Friday, June 10, 2011

The Beast

It rained hard all afternoon yesterday - a heavy pouring rain and then frequent thunder coming from an ominously dark sky.
Around 5pm the rain suddenly stopped and I unexpectedly saw sunshine poking through the blinds in the living room.
I stood up, walked over to the kitchen window, looked outside and was taken aback by what I saw.
The air looked green.
It was sunny and dark and green all at the same time.
I recognized that sky and if this had been Tennessee I would have been looking anxiously at the sky wondering when the tornado was going to hit. 
There were no tornadoes thankfully, and even though the sky was foreboding the weather eventually, and over the course of the next few hours, actually cleared up.
By night time there were no clouds and millions of stars and a half moon in a clear black sky.
LC took these pictures of a beautiful large rainbow (and even the start of a second rainbow in the second picture)...........
 A pheasant resting on the neighbors' fence...........
I woke up this morning, looked outside over the mountains and saw that the morning was going to be beautiful.
I also looked out over the dirt roads surrounding the house and saw that everything was a pile of beige mud.
For a short while I debated whether or not to go for a bike ride, and whether or not to ride the paved roads or head out onto BLM land.
I did not want to ride the roads.
LC half-heartedly offered to ride with me, and then waffled, and then offered and then waffled, and I finally told him that I wanted to head up into the hills on BLM and do it alone.
I love his company very much.  He is my best friend.  But I also have need to be alone often.
To be alone with my own thoughts, my own feelings, to travel at my own pace and to explore in my own time.
Today was one of those days............. 
 I did not have a specific destination in mind, and while I was I riding and enjoying the effort debated various destinations while at the same time questioning how epic of an adventure I truly felt like taking.
I ended up riding a long slow grind up towards the high ridges LC and Jamie and I had walked on a freezing and very windy late April day, until I came to this gate..........
 While standing at the closed cattle gate I again debated which way to go.
I was out of rideable trail in this direction, which meant turning around and heading off in a different direction if I wanted to continue riding my bike.
I also had the option of dropping my bike, crossing through the gate and heading into the same hills we had traversed on foot in April................
About five years ago I was in the middle of an adventure race with a male team-mate in West Virginia.
We had been racing for two straight days and were in the middle of our third night.
We were grinding out a long steep climb on our bikes up a paved mountain road.
It was the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere, very windy and cold, and freezing rain was coming in sideways at us.
As we were close to the top of the mountain a kitten came running out of the woods along the side of the road and unexpectedly followed us the entire rest of the climb.
We crested the top of this isolated place in the dark and began looking for a side road where we knew a check point was placed.
The small kitten was still with us.
We found the side road without problem and my team mate went down the road a couple hundred yards to collect the point while I watched him.
With my head lamp mounted to my bike helmet I also watched as the kitten followed my team-mate down the road.
And then I watched as the kitten got underfoot while my team-mate dismounted from his bike, punched the point, remounted and returned to where I was waiting.
By the time they both got back to where I was I looked at my team-mate and said "We can't leave him here.  He's gotta come with us."
There were no houses up there.  It was freezing.  It was freezing rain.  This little thing would never make it up there by himself in that weather.
My team-mate did not say a word.  He just looked at me.
I raced a few races with him and I came to recognize that look as one that wordlessly said "Are you outta your mind???"
We had places to go and days to race and we were standing in very awful weather in the middle of the night on some mountain in West Virginia.
Thankfully he did not expend energy arguing with me.
So the next question was how were we going to get this sweet thing off the mountain? 
Both our packs were too full.
He wouldn't fit inside our jacket pockets.
Finally I stuffed this kitten inside my jacket hoping the chest and hip straps of my pack would keep him in one place.
So there we were.
Riding mountain bikes down the back side of a mountain, on gravel roads, in the middle of the night, in freezing rain, with me carrying a kitten inside my jacket.
I could feel him squirming inside my jacket but the straps did indeed keep him in one place.
I eventually handed him over to race volunteers at the next manned check point hoping that someone - a racer, a volunteer, one of the race staff - would adopt this beautiful little thing.
He was adopted by the entire race for the duration of the race.  
Nick-named The Beast, race officials posted updates not only about the race but also the status of the race's new mascot online.
And then after the race he was indeed adopted by a racer from Florida.
Hopefully he is still living a long happy life in the sun.............

