Over the last several months I have been writing, intermittently, an ongoing essay. It’s an Abbey-esque, or at least attempt at Abbey, juxtaposition between my riding, and my experiences and views of the world at large. It is mostly just for fun. And often my voice becomes overly snarky, or even sarcastic. But it is something I am enjoying working on. And in fact, the next GrizzlyCast will also be an excerpt.
Below is a portion of this ongoing essay:
It is a few minutes after 6AM. A cool, clear August morning. I am pedaling my bike above Soldier Hollow, up and into the Wasatch Back. the sun is stretching itself over the tall mountains behind me. The effort of the climb warms my blood. The goosebumps and shivers give way to sweat and huffs and puffs.
Four hours, and 4000 feet later I stand once again on the Ant Knolls. And once again I look out over the sea of trees and land and folded mountains before me. I breathe deeply, letting the clean, fragrant mountain air seep into my lungs. I relish the moment. I wish, wistfully, that I could stay here indefinitely. Just sit and watch time pass on and on. Days into weeks into years into forever. I yearn to sit long enough to watch the mountain erode, to see nature at its work. To witness erosion.
A few weeks ago an arch at the Arches National Park fell apart. Collapsed. Died. Was it global warming that killed it? Industrial tourism? Bombs in Iraq or a tsunami in Thailand? No. It was just an arch that fell. Brought to the earth by the very wind and rain and heat and sun and air and time that created it. From dust to dust. The Lord Giveth, the Lord taketh. All things in their natural order.
I am still on the Knolls. Reluctantly, but also eagerly I continue on my way. Through the aspen forests and the high meadows, and over the narrow ridge tops. I plunge off Mill Canyon Peak and into the dense scrub brush and baby pines below. In the distance I can hear the roar of countless ATVs. I am nearing 2-cycle engine territory. The hotbed of Utah redneckism where beer cans litter the road, shirts on men are as common as cougar sightings, and entire families find their way onto one single four-wheeler and speed along the road at 50 miles per hour. It is the outdoor version of dragging Main. Up and down the canyon road they go. Never really arriving at any destination. Just up and down. Burning fuel, looking stupid, and turning the road into a spongey mess of churned and burned dust.
A hero on a motorcycle whips in front me, fishtailing and revving. Dust and rocks spew into my face. The noble civility of a neanderthal with an engine. But I continue to climb. I know that there is a point on this mountain road where the unwashed masses, turn their vehicles around and venture no further. Where once again the quiet of the high country settles and calms. A place where the awkward wheels of the ATVs cannot go. I flee to that spot, and rejoice when I ride uninterrupted, and unseen by those awful, polluting agents of destruction below. Harsh words for simple ATVs.
As I ascend above the din of the recreational motorists I wonder if they ever really see the beauty around them. Do they ever turn the engine off and just listen, just look? There is more to see and to hear and be a part of in the mountains than most people ever realize. It is not enough to drive along the roads and paths and the National Parks and the Scenic Byways. Get out. Walk. Feel the burn of the thin air course through your lungs. Feel the ache in your thighs and feet. Stare in terror at a mountain lion. Get out of your vehicles!
My inner Abbey is surfacing. Ed Abbey. That desert poet. Angry anarchist. Hater of dams and cars and bureaucracy and livestock and mines and tourism. But he had a way of seeing. A way of letting us see what he sees. A quiet, peaceful, wonderful world where simplicity and good friends were all anyone needed. Do people today even see the mountains or the deserts anymore? Or are they just empty spaces, necessary burdens, a thing to be crossed while you travel between the sheet metal cities full of lights and people and things to do?
A man can and should get lost once in a while. It will remind him of where he is. And where he ought to be going.
I climb higher into the mountains as the sun starts to drop below them. Another summer day coming to a close. I take in a few more deep breaths, letting in the pines and the sage and the flowers. There is a hint of autumn in the air. I can taste it. Smell it. I watch the leaves on the quaking aspens shiver, and know that within weeks they will yellow and red and orange before falling to the earth. Collapsing. Dying.
Just like Wall Arch.