What’s in a sunrise? Bleary eyed shivers. Determination and stupidity to unzip that sleeping bag. A quiet calm in the darkness and a sense of anticipation. Watching, waiting, and observing every shift of light. Hot water bubbling, coffee steaming. Waiting for it to cool and the sun to rise. Clouds no longer grey, the bottommost tips are turning pink and orange and red. Light blue sky comes back. The sun climbs up over the horizon, slowly at first. Like a bubble about to pop then all too quickly it rises and climbs far up into the sky.
We ditched the national park immediately after sunrise and completely ignored the planned route we had decided upon at the double rainbow overlook. We found backroads and barbed wire fences to push our bikes under. We happily traded highway miles for dusty dirt roads. Fourteen wheelers for ATVs.
High on the Paunsaugunt (a Paiute word meaning, “home of the beaver”) Plateau, we criss crossed creeks through subalpine meadows of spruce, aspen, fir and ponderosa.
With no cell phone service and a rough plan, pulling out paper maps, unfolding, refolding, looking, checking, staring, and double checking our maps became our favorite activity.
Foolishly, we followed the Sevier River south and assumed we would have a cruisey downhill day following a river valley. The Sevier River flows north, so we steadily climbed uphill all day with bits of downhill in between.
There are some key differences between me and Ian biking. Although we are the exact same size, when Ian rides downhill he lets go of his handlebars completely. With a straight back, his luscious blonde locks fly like a sail in the breeze and he gently glides to safety. When I ride downhill, every dentist in a fifty mile radius winces at the sound of my grinding teeth and gears. White knuckles grip the handlebars and I forget to breath. The wind inflates my cheeks like Dumbo’s ears and when a bug flies into my eye, I actually picture death.
The uphill is my jam. It is slow and in my control. It is tedious and gritty and up to me. The downhill is wild and chaotic and free. Too much freedom, if you ask me. To get down, I must surrender control and follow the flow of the road. Every divot and rock bigger than my fist could send me over my handlebars so I must gracefully avoid them or scream as I hit them and see that I am actually fine.
I’m learning to lean into the downhill. I’m training my lungs to breath deeply on the downhill. I’m training my eyes to look where I want to go, not where I don’t want to go.
We are happy to report that elk population is booming because hunters are getting stupider and stoopider. Instead of sitting quietly in the elk’s habitat and waiting for it to come drink at a stream, hunters now zip and whip their ATVs through the forest roads, alerting every living thing in a ten mile radius to scatter. The hunters scratch their camouflage butts in confusion as to where all of the elk have gone, then return to their RVs by 10am to start drinking beers.
Pedaling over the plateau had me pondering life without chocolate. Stupidly, I packed none. Not a single snickers bar in my bike bag. I resorted to eating the m&ms out of Ian’s trail mix much to his dissatisfaction.
We slept in a high meadow with a creek meandering through it peacefully underneath a gigantic spruce tree.
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