There is new snow in the mountains. Through the low hanging clouds shrouding American Fork Canyon I can see glimpses of the snow dusted aspen covered slopes where the Ridge Trail contours through the trees and atop the ridge lines. The summit of Timpanogos is buried in real snow. Not the powdered sugar it had earlier, but deep, winter worthy snow. The fall transition is rapidly waning. The red and orange and yellow leaves are falling to the ground, littering the trails in an earthy sheet of crunchy, colorful proof that winter is coming.
As if summertime was not reason enough to live in Utah, the fall and winter are icing (literally) on the cake. That is, there is skiing along the Wasatch, and mountain biking in Dixie. And then there is Moab. Powder in the morning, slickrock in the afternoon. I am determined to make that trip happen this season. I have other backcountry aspirations for the coming winter as well: Become Level One Avalanche certified. A yurt trip. Skiing my first peak (Lone? Box Elder? Superior?), and finally getting up into the UFO bowls above the summit of the Alpine Loop. The mini-chutes below the bowls are good skiing, but after staring up the massive bowls throughout the winter, and then on many bike rides this summer, the temptation to spend a day skiing them is just more than any man can bear.
However, there is but one more day on the bike looming on the immediate horizon. The 24 Hours of Moab. There is only one way to describe this event: it is part bike race, part festival, and part chaos. The blending of these ingredients creates a mountain bike Elysium where those heroic and worthy souls live on in glory and honor and sandy, wind crusted, paradisaical eternity. Indeed, the race itself becomes an odyssey in personal racing fantasy. All of the projections and deluded visions of racing along side this hall-of-famer or that legend seem to become reality, if only for the briefest of moments, at the 24 Hours of Moab. Everybody finishing that iconic lap, riding through the massive gathering of tents and lycra is a conquering hero, worthy of the utmost praise. The moment is fleeting, and hyperbolic, but nevertheless, it is real. And so year after year the pilgrimage continues, all with the hope of once gain laying grasp to that evanescent, exaggerated experience.
Sand and snow.
The usual fatigue of summer that seems to accompany October is missing. I feel motivated and happy. I am ready to attack the cold and dark of winter. It must be the upcoming ski days, offset by the possibility of days in the desert. Even the prospect of riding the trainer is not entirely unwelcome. And so right now the sky is swirling in dark turmoil. Spitting rain and wind and snow. The seasonal transformation is happening in real time. If you stand still for a few minutes and watch, you can witness the natural order and wonder of the seasons unfolding in brilliant and inspiring fashion. And with that comes the apparition of snow capped mornings, the deep green of the pines standing defiantly in contrast to the surrounding white – like a wildflower in the desert, life stands proud and stark in the vast, heavy, rocky mountain winter.
Welcome back, winter. Take your time settling in.