Tag Archives: Mountain Biking

Courage at Twilight: Nature’s Serendipity

The mountain bike trail proved too challenging for me: too steep and too rocky for too long. I stopped pedaling a dozen times to rest and drink and slow my racing heart.  Walking the steepest stretches, I finally reached the top of the trail, marked by a bridge over the river, set Dad’s red vintage Specialized against a tree, and stepped down the fractured granite to the riverside, where I knelt and cupped icy water onto my feverish head.  How relieving that cold water felt, and I calmed and relaxed.  The river cascaded violently and deafeningly down and past, lurching between thousands of giant rough angular granite boulders.  My peripheral vision detected a short-tailed gray bird land on a mid-river rock downstream, bobbing on her backward knees, lifting her very-short tail with each bow.  She fluttered from boulder to boulder, thrusting her black beak into the current to pick nymphs and rollers off rocks, working her way toward me, at times even immersing and walking along the river bottom to find insect morsels.  I sat perfectly still and she paid me no heed as she came to within six feet, preening her delicate gray plumage before me in a spot of full sun, then hopped back into the shadows to work her way upstream and around a bend fifty feet off.  What an encounter!  Forty years ago, Dad and I left the Sawtooth Mountain trail to follow the stream, and saw a little gray bird with a short tail hopping and bobbing along a log fallen across the stream.  The bird grasped the bark with its long feat and stepped around the circumference of the log from dry air to upside-down and under water, emerging dry and pretty on the other circumference side.  Dad and I were gob smacked.  A Robin-like bird that walks and hunts underwater in a swift mountain stream?  We had never heard of such a bird.  But our field guide introduced us to the American Dipper, and, though a colorless non-descript little bird, she has become one of our favorites.  Memories of our first Dipper and the stream and the forest and the mountains and the moose and trout and bear and beaver and the wild blueberries flooded back to Dad’s perfect recollection as I described my new and fortuitous encounter.  I discovered as a boy that Nature comes to me when I am still.  I do not call her or pursue her.  I study and I watch and I wait, in good places and at right times, and Nature’s path veers toward mine to grace me with intimate unearned wildlife experiences.  My children know this, and we both marvel at Nature’s magical providence.  The butterflies come, and I know their names and their habits, and I talk to them: “Hello Beautiful,” I whisper to the Tiger Swallowtail or the Red-spotted Purple.  “You look lovely and strong today.”  The deer come, and the beaver, the Red Slider turtle and the Belted Kingfisher and Clark’s Grebe and Black-crowned Night Heron.  “Hello pretty Mama,” I once whispered to a Mule Deer doe suckling her spotted fawn, the mother taut with fear, ready to pronk away, and I reassure her, “Don’t worry, little Mama, I will not hurt you or your magical spotted fawn.  You need not fear me.  I will wait right here until you are ready for me to pass.”

(Photo above from eBird.org, used pursuant to the Fair Use Doctrine.)

Pictured below: photos of Little Cottonwood trail, creek, and canyon.  The trailhead is a ten-minute drive from Mom’s and Dad’s house.

 

Courage at Twilight: Leftover Sandwiches

The Snake River valley from the Sidewinder trail.

I left Mom and Dad for two days while I took my two youngest sons to visit their older brother John in Idaho for his 24th birthday.  We rode the five-mile Sidewinder mountain bike trail, a fast flow trail aptly named, although Hyrum’s chain broke and he coasted and pumped the whole distance down.  We explored a long cavernous lava tube in the sagebrush-covered Idaho wasteland.  We ravaged the local pizza buffet.  And we climbed at the gym where John works as a much-appreciated route-setter and climbing instructor.  I have been watching my children climb in gyms and on real rock, and have belayed them all, for 15 years.  But I myself have never climbed.  Suddenly excited to conquer my fears, I pushed past the panic and scaled a 5.8 climb—my first climb ever—with my three sons cheering their old man on.  We ended the trip with “Happy Birthday” and gifts and games of cards: Golf and SkyJo.  On the windy drive back to Utah, a bike rack strap snapped, and the bikes hung precariously by one strap while I pulled off the highway.  The getaway with my sons was delightful—I appreciated the break—and I was happy to come back to Mom’s and Dad’s house, which they insist is my house, too.  “Welcome home!” Dad cheered when I walked through the door.  “Tell us all about your trip!”  Back to work today, I attended a law training, complete with a sandwich lunch.  After stopping at REI for strong straps to re-strap my bike rack, I arrived home in time to help Dad rake deep red pear leaves out of the bushes and load them into the trash container.  “I am so tired,” he lamented, “I need to sit down.”  I invited him to come into the house for a lunch surprise.  “OK, I am ready for lunch.  Today must be Monday, because I always feel so tired after my Sunday ‘day of rest.’”  Inside, I served Mom and Dad two beautiful sandwiches, one club and one turkey avocado, which they split and shared.  The training organizer had invited me to take the leftover sandwiches for my parents.  “We were going to drive to Arby’s,” Dad said.  “But this is much better,” Mom chimed in.  While they munched sandwiches and chips and sipped Coke (Diet for Dad and Zero for Mom), I re-strapped the bike rack, happy for their lunch enjoyment, and grateful I did not lose the bikes on the Idaho freeway.

