Raging River

Last year during a visit to the high country in Grand Lake, Colorado, I rode some really fun new trails created by the Grand Lake Metropolitan Recreation District, just a short jog from the western entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. (On the way there, I saw a moose, just off the road. Such is life up in the Rocky Mountains.)

Tight, twisty, rocky, in the midst of a lodgepole pine forest, the trail is a complete blast. Lots of slow riding, shoehorning around pines and over rocks–sometimes jamming up against the trees and getting hung up. Riding there is a full contact sport, and I have the scratches and scrapes to prove it.

Last year I also ran into a bear, staring at me from around 30 yards off the trail. (My first thought: Wow, what a beautiful statue of a bear. Wait a second, the fur is blowing in the wind. Oh. Crud. That’s not a statue. That sort of mind-slogging at the unreality of it.)

Needless to say, I didn’t get mauled. I stopped, stepped back, my disc brake squealed lightly, and the bear turned away slowly, seemingly thinking, eh, the hell with it.

And then he disappeared.

The other highlight of this trail is that it crosses a rocky ridge and drops down to the headwaters of the Colorado River. Yes, the Mighty Colorado, the river that carved the Grand Canyon. I was excited to see the beginnings of this amazing serpentine ribbon of water; but I was surprised, and disheartened, a bit, to see how unmighty the River actually was. (Note the small puddles of water and dry river rocks.)

That was 2010.

Year 2011 is a completely different story. The snow season in Colorado has been heavy; even now in July, there are more white-capped peaks than I’ve seen in the 15 years I’ve lived here.

Which means that the rivers are the highest they been in a while–highest in 40 years, some Grand Lake locals have said.

Riding the same trail just a few days ago gave me that odd sensation of slipping back in time, to see the same narrow singletrack, the same rocks, the same trees, that I’d seen last year. How odd and wonderful, to gain the sensation that this place has been there through an entire year, waiting for me to return, and that it hadn’t changed at all.

Except for the Colorado River.

Here’s an image from the very same bridge, almost exactly a year later:

You can call it climate change, you can call it the natural variety in weather. Either way, it’s impressive. And it reinforces that old truth–one I’ve always loved to ponder: Nature does not care about us. It does what it does. And it’s gorgeous, and it’s haunting.

PSĀ  One more pic, of the rushing 2011 water.

PPS Every year I spend a week up in Grand Lake at the Lighthouse Writers Retreat, which is always a fun and thought-provoking time. Thanks to all those wonderful writers who were there this year–you’re a tremendous inspiration.

Getting Lost

There’s the old adage that those who wander are not always lost, and while I certainly appreciate that sentiment, I’d push it a bit farther. I think we often like to get ourselves lost, so that we can then find ourselves again. It renews a sense of wonder and newness with all that is familiar. It’s also a great adrenaline rush.

I’ve only gotten really lost once, in the backcountry, on a long ride. The kind of lost where you’re alone and you look around and say to yourself, I can probably sleep under that tree, and I think I can keep myself relatively warm and not freeze to death out here in nowheresville. Lost enough that you imagine a daring helicopter rescue after a week out on your own, or a guy on a four-wheel motorbike chiding you for not having a compass or a lick of common sense as he straps you, barely conscious, onto a gurney. (This was two years ago, in the Arapaho National Forest, where I wandered away from the Gilsonite-to-Wolverine Trail. I eventually found a super-thin ribbon of trail and rode my way out, after scaring myself witless.)

Yesterday, on Centennial Cone–which is a fantastic trail, by the way–I didn’t get lost but was sure that I was lost. Not that I went off trail or anything; I just got confused and thought I’d continued on the main loop and missed a junction somehow. Sections began to look familiar and I had to keep fighting the urge to turn around and go back (that would have made for a very long day in the saddle.)

Funny, how you get tired and cranky and you lose your bearings and then you begin to doubt yourself, when really you’re okay and on the right track.

Which makes me think of a Joseph Campbell saying, something like The path you’re on is the path you’re supposed to be on.

In other words, the life you’re leading is the one you’re supposed to be leading, bad or good. The experience is yours and yours alone, and you should see it as a gift, even if it causes great pain, strife, or sadness. These moments are making you into the person you are supposed to be–which is the person you are.

Amen to that.

PS Here’s a pic of some sort of ancient farm implement out on yesterday’s ride.

Ride details:
18.01 miles
Active time 2 hours 4 minutes
Elevation gain 2644 feet.