“Seek freedom and become captive of your desires. Seek discipline and find your liberty.” 
― Frank Herbert

“Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.” 
― Rita Mae Brown

“He who fears he shall suffer, already suffers what he fears.” 
― Michel de MontaigneThe Complete Essays

Sorry, lots of good quotes about paradoxes. Had to.

Today was the day I broke down. Here’s how it started, written in my log book:

“I woke again before dawn. Last night we had talked about getting an early start and beating the heat of the day. I lay here in my pre-dawn stupor, debating about waking my hobbits.

When I raised my head and saw the dozen beer cans lined up on the counter that had made an appearance after I fell to slumber, I determined to let them sleep.

Last night was filled with drunken debauchery of the merriest kind- laughing at “honeydew melons” and “name someone who’s first name is ‘Wes'” or “a song that has ‘rain’ in it….”

And rain it did. As we ate a meal of pasta w/ bacon, eggs and cheese, we watched the first of the storms roll in. This morning the clouds were low and I did some exploring while my hobbits slept. I found the rusted-out car and watched as the first rays of sun dappled the painted canvas stretched out before me.

I had very lucid dreams last night and the scents of wet sage and desert breeze clear my mind. The body grows heartier. Three more days.”

(8 million sperm in 1cc of fluid.)

Where that came from, I have no idea. But it’s in the log book so I write it here. It’s one of the only random statements in the book that doesn’t drop an offensive expletive. Ha!

It didn’t take us long to hit the trail this morning. It was immediately evident that the day would have some very warm moments. Combined with the rain of last night it was like riding in a steam room. There were portions of the trail that were wet sand and my back tire sunk in like….(insert your own analogy). By our first 1-hour bonk-timer break I was soaked with sweat and condensation.

We had a snack on the edge of a canyon, but I could tell I wasn’t mentally in the same place I had been. I was losing it. The endless wrapping around the canyon rim contours, steep climbs and short descents, over and over, it was hard to feel any progress.

At one point we came to a puddle that obscured the road entirely. There was no clear way around and it was too deep to go through. We carried our bikes through thick, sticky mud, to the other side. Most of it rode off before the next big, exhausting climb up Davis Mesa. David C kept me company as we pushed on ahead of the rest. His company was the string I clung to.

Until we heard the thunder. Deep and throbbing, in quick succession, like a cadence. The storm was blowing our way. I began the climb in sunlight, the storm at my back. I felt it creep up behind me, enshrouding me in its shadow.

Morning view from the hut.

Morning view from the hut.

Abandoned mine contraption

Abandoned mine contraption

My boys

My boys

Bonk prevention

Bonk prevention

Storm approaching

Storm approaching

Climbing up to Davis Mesa

Climbing up to Davis Mesa

IMG_9549Short descent to the hanging valley.

We topped out to this amazing view. It was a long, long way down to the valley floor before us, but we weren’t going there yet. We went about 1/3 of the way down and rode an unused 2-track. Though it was wide enough for full-size, the only tracks on it were bike.

It was sand. Slightly wet. Just enough to have about zero traction for my bike. Each pedal stroke was a struggle, sucking my energy away. The boys left me far, far behind them.

I tried every mental trick I could to relieve my mind. I practiced being “present”. I took in the scenery around me. I visualized where I was. I remembered I would probably never be in this same place again. I sang my favorite songs. But it was to no avail. Soon I felt blind, seeing only the sand before me. Feeling only the soaking wet clothes clinging to my body. And no music.

When I caught up to the boys they were lost. They had followed the bike tracks to a dead-end. We set down our bikes and hiked around, looking for what we assumed was an obvious trail. We ended up finding it, back .25 mile. The route went almost straight up a rocky climb. Think: Horsethief drop in. Once to the top it was some fun, fast, flowy singletrack for a very short time.