The entrance to Civil Defense Caves lava tube.

 

Pizza!

 

The old man’s first climb.

Courage at Twilight: Riding in Corner Canyon

I have said good-bye to Settlement Canyon and my seven-mile mountain bike ride. I knew every rock and root of the Dark Trail, every low tree limb and snagging wild rose. How I loved that trail. I rode that trail with Hannah and my sons Brian, John, Caleb, and Hyrum during the exile years. I have ridden in snow and mud and scorching heat. I have ridden past meadows of sego lily, taper tip onion, and glacier lily. I have ridden with pronking deer and flustered turkey and migrating tarantulas. And there was that day I startled a merlin with its taloned prey still dripping blood. The Dell in Sandy is close to my new home, but its deep sand sucks at my tires and the river cobbles buck me off. Dad used to run in the Dell, a nature area with deep sandy ravines and a small stream. He knew well a family of red fox, which he adored and once fed with rotisserie chickens from Smith’s. He also rode for miles and years on the 50-mile Jordan River Parkway, as have I, catching frequent glimpses of the slow river with its great blue herons and its beavers. But today I gathered my courage to explore, and ventured into Corner Canyon, an area of steep gambel oak gullies in the Wasatch foothills. The Draper Cycle Park proved an excellent place to warm up, with its short training flow trails and pump trails. Then I rode three miles up the Corner Canyon trail. Having thus relished two delightful hours, I flew down a blue-level flow trail named “Limelight,” the last 2.5 miles of the Rush trail—very fast, moguled, banked, and flowing (all the more fun for the names of the song and the band). I felt very happy as I drove home, hosed off and stowed the bike, and greeted Mom and Dad. “Tell me all about it,” Mom enthused, having worried the whole morning that I would crash (again) and hurt myself (again). “I’m done going crazy fast and drifting and jumping,” I reassured her. But it was impossible not to enjoy the speed.

Courage at Twilight: Good-bye Gym

After unfairly losing a big case in court in 2009, I knew that my stress would be the death of me and that I needed to change my lifestyle. So, I signed a gym contract and resumed my strength training and cardio workouts after a several-years hiatus.  But with my new two-hour commute and duties at home, going to the gym has become impractical.  “Unrealistic” is a better word, since 5:00 a.m. might be practical, but not realistic—it simply is not going to happen.  I paid VASA’s unfair exit fees and said good-bye to the gym.  Mom and Dad regularly ride their stationary bicycle, and I have resolved to ride it also, and to maintain my core-strengthening regimen: all praise the plank.  I also strain at elastic bands to strengthen the shoulder I injured in a mountain biking accident.  The floating clavicle of that separated shoulder will not let me do push-ups.  But Dad showed me how he kneels on one carpeted stair and pushes off against a higher stair in an angled push-up, and I found I could do the same with small discomfort.  I still ride my bike in the local canyons, but have slowed down and never take the jumps—my nearly 60-year-old body no longer bounces without breaking.  After one wreck with four broken ribs (2017) and another with a level 3 shoulder separation (2019), I simply cannot take another fall.

A Mother Suckles her Fawn

Laboring uphill on my mountain bike on Settlement Canyon’s Left-hand Fork trail, I rounded a corner to encounter a mother mule deer suckling her fawn.  I quickly stopped, not wanting to frighten them, and gazed and the sight, both wild and tender.  She, for her part, stood taut, ready to bound away.  I spoke quietly, apologizing for startling them, assuring them of my peaceful intentions, and thanking them for their gift.  Mother was sleek and graceful and beautiful.  Baby was adorable, white-spotted, and oblivious of me for her mother’s milk.  After long moments, the doe turned her head and marched up the steep hill, her fawn following.  Enjoy the poem that has come a year later.

A Mother Suckles Her Fawn

    In speckled shade on a steep
hillside with a trickle and a trail
below, a mule deer doe, her spotted fawn

    punching feebly
her belly, drawing warm draughts,
my sweating and puffing are incongruous:

    I have stepped upon holy ground
with soiled sandals, entered
the covenant tabernacle unwashed,

    holy garments laid aside, so,
I stop and watch and speak
gentle affirmations of beauty and peace,

    harmlessness, though
the mother stands firm and taut, head
turned attentively toward me,

    an intruder, her great ears
erect, black stone eyes watching
in turn, ready…

 

(Image by Sr. Maria-Magdalena R. from Pixabay.)

Roger is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  The book tells the true life story of an obscure farm road and its power to transform the human spirit.  The book is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.  See Rabbit Lane reviewed in Words and Pictures.