
I climbed up this hill, half pushing and half carrying my bike with its soft but still not flat front tire, got up over the rise, looked around me and felt relieved.
The hills in front of me were the right hills.
I now knew exactly where I was. I was relieved but also realized that I was a LONG way from the trail.
A lot more sage brush open and flat land to maneuver before I was home free..........
The valley and canal behind me............
I was still a good way from the trail when I saw LC's truck.
Although I told him that I did not need him out there I was tired and thirsty and glad to see him.
Glad that I would not have to change out my front tube before continuing home.
Glad to see him and James.
Glad for the can of Coke he brought with him figuring that I would be thirsty.
We loaded my bike into the bed of the truck and LC asked if I wanted to go straight home or drive with him to the hardware store so that he could buy some tool or other for cutting wood.
I went for a drive, listening to lame jokes about Jamie having to come out and round up momma.
And on the way home, just a few minutes from the house, Jamie and I at the same time saw a fox cross the road in front of us.
I took these pictures of the little guy while he was hidden in the tall grass.........
The day turned out to be much longer than I expected but truthfully I had a really great time.
On one trip onto BLM land I had seen bulls and horses and a hawk and rabbits and a pheasant and deer and antelope.
I had worked hard, gotten lost, gotten found, got a flat tire (actually two flat tires because by the time we made our way to the house both front and back tires were toast), had multiple adventures, was very sore and pretty scratched up, and found the alone time that I so desperately needed.
"I asked myself what I believed. I had never prayed a lot. I hoped hard, wished hard, but I didn't pray. I had developed a certain distrust of organised religion growing up, but I felt I had the capacity to be a spiritual person, and to hold some fervent beliefs. Quite simply, I believed I had a responsibility to be a good person, and that meant fair, honest, hardworking and honorable. If I did that, if I was good to my family, true to my friends, if I gave back to my community or to some cause, if I wasn't a liar, a cheat, or a thief, then I believed that should be enough. At the end of the day, if there was indeed some Body or presence standing there to judge me, I hoped I would be judged on whether I had lived a true life, not on whether I believed in a certain book, or whether I'd been baptised."
— Lance Armstrong (It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life)
— Lance Armstrong (It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life)