Chronologically, this post comes after 37 miles from nowhere.
See also Dirt Baggery in the Desert, Pt. 1, and Dirt Baggery in the Desert, Pt. 2.
After this there will be one more post, the one of Moab. And then I'll be all caught up and... ready to go back!
36 hours later I woke up in the back of my car - the back of a stranger's car, the one I borrowed for 2,000 miles. It was cold, and out the windshield the sky was lightening in shades of pink that told me east was over there. There was a strange tree silhouetted against the pink - pinyon? I think so. I can't believe I'm beholding a pinyon tree. Edward Abbey described them so many times. It's how I imagined it.
I'd wanted to camp for free in the wilderness - why pay for camping when there's free solitary camping to be had? - but when I mentioned this to Pete in passing while telling him about the sun shower I meant to buy, he said nonchalantly "Oh sure, a woman alone showering naked in the wilderness. What could possibly go wrong?"
So, I decided to forgo that plan out of consideration of my friend's concern and my mother's mental health.
After leaving Lusk the morning before, in the Camry which a wonderful woman - the friend of a friend of a friend - loaned us out of the goodness of her heart in a gesture that single handedly restored my faith in humanity, my Mom and I met my cousin in Denver. Mom and I said goodbye as she drove off with my cousin and I continued on this adventure on my own.
I was suddenly more nervous than excited.
I had butterflies in my stomach.
For a mile or so I followed my cousin's car down I25, then they continued south as I headed west.
The mountains were there, to the west, with solitary snow storms hanging low over some peaks, and as I drove toward them they grew closer and larger quickly until suddenly I was amongst them and they were sucking me in and I was quickly gaining altitude. The trees were covered in freshly fallen snow, the sky was low and heavy, the mountains were overwhelming, intimidating and so big, with a pristine, aloof beauty that left me feeling breathless and somehow frightened and so very small and alone.
|Forgive the quality, these next few shots were shot through car windows while driving|
But soon I settled in and my spirits rose to the occasion and soared again on the wings of adventure, listening to my audio book and completely enchanted with the passing landscape: frozen blue waterfalls cascading unmoving down rock ledges, picturesque little towns nestled into ravines and gullies, towering peaks, quaint ski chalets.
And then I was over the mountain's summit and heading down, and as the sun started sinking to its home in the west the landscape changed swiftly and I left the snow behind and the mountains became foothills and the trees thinned and became red rocks and sage. I soaked it all in to my very soul, as the road took me ever westward, to the desert. The terrain flattened, sunset came and went, dusk settled in and I ran a losing race against darkness.
I pulled into Fruita sometime after 9PM and made my way to the campground up outside of town, parked the car, climbed into the backseat and fell asleep.
Now, this pink and chilly morning, I layer up and go outside to survey my surroundings. I'm on top of a plateau, surrounded by a deep canyon with red rocks and sage, and with a view of the Fruita valley and the surrounding Book Cliffs. I'm in a campground, up and up a sinuous road, in Monument park. No showers, but bathrooms with - very cold - running water.
I ready my bike, my riding gear, my water - hard sought, as it had been too cold for the campground to turn their spickets on yet - and food for the whole day, then head back down that road into town, out of town, a few miles down the interstate to the Kokopelli trails, where I'm meeting my companions for the next three days.
All day the wind blows and the clouds skitter grey above this landscape I can barely tear my eyes from in order to focus on the instructor and our drills.
|Where we hung out the first day|
It was... crazy, amazing to be focusing on mountain biking all. day. long. Talking and learning and showing and trying and ... just mountain biking, it was the thing, it's what we did, three days straight. It was a dream.
And in the afternoons... then, we'd ride.
For three days, me and these four guys shared laughs and stories and donuts and water, cheered each other on, offered encouragement and advice, chuckled together at riders wearing skinny jeans - no lie - and watched and judged other riders ride poorly over sections we'd just learned to clear.
Andy, the instructor, was an exquisite, beautiful rider, so much finesse and ingenuity.
Such beautiful landscape. Such good companions. Such a time, those days.
At night I fell into my sleeping bag, dusty and cold, exhausted, my head full of information and my lungs and soul full of fresh desert air. I slept as the raging wind from the canyon rattled the tent and lulled me to sleep. I didn't think or dream.
I was happy, content to be there, content to breath, to sleep, to exist, knowing that somewhere up ahead was another tomorrow filled with more ...being.