Sunday, March 22, 2009

Feels good to come back

Date: March 22
Mileage: 38.2
March mileage: 144
Temperature upon departure: 38

I intended to stick to roads for a while, but the trail looked irresistible where it branched away from the highway. Packed by a steady flow of feet and still firm in the late morning, it cut a six-inch deep line through the snow-crusted woods. It was so narrow that both pedals scrapped against the sides - true winter singletrack - but so smooth and flowing that I could navigate my rigid-fork mountain bike with ease. I breathed in large gulps of air, tasting warmth and fresh moisture. Light from the noon sun streamed through clouds directly overhead. Spring thaw has begun.

I wove through the woods, lost in thoughts about mountain biking and summer. I dropped down the moraine and rolled onto the lake. The narrow trail became bumpier - less traveled - and the walkers had inexplicably tracked a series of tight, hairpin turns across the wide-open lake ice. In the midst of a hard maneuver, I rolled right over a minefield of deep footprints in refrozen slush. I slammed on the breaks and put my good foot down as blood rushed to my head. I felt light-headed, weak and a little bit nauseous, staring right into obvious but also obviously harmless overflow. "Great," I thought, "now I'm going to have to add overflow to my list of fears I overreact to." Also on this list are the open ocean, breaking waves, whitewater and fast-flowing currents. Come to think of it, all of my irrational fears have to do with water.

But I swallowed my overflow phobia and crossed the lake to the face of Mendenhall Glacier.

It seems inevitable that every time someone catches you taking photos of scenic spots, they are going to ask if you want a photo of yourself in front of said spot. It's a nice gesture, but I have mixed feelings about posting a photo of myself modeling the floppy bulk of footgear I need to wear these days to protect my feet from the 40-degree air.

Overflow! Spooky!

The intense blue hue of glacial ice is intriguing, but I find the texture of newly exposed layers truly fascinating. To the touch it feels rough and gritty, like cold sandstone. I like to look for fine particles of crushed sediment encased in the age-old ice, geological layers uncovered by gravity and relentless melt. The face of a glacier is almost uncanny in the way it resembles the wind-eroded rock formations of the Colorado Plateau. Ice and fire.

Can you tell I'm really excited about my monthlong sojourn to the Utah desert? Come mid-May, my blog will probably feature pictures much like the ones above, in shades of red.