Under the Southwest Sun

Posted by on Sep 29, 2009 in Bike, Outdoor | One Comment

Far from the evergreen of old Assam
Far from the rainfall on the trails of old Saigon
Straight from the poster town of scorn and ritz
To bring you the wilder side of gold and glitz

Run, neon tiger, there’s a lot on your mind
They promised just to pet you, but don’t you let ’em get you
Away, away, oh, run
Under the heat of the southwest sun

Few are the places in the world as unique as Gooseberry Mesa. A mix of juniper and slickrock and stone and singletrack. The world drops away for endless miles in every direction. The white capped rooftop of Zion National Park and the far away Kaibab mark the horizon in dramatic, picturesque prevalence, creating a scene unrivaled and unforgettable.

Among it all is a mountain bike playground mostly unknown and ignored by the magazine editors and tour guides. Which is, of course, exactly as it should be.

A small, familiar, and hearty group of riders set out underneath the rising desert sun and ventured into the labyrinth of white dotted trails. Over rock and underneath low hanging trees, through sand, and eventually off the mesa into the wide open valleys below, a lonely, remote sojourn through hostile, quiet, and vast country.

After a summer in the mountains, a return to the desert was harsh, and yet welcome. The heat became oppressive and overbearing, but never so much so that there was not respite in small swatches of shade or in the occasional gust of wind. A well-placed hose in the small town of Rockville filled bottles and soaked jerseys. Adding new life to tired bones and minds, and not a moment too soon, for it was then that the stairway to heaven ensued. From the valley floor and the banks of the Virgin River the road ascended into the juniper of the mesa, up, and up into the azure sky and pale clouds for a seemingly endless afternoon recapture of the altitude that was lost so blissfully and brilliantly in the early morning hours.

The desert can be a thoroughly silent and still place. Unlike the mountains, which are nearly constant with the sound of running water, trailing wind, and the other ever-present sounds of life, the desert only resonates silence – a heavy, ringing, thick silence. The smallest scurry or breeze or tire over rock is shattering and unnatural. But with that silence comes a clarity of thought and presence. I am convinced that life is most vital, most appreciated in the empty, death laden deserts. Or, as Cactus Ed described it, “it seems to me that the strangeness and wonder of existence are emphasized here, in the desert, by the comparative sparsity of the flora and fauna: life not crowded upon life as in other places but scattered abroad in spareness and simplicity, with a generous gift of space for each herb and bush and tree, each stem of grass, so that the living organism stands out bold and brave and vivid against the lifeless sand and barren rock.”

And what a strange existence we lead? These desert and mountain wanderings become the lifeblood of our existence, the very essence of who we are, what we are. They are, in effect, physical manifestations of our spiritual selves. And so, it is not surprising that one feels so connected to an ancient and mythical presence in the primitive, barren wilderness.

Or, conversely, perhaps, in the end it was just a simple bike ride over fast and flowy singltrack in a popular tourist destination?


But not likely.

Give me rolling hills, so tonight could be the night That I stand among a thousand thrills
Mister cut me some slack,
‘Cause I don’t wanna go back,
I want a new day and age

Under the heat of
Under the heat of
Under the heat of the southwest sun


1 Comment

  1. dug
    September 29, 2009

    “Or, conversely, perhaps, in the end it was just a simple bike ride over fast and flowy singletrack in a popular tourist destination?”

    i think maybe it was. not that there’s anything wrong with that.

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