Old Man Winter

   It all started in the Yukon Territory when we began seeing single branches rebelling against the greens that overwhelmed the color scheme of the outdoors. We commented about how we might get to see the leaves change colors, burning the chlorophyll induced hues into fiery reds, oranges and yellow.
    Increasingly, we have been waking up with our sleeping bags stiffened by a thick coating of frost, reminding us that old man winter can move quick in his later years. His artistic sense seems to prelude his appearance, amplified by a more generous application of Autumn colors. No longer are the trees attempting to hide their sole rebellious limb. Feverish mutiny engulfs the entire tree, dilating the torrid spectrum.
Odd that winter is signaled by such warm colors, as if they are offering their final blow to the battle of seasons. Unfortunately, we are merely pawns in this seasonal warfare.
    The “little� snow storm near Grand Cache was a debilitating blow on summer and our comfort. The old man surely impressed us with his youthful vigor by lavishing us with his awesome power. Our naive youthfulness compounded our problems by neglecting to bring various “creature comforts�, like water proof gloves, dry socks, and ski goggles.
    I attempted to make due by sheer excess, putting on multiple pairs of socks, both on my feet and on my hands. A sad sight to behold; the frigid cyclist plowing through snow, attempting to return a wave from a passing motorist with a sock dangling from the frozen stub more warmly referred to as a hand. In theory, the extra layers make sense, however, they only insulate, which is quite different than heat. This afterthought of warmth comes too late for frozen limbs.
    Ski goggles sound like a ridiculous thing to bring with you on a bike trip. I have a pair of perfectly good sunglasses (except for the broken earpiece, of course). and they failed to protect me from the onslaught of snowflakes. Gentle, dainty, flowers of ice, that blossom into a winter wonderland. Only, when you are going down a hill at 40 miles per hour, those dainty geometric ice flowers turn into veritable micro-daggers, slicing through the outermost membrane of your eyeball, temporarily blinding. You can always close your eyes and risk crashing into the guardrail or oncoming traffic. You can attempt to squint your eyes and angle your head precisely enough to open approximately one percent of your field of vision, which still does not guard against 100% of the seemingly lethal snow stars. You can also wear sunglasses that will render your vision dangerously dark and undesirably blurry, leaving your eyes susceptible to some of the more accurately aimed snow flakes.
    These words may seem overdramatic, but I promise you they are not. If you are ever feeling like things are going too well for you and wish to delay the impending cyclic transition into bad times (this is a profound philosophy of my current life, the idea that what goes down, must soon go up), try skiing down a hill in the snow without goggles. I imagine you would share my belief that snowflakes are treacherous and evil.
    Winter has coldly entombed my thoughts, recently, as we have begun the 2700 mile stretch of “bike-packing� down the rocky mountains. According to the maps, we absolutely need to be off the 2 months worth of trail, no later than two weeks after we start. The reason, being, that when you mix high-altitude off-road passes and winter, you get an impossibly snowy route. Theoretically, I can add two and two together, but in actuality, my stubbornness and lack of options renders the equation an irritation to avoid. A reminder that will lose its subtlety as we are laboriously dragging our bikes up a snowy mountain pass, mutating the definition of “bikepacking� into something that would not even be wished upon one’s worst enemies.
    The Great Divide Route has been wonderfully challenging so far. The maps guiding us are rather charming, at times. According to the narrative, we are about to “start climbing a virtual wall� which will turn into a “real pusher� for the next mile or so. This will take us over the Elk Pass and the Great Divide. This will only be our second of 30 or so crossings until we reach Mexico.
    It has been astounding how much more difficult the off-road biking has been. Grades and trail conditions that even undermine the efforts of regular mountain bikers and ATV’s, let alone fully loaded touring bikes. Having been accustomed to a good stretch of smoothly paved roads, I have taken for granted what it takes to move my bike a mile, and have recently cherished each and every one. A redundant accomplishment that warrants celebration at each repetition.
    Despite the feeling that we have become ambassadors of pain on a daily basis, as we maneuver up “virtual walls�, we have all been thrilled by our newfound freedom from cars and road signs. We found ourselves riding alongside a pristine lake outside of Banff National Park with epic geography bearing names like Shark Mountain, jetting it’s way out of the earth at a 60 degree angle, thin slices of granite lined with snow, stacked up to look like a toppled piece of chocolate cake.
   ble to cars. My elation derived from this outdoor experience is heightened by the exclusive access we achieve through our cycling accomplishments. Nature is something to be fully immersed in. It is not the same place for me if I were to drive up in a car, complete with an artificial climate at my fingertips, as I turn right at the sign indicating a “Vista� with a small paved section to park, where I can quickly dip my toes into the scenery.
   ve the luxury of waking up within a “Vista�, of riding all day through scenery that adorns postcards and television shows. We get to sleep next to waterfalls, lakes and streams; showered by stars, soaked in moonlight, bathing us in an experience that we will never forget.

One thought on “Old Man Winter

  1. Chris & Hayden says:

    You go boy!
    Hayden and I are cheering you on and living vicariously thru you! We look forward to every pic and journal entry! So excited for all of you!!!

  2. Chris & Hayden says:

    You go boy!
    Hayden and I are cheering you on and living vicariously thru you! We look forward to every pic and journal entry! So excited for all of you!!!

  3. Chris & Hayden says:

    You go boy!
    Hayden and I are cheering you on and living vicariously thru you! We look forward to every pic and journal entry! So excited for all of you!!!

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