I snapped pictures while debating whether I wanted to continue biking somewhere else or whether I wanted to head further up into the hills on foot.
I ended up leaving my bike in the sage bushes and heading onto an unexplored trail..........
 After climbing a long and steep trail I unexpectedly came to this gate, looked out and saw the flat land of the Oregon Basin.
I have seen this beautiful basin many times while looking down from the hills, and I was excited to see where this new trail lead...........
 As I continued wandering the trail I made the assumption that it would follow the ridge line and eventually lead through the hills back onto "my" side of the BLM land...........
 I was loving this walk.  
Loving the views of the basin, the rocky terrain, the wild flowers along the trail..........
 As I headed further onto the trail I began to realize with delight that this trail did not follow the ridge line the entire way - that it actually headed down into the basin.
I called LC to let him know of my great discovery, and through his pleasure at my find he also reminded me there was a cougar up there somewhere.
We have talked to the neighbors and sure enough, they knew about it.   
This cat has apparently lived up in the hills for a few years, used to come down closer to homes but has not been seen down near houses for at least the past year.
Hmmm..........good to know.
I am very aware of both rattlesnakes (which have also been seen recently) and the cougar when out on BLM these days.
So awareness, but moving on and enjoying the discovery of my new trail...........
 I dropped down into the basin, enjoying the walk but all the while aware of the fact that it was going to be a long climb back up and out of this place............
 Still dropping I began to look closely at the hugely interesting rock formations that dominated the terrain.
Surprisingly I saw faces in all of them.
That sort of thing does not usually happen unless I have been racing for a long time without sleep.
I once saw a giant dead Mr Peanut lying on the side of a river in the middle of a long race.  
Top hat, monocle, cane, skinny arms and legs.  The whole deal.
A happy face rock..............
 And just like that I was down in the basin.
I was in a beautiful place, and the miles and miles of straight and flat dirt trails I had only seen while standing high in the hills were now laid out directly in front of me.
Part of me wished that I had dragged my bike up that first hill.
Miles and miles of flat riding.
Maybe another day.............
 A view looking back the way I had come..........
 More rocks topped with multiple colors of fungi, looking as though they have been haphazardly colored by young children............
 With the exception of two horse back riders I saw not long after leaving the house, I did not see any other people for the entire duration of my journey.
I saw one lone antelope and one lone chipmunk.
Aside from that I had the entire universe to myself..........
 And yet there were signs that people did indeed come this way............
 I only spent a short while out in the open fields of the basin before turning back and taking some time to explore some more of the rock formations.
Exploration from a distance though, and mindful of cats and killing fields and being alone.
I try hard to balance my need for alone time and exploration, and my need to be out in the wild, and the realization of the need for safety while doing those things...........
 Pretty blue wild flowers alongside a dry creek bed...........
 I had left the house this morning with only the meagerest of goals, namely to be alone and to be "out".
Aside from that I had left the house unsure of how I wanted the morning to actually play out.
What the morning turned out to be was an unexpected exploration of an unknown trail, and then an unexpected drop down into the Oregon Basin.
For three hours I biked and walked and took pictures and had an extremely great time.
After hiking the long and steep climb back up into the mountains I picked up the trail again and headed down towards my bike hoping that it was still there after having ditched it well over two hours before.
I hadn't actually "hid" it.
It is hard to hide a mountain bike when there are so few trees.
But this place is so isolated and quiet I felt confident that my ride home would still be where I had left it.
The ride home was uneventful until the last 10 minutes.
Riding on double track I saw that there were large deep puddles in both lanes of the trail up ahead.
As I approached the puddles I debated which one to go through to cause the least amount of dirty-muddy-water carnage to both me and my bike.
As I got closer I thought I would play it smart and ride through the middle of the trail.
I started to move from the trail to the center and BAM!
So much for playing it smart.
One moment I was upright on my bike and the next moment I was laying on my side in a puddle of mud and deeper-than-expected water.
It was a quick fall but a soft landing, and the entire right side of me from feet to shoulder was one big sloppy muddy mess.
Quickly I dragged my muddy self upright and pulled my camera out of my side pocket hoping that it was still OK.
It was muddy and slightly wet, but still workable.
Gun was still in one place on my left side, knife was still attached to my pack and muddy as hell.
I washed my bike gloves off in muddy water, made a grab for my water bottle, took a couple of drinks, mounted my muddy bike and headed for the house.
LC hosed me off before I went into the house to take a shower.
What a great trip!............

No comments:

Post a Comment