This is something no one can force
besides knowing it’s there there’s nothing to know
once the moon shines above a flowering plum
it’s too late to look at the blossoms
translated by Red Pine in The Mountain Poems of Stonehouse
A Wild Sheep Chase
I was up early this morning early enough to see the rising sun tint the clouds above the river bend. I set off early as well, to get ahead of the heat as always, but also there was challenging terrain ahead. Immediately I was in Colorado though no welcoming sign was to be had. Almost as quickly I turned off on a gravel road following Slater Creek through this short rock canyon. Once it opened up it a broad green valley with foothills and peaks all around. The road deteriorated to loose gravel and washboarding and began to climb.
It was a slow going morning, though it never did clear up and get hot. When I passed Brush Mountain Ranch I was hailed by a fella working outside and invited in for a drin and a rest. Turns out this was a mountain biker oriented lodge and they constantly had Great Divide riders. I talked to the lady there who was so helpful and kind: the best welcome to Colorado. After my rest, my water bottles filled I set out again. The road actually got a bit better and I entered National Forest land and these broad meadows. I encountered a large flock of sheep both on and off the road who hustled along as I rolled by. Then I turned into the woods and the days real climbing began.
This was incredible forest land with radiant meadows of wildflowers and peekaboo view of rocky peaks. But the road went from rideable ruts to basically impassable. Super steep, rutted, loose dirt and massive rocks. Hike-a-Bike was the order of the day. This stretch was 1.6 miles and I probably pushed a mile or more of it. At the top was the Watershed Divide, at just under 10,000′. The top was forested so there were no views until the descent.
The descent was, if anything, worse. The horrible road conditions continued for six miles. I was out of the saddle ridding the brakes the entire time trying to navigate around the biggest, sharpest rocks, sometimes one foot down, sometimes walking. Super slow going and just so rough on the bike. There were, especially near the top, amazing peekaboo views, but I’d have to stop to look at them. Thunder began to peal as I rode, then a few drops of rain. About four miles into the descent it began to rain in earnest. I put on my rain jacket and then pants and rode it out. The last mile or so wasn’t as bad road wise (though still bad) but then finally I was out of the worst of it. Then a new challenge arose. The loose dirt that this rod had been was now all super slick mud. The new tires on my bike don’t grip as well as my old knobbies and as it was still downhill it was hard to stay upright. Eventually I failed and slid into the mud. No harm to the bicycle, jut everything muddy now.
The rain tapered off, though still threatened and there was still thunder and I saw one brilliant fork of lightning . I turned onto a hardpacked gravel road then pavement at the little town of Clark. I stopped at the store there and warmed up with coffee. I chatted with an Australian touron who had started up in the Yukon (!) and was working his way to Silverthorn before flying out of Denver. One of the few fellow riders I’ve met whose attitude is similar to mine. He said “I’m not a cyclist, I’m a traveler on a bicycle.” Exactly. Exactly. We rode together down to Steamboat Springs then went our separate ways.
gaps in tree
and holes in
gaze deep and that’s
else is just