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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Healing power of cycling

The day started dark, cold, and windy but there was no way that I was going to skip my mountain bike ride. My back, neck, and nerve pain in my arm were hammering at my psyche, and I knew that riding would help. I started on our trails with my faithful biking buddy, K, and my new biking buddy, R. My body started to loosen up almost right away despite the 20 deg temperature and a persistent wind.
Then, as we passed the field where the elk herd of 70-100 often hangs out (but not today), some blue had started to shine through the clouds.

A shroud of clouds covered the divide. You can barely discern a mountain on the horizon.
After dropping my furry friends off at home, I headed out in the same direction as yesterday. Yesterday, I was short of time and didn't get to cover all the trails that I'd hoped. Today, I made it further and earned a peaceful view of the reservoir.

While on that trail network, I snapped a couple photos to show what I was ranting about yesterday. Below, you can see a gate that was erected to keep motorized vehicles out of a sensitive area. The gate is held closed by a lock on its right side with what was formerly a steel cylinder designed to protect the lock from vandals. It's a good thing that it's a strong lock because gunshots destroyed the protective cylinder. What I don't understand is this - Wouldn't the idiot shooting at this gate be in dire danger of a bullet ricocheting back at him?

When the shooting out the lock approach didn't work, the vandals ripped a new road about 50 yds downhill of the gate. The Forest Service then spent more time and money building a big log fence. The vandals used winches to pull it down once but then the Forest Service fortified it, and it's lasted an entire season!

Near the end of my ride, I climbed up a trail that I frequent in the summer, and I was reminded of yet another lion story as I passed the view below.One fall, I repeatedly found huge lion scats next to this small meadow. I'd get home from my ride and tell my husband about the scat. However, it was obvious that he thought that I was exaggerating, and he didn't believe that I was seeing lion scat. So, armed with a zip-lock bag, I collected evidence the next time new scat appeared. While trying to keep my eyes scanning in all directions for lurking lions, I quickly grabbed the scat and put it in my camelback bag. I still had a good distance to ride on completely isolated trails (where I almost never see another human) to get home. I started worrying about whether the scat in my bag would attract lions - or whether it could even be from a female in heat. That would definitely attract the big male lions. Let me tell you - I made it home in record time, and I didn't even crash despite spending as much time looking behind me as in front of me.

Once I survived my harrowing journey home and presented my husband with the scat, he was forced to agree that there was no other creature in our woods that could have dropped that scat besides a lion. However, he and his friends teased me endlessly. What kind of wife brings her husband a gift of lion scat? Why didn't he marry a nice normal woman who might have brought home flowers for the dining room table? Well, all I can say is that he was fully forewarned that he wasn't choosing your run-of-the-mill boring wife when he married me.

As an aside, part of the lion obsession by me and others in this area was fueled by a book called 'Beast in the Garden', a true account of mountain lion activities that includes stories of encounters from my area. For me, it continues to be fueled by my friend who's in the Division of Wildlife and tracks radio-collared lions. He lives very close to me and tells me that he picks up signals from at least one collared lion and sometimes more almost every evening when he walks his dogs. The photo below was shot in my area. Note the elk carcass with his antlers framing the cougar's head.
Today's ride turned out to be long and hard, with about 3000' of climbing and a stiff wind from the west. Much of the climbing was on snow, making it tough climbing. When I was within about a mile of home, I started to wonder if I would make it home because I was so tired. I was reminded of Paul Sherwin, a cycling commentator, who likes to say "Boom, boom, out go the lights" when a racer suddenly loses the power to stay in the lead group. However, despite my fatigue, much of my spine pain had evaporated. That's one of the healing powers of cycling.

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