We came out on a viewpoint, looking more than a thousand feet down to the Dolores River below. We had a snack and joked about the upcoming section of trail. It’s called the Ketch Em Up trail, and it went almost straight down from where we were sitting. We could see the end of it almost directly below us. We had no idea how it did that, but we knew that it did.

Me and Jeff about to descend to the lower, but not lowest, trail.

Me and Jeff about to descend to the lower, but not lowest, trail.

IMG_9551

The storm clouds keeping us nice and cool.

The storm clouds keeping us nice and cool.

Sunflowers on Davis Mesa.

Sunflowers on Davis Mesa.

The dead end.

The dead end.

Looking down on Paradox

Looking down on Paradox

IMG_9557 IMG_9558

 

The trail didn’t seem so bad at first. Dennis and Dave S were able to ride a portion of it. But it was soon revealed to be one of the most treacherous routes I’ve ever experienced. And that’s saying something.

I had to lift my bike and carry it, over and around rocks, steep steps 3 feet down at a time, with the perilous edge just inches away. I didn’t have the strength to continuously pack my  bike down the cliff-edge with one hand, so I had to alternate. At times my bike bounced against the rock, ricocheting me toward the precipice. The only direction I could look was down. Straight down at my feet.

I have no reckoning of the time it took for us to descend. Even now I think I try to block it from my memory. It was one of the most challenging physical and mental experiences of my life. When Jeff and I finally caught up to Dennis and Dave S they were standing by the bridge that spans the Dolores River, and I had a throbbing pain that seemed to stem from my neck and absorb my entire head, penetrating pain behind my eyes.

As we waited for Dave C. I held back tears. I was fairly certain it was mental anguish manifesting in physical form. I dug out some pain relievers from pack and swallowed nearly the last of my water.

We rode on toward the hut, opting for the most direct route over fields through the Paradox Valley. Some fields were scented of manure which recalled to me visits to my cousin’s house in Tremonton, Utah, in my youth. Several fields wafted the scents of lavender, pure and clean in comparison, and lightening my spirit.

But it wasn’t enough.

I stopped, letting the others take a long lead on me. I took off my helmet and strapped it to my pack. I pulled out my emergency can of Mt. Dew and drank half of it while standing there in the middle of the road, holding back tears. I opened the zipper on the front pack of my bike, turned on Mumford and Sons on my phone, and sang along, unabashedly. When “Not With Haste” came on, I lost it, sobbing.

I was able to collect myself enough before catching up with the others. We made it to the hut, which was fantastic. There were fresh vegetables there for us. The local store lady (I don’t remember her name. I was not nearly as impressed with her as other hut visitors clearly had been.) She came in like she was a queen, telling us how great we looked in comparison to other visitors. Duh. We are awesome.

By the time we got her to leave us alone I had two adult beverages in me, was on my back on the bed, stretching my legs up over my head. I’m not sure how long I stayed in that position. Time started to mean very little to me.

Jeff looking down at me and the thousand feet to the valley floor inches to my left.

Jeff looking down at me and the thousand feet to the valley floor inches to my left.

Me looking up a Jeff. Ditto.

Me looking up a Jeff. Ditto.

There's a trail here?! Who knew!

There’s a trail here?! Who knew!

Composite shot. Can you spot Jeff?

Composite shot. Can you spot Jeff?

IMG_9567 IMG_9568 IMG_9570 IMG_9571

Again, no concept of time. Kelly and Dan showed up- which was the absolute best part of the day. They brought treats from Ridgeway, and ordered dinner from Marty (I guess that was the chick’s name. She called us “hutties”. I found that offensive. She also tried to talk us into a shuttle up to the next hut. Also offensive. She charged $20/person for dinner. She’s lucky I was pretty out of it….)

I ate some of the Colorado Boy pizza with deep gratitude for Kelly and Dan, and washed it down with some of the growler of beer from the same establishment. Capital friends! Best of friends!

At some point the Paradox people brought food and we ate like gluttons. Again, my whole concept of time at this point was negligible. The sun went down, and with it, so did I.

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