dead horse point mountain bike trails in winter with Elisa Jones

New Years, Part 1: Magic

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” 
― Roald Dahl

“We do not need magic to transform our world. We carry all of the power we need inside ourselves already.” 
― J.K. Rowling

Today has been another fun multi-trail experience. I left Grand Junction early this morning, picked up Maria in Fruita, and drove us to Moab. We checked in at Dead Horse Point State Park around 9:30, had a nice chat with the ranger (who, I might add, seemed to suggest we were crazy), and hit the trails.

Aforementioned ranger did warn us about a badger that had been harassing trail users in the area. We didn’t have the opportunity to engage the specimen, which was unfortunate, to be sure.

Riding at DHPSP we had one goal- map all the new trails. Yes, you could say that I was working. How so, you may ask? Well, these trails are mostly in San Juan County, a client of mine that we are building a custom map for. They may also be used in our potential new project that I’m not going to mention as I’m afraid to jinx it. I’m going to take the file I generated using my GPS, upload it to JOSM, edit it and send it to my business partner… So, yes. Getting the files for all of these trails was my job for today.

You ever have a really long day at work, and you get home and you’re like, WOW! That was exceptionally physically demanding! I know when I worked for Summerhays Music Center and I would put in a 10 hour work day… or when I was a teacher and would do the good ‘ol 14er (the days we didn’t even see the sun shine because we’d get to the school in the dark and leave in the dark. Well, not me, because my classroom had windows…but you know what I’m saying)? Yeah, this was more exhausting than that.

You see, the trails we rode today are not inherently challenging: not a lot of technical obstacles, no grinding climbs or tricky DH sections. Nothing that would really get my adrenaline pumping. But the 3 hours on the trail today were some of the most technical, physically demanding, and exhausting hours I’ve experienced on the trail since I rode White Rim in June.

The trails are brand new, so the parts that were snow-free were un-packed sand. The parts that had snow gave us two options: ride the “rails” of someone’s previous track that had been laid down and re-frozen or cut new trail through ice-crystal snow. I’m pretty sure my back tire was sliding off-camber 90% of the time. It required intense concentration and technical prowess to not be subjected to humiliating dismounts.

Maria suffered as well, from all of the same ailments of the terrain as I, but additionally from a sliding seat-post, ice/sand-encrusted SPD pedals and clips, and cardiovascular fitness levels below what she knows she is capable of. She remained consistently positive and was a joy to ride with.

We took something like 1.5 million pictures. Not only because it was so convenient (read: restful) to stop, but also because the trails at times provided us with breathtaking scenery. It was immensely beautiful.

We made relatively good time, averaging about 3 MPH on trails that we would typically float over at 9 or 10 MPH. And the trail where we laid down the first treads in the snow became mentally challenging. When we had tracked most of them and arrived back at the highway, we opted for tarmac back to the visitor’s center. I almost made it there, but had to get one more trail on file. Maria went back to the Jeep, so I went out alone for a final 2+ mile loop. It was exhilarating to push myself, sliding, my breath catching from the adrenaline! I took the most scenic return route that skirts along the top of Shafer Canyon. I fantasized about Jeeping the Shafer trail. I tried not to remember the pain of riding up it after spending 12 hour on the White Rim.

Oh, the slew of memories that can assault you in a place, on a trail! I was taken back to the several New Year’s we’ve spent at DHPSP. Just last year when we went there I was horribly sick with a cold. A few years before that we had Tim in a backpack and Connor in-utero. And years and years ago, before we had children, Dennis and I would escape to this place any time of year, for just a day. Today, I missed my family something fierce.

So that was experience #1. Experience #2 came post-hot-tub-soak-shower-nap-dinner-lots-of-discussion-and-drive-up-into-Arches-National-Park. We were hoping to get into the park and be above the clouds to see the starlight. We were grossly misinformed by our imaginations. Instead, we were met with near complete darkness. A New Moon and dense cloud cover.

Nevertheless, we pulled out the bike lights and headed up Park Avenue from Courthouse Towers. The lights were bright enough we could shine them up on the looming walls. It was creepy. Terrifying. Wonderful.

And then the magic began. A single snowflake crossed the light beam. Then another. A team of them. A family. Tiny balls of snow floating down from heaven. We turned our lights up from whence they came and found each dollop of precipitation brilliantly reflected. We had found the stars!

As the snow picked up, it seemed we were standing in the middle of the Milky Way, only instead of each point of light remaining in the heavens, they fell upon us. A thousand wishes! A million gifts! A magic surrounded us. It was absolutely astounding and unforgettable. The stars falling to the earth at our feet, and melting on our faces.

The magic was short-lived. 5 minutes at most. When it ended, the sensations we had lingered. We sat in silence, meditative. Contemplating the change from the old year to the new.

Maria, looking fresh!
Maria, looking fresh!

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