The last four weeks have seen the hillsides go from white to brown and finally to green. Less than two weeks ago you could just see the tiny sprouts of green if you bent down. Now there are green hills and wild flowers are just starting to bud. The nights still dip down to freezing but sunshine greets your face in the morning and every day has the smell of spring.
With Hottie still on IR tux and I were out early talking to the owls and spooking the deer.
The weather and my training calendar were both pointing toward a long ride on Saturday. I wanted to get going early so Hottie and I would still have some day left for other activities.
One of my objectives for spring (from a list complied during the winter) was to ride to the end of the Chewuch. The end of the road is a place called “Thirty Mile.” I was hoping the route would be free of snow. After comparing it to the option of going out to the end of Twisp River Road I thought the mostly north-south drainage would have less snow than the generally east-west Twisp River valley. Yes as a matter of fact I do over think most things. I get that from my mom. Deal with it.
When I left it was right around freezing, but the sunshine made it feel warmer. The canyon is a long gradual climb with a bunch of rollers to keep you shifting. I arrived at my desired HR zone, looked around at the beauty of the day and churned out a familiar rhythm.
Although I passed a carcass or two and stray limbs (both from trees and mammals that had become part of the food chain) it was generally a vista full of life. The hills had a green haze as spring is taking a foothold. Birds sang and the river whooshed by as I went up the valley. I spooked some deer here and there and had to slow to avoid one of the dumbest of the breed who waited for me to get really close before darting into the road. In a word, “venison.”
My route was mostly in the sunshine but parts were in the shade and it was then that I was reminded that the temp was only in the mid thirties. The climb was gradual but constant. I passed four or five empty forest service campgrounds as the kilometers ticked by.
An hour in I ate my first bar and took a long drink as the road straightened out for an unusually long stretch. I am sure I subconsciously slowed down. Instead of riding hard to the next corner, then hard to the next, then the next - seeing the long straight caused me to grasp the length of my hard effort. I am really good at doing hard things in small chunks.
I was reminded that when the river gets louder it means the valley, and therefore the road grade, gets steeper. Downed trees reached out into the road requiring me to swerve from one side to the other. Twice I had to go off road because a fallen tree was stretched across the whole road.
The valley was narrow in parts and opened up wide for long stretches further on. I saw one car early on then I had the whole valley to myself. When the pavement finally ended; the gradient though uphill, lessened. I was approaching the area burned by the Thirty Mile Fire in 2001. It felt eerie.
My brain was in a battle because the sun was bright and if you saw a photo of what was before my eyes you would think it was a hot July day. My brain saw this and wanted to open up my sweat glands but my body was still reporting temperatures in the thirties and so confusion set in.
Nearing my objective the valley floor opened up and the grade felt almost flat. Climbing will do that to you. The ghosts of burned out trees stood in stark contrast to the green on the ground. The sandy road had the first real washboard of the season and I was weaving back and forth searching for a good line. I was looking at the burned snags that climbed up the valley walls and contemplating the fire that burned here nearly fourteen years ago.
I was the only person in a big, wide open area of the valley. Usually I would feel like the place was all mine. However, I didn’t feel like I had the place to myself. I felt like I was trespassing. It didn’t feel like it was mine. Something felt weird. It was a feeling I have had before when I have been all alone in a place that at a different time was covered with people. Like being the only person in a stadium.
As I rounded a corner I came upon a small memorial erected to honor four firefighters who had died fighting the fire in July of 2001. I had no idea the memorial was even there. The orderliness of the asphalt walkway, the neat lines of the rock monument and brass plaques were in sharp contrast to the chaos of jumbled rocks and fallen trees nearby. The monument stood out for a number of reasons.
I unclipped and tried to reconcile the tragedy of the fire with the tragedy of the loss of life. The firefighters were college age kids with their whole lives in front of them. My recent experience with fire has made me sensitive and this monument struck a raw nerve.
After my ride I did a little research and found the deaths were blamed on a breakdown in communications between government agencies. Was it okay for one agency to “dip” water from another agencies jurisdiction to fight the fire? The delay in getting an answer contributed to their deaths.
Perhaps the greatest tragedy was that when the Carlton Complex fires began to flare up last summer it was the delay in communication between government agencies that allowed the fire to become too big to stop. We failed to incorporate the lessons we should have learned from the passing of these firefighters.
With reverence I rode the last mile or so out to the road end. I took a few photos, finished off a bar and pointed the bike toward the cabin. I didn’t offer up my usual Wahoo when I took off.
Above is the view looking up, below is looking down...
On the way down I searched for and soon spotted the memorial. Again I paused and looked at the array of tokens that had been left by others to honor the fallen. What can you say?
Two minutes later I was rolling along and enjoying the slight downhill. The sandy road was faster on the way down as compared to the way up. Riding felt fun. The beauty of the area was overwhelming and I was smiling once again.
Before long I was on pavement and pushing against a slight headwind. The downhill and the scenery had me motivated and my HR was still up as I was working hard and loving it. Sunshine and a downhill make it hard to go slow.
I kept drilling it and when I looked down and saw I had been at it for three hours it was again time to eat something. For some reason I thought that since I would be back at the cabin in about an hour I could skip it. What made me think I could skip food for the fourth hour of a hard ride is beyond explanation.
Often we get what we deserve.
Later, when the downhill flattened out and I dug down to keep my speed up but I felt gassed. Up ahead I spotted a cyclist on a mountain bike. I pushed to catch him and it took longer than it should have. When I finally passed it took more effort than I expected.
What the heck…….. I’m bonking ! I deserved it, I made a mistake. I had food in my pocket too. What a maroon I am.
I throttled back but kept my cadence high. When I got cell coverage I sent a text to Hottie that I was running just a bit late. My autopilot kicked in and I made the familiar climb to the cabin. When I arrived I unclipped, gathered my empty bottles and went inside.
I was trashed and Hottie spotted it right away. I pulled off my shoes and fell on the bed next to Tux. It was hard to pull off my gloves. After cleaning up we ate and got on with our afternoon. I would like to say I slept well but I didn’t. Cramps will do that to you. I had ridden hard.
Sunday was an easy recovery ride that included some play time on the mountain bike trails.