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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Long Journey

One of the hardest days of the year is the one when we have to leave our idyllic campsite in the San Juan Mountains. It's a campsite replete with an incredible view of the mountains and amazing wildflowers.
It even has a nearby cluster of six small lakes that no one else ever visits. The Runner found them by studying a very detailed USGS topo map. The Duo adores playing there! I am already looking forward to visiting again next year.
But, it was time to go, and I had a big mountain bike ride ahead of me. I was planning to ride a rugged trail through the wilderness from our campsite to a main road, where I'd meet the pack. It's a very tough ride that I've done several times in the past but I was honestly scared of it this year.

The reason is that I feel as if my body has not completely recovered from my surgery last February and the subsequent trains of cluster migraines. I'm now on medication to prevent migraines, but the medicine leaves me bone-tired and in a brain haze. Over our trip, I'd felt like a shadow of my usual self on my mountain bike rides - I was so tired all the time.

So, I seriously wondered whether I could trust my body to get me from point A to point B through a long trek of roadless wilderness when there would be NO option of turning around. I pondered it for a few days ahead of time. I tried to rest up, eat well, and get lots of sleep, and I started to feel a little better. After a couple of good shorter rides when my body felt strong, I finally decided that I was going to take on the challenge.

Due to my medical issues, my rule for the ride was to stay well below my "red line", or that threshold where the body is working too hard and can't recover quickly. I started out pedaling easily through a big meadow with the last views (for this year) of the mountain ranges that I've come to love so much. I took this photo as I looked backwards bidding them farewell. I was about to climb a ridge that would lead to the next mountain range on my bike journey.
After the initial huge meadow, the trail wended through pine forests and across numerous creeks for miles and miles. Near one creek, a hillside was covered in Columbines.
While in those forests, I couldn't see the full sky so I didn't know that thunderstorms were brewing. The forecast had called for the "usual" 20% chance of thunderstorms "in the afternoon". I took the next photo well before "afternoon". Uh oh. Regardless of the threatening clouds, I still had a very high mountain pass to cross.
The urgency of my pedaling ratcheted up a notch but I still stuck to my "no red line" rule. As I climbed, the sun would occasionally break through the clouds, and the world would look safe and cheerful, once again.
This climb is one of the hardest I've ever pedaled up. However, the wildflowers were awe-inspiring and constantly distracted me during the seemingly endless upward grind.
I had to stop every now and then to photograph the flowers. They are a natural wonder - one of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen. I wish the sun had been shining on them!
 There were even Columbines in the mix!
After almost an hour of pedaling uphill, the purples took over. The scarlet paintbrushes were like a carpet.
I lay down on the ground to look at the world through the scarlet forest.
After that short break, I kept pedaling steadily and patiently, peering upward as I rounded each curve, hoping to see the top.
Finally, I topped out with big views in all directions!!! I took a photo looking backward from the top, feeling elated to be so high. I'd started my ride on the other side of the mountain range in the distance of this photo.
I wanted to linger, rest, and enjoy the views but the clouds chose that moment to start hurling ice balls down at me. Grrr. So, I started pedaling again, now downhill, with even more urgency than before. Because I'd been so conservative with my effort level for the first half of the ride, I felt like I still had energy to spare.
And, I was going to need that energy because storms chased me for the rest of the day. The second half of the ride was a bit harrowing but I survived! I'll save the conclusion of the story for Thursday.


  1. just amazing views and blooms! i can only imagine the exhilaration you felt taking this on by yourself.

  2. The flowers are gorgeous in variety, color and number. Oh, to ride a route surrounded by that much beauty. But I would have to take a tent and take much longer rest stops! :)

  3. I am always inspired by your desire to constantly push your body and mind with these treks. And, of course, the stunning photography!

  4. Just amazing! So glad MOm and I were able to stop by today. Thank You!!

  5. We are with Maery Rose, it would take us days to cover the ground you cover. Beautiful...

  6. That must be just so incredible to see in person - the photos are so wonderful. Now we are on the edge of our seats waiting for the second half of the ride:)

  7. We understand your need to do that ride KB,,,, and you did it.
    You will never forget that you did it.
    It was so beautiful. Thank you for sharing!

  8. I'm glad that you made it to the other side! The view looks worth it, as well as the feeling of accomplishment must have been. :)

  9. You are so brave! I'm glad the weather wasn't even worse. Thanks for sharing with us homebodies. :)

  10. Beautiful mountain blooms, narrow trails, and a tantalising glimpse of your adventure. Tomorrow's instalment cannot come fast enough. Cheers,Jean

  11. What a fabulous series of photos, but the best is of course the one of the pups with the stick!

  12. You are one of the bravest people we know, KB! Your photos are just fabulous!

  13. Such a beautiful journey and we just love all the photos, especial the two playful ones!

  14. Seeing those views and the carpets of flowers, I can understand why you chose to go for it and make this challenging ride. What beauty. And when you share the view toward the mountain range you started behind, wow. You are so athletic. Very impressive.

  15. Especially love the snap of the duo! Thanks for taking us along on your amazing bike trips...something I couldn't have attempted on my fittest day ;)

  16. What a beautiful place, all those flowers! And that looks like a very tough ride.

  17. What beauty! I feel good about myself when I bike 10 or 15 miles on a relatively flat (and paved!) bike trail. LOL! I can't imagine the kind of strength and endurance you have! Amazing!

  18. Congrats on conquering a difficult ride after so many physical challenges this year! You really hit the wildflower peak! Any day in the San Juans is a good day, and it's always difficult to return home...

  19. Well done! Looks like Mother Nature was giving you her best!

    Your Pals,

    Murphy & Stanley
    Candidates For Mayor of Blogville 2014
    "Use Your Noodle & Vote For A Doodle!"

  20. That ride must be something so special in your heart
    Lily & Edward

  21. What gorgeous photographs. Each as lovely as a post card. Scary about the storm and you alone out there.


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