Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Stansburys

I headed out to Tooele County today to visit my friend Mary Ruth in Grantsville. I worked in Tooele for three years and lived there for most of 2004, but I haven't been back since I left rather suddenly and moved to Idaho Falls in November of that year. Mary Ruth and I had completely lost touch, but she randomly e-mailed me a couple weeks ago and I wrote back one of those, "Hey, I'm in Utah!" replies. We planned dinner at 6 and it's a long drive to Grantsville, so I thought I'd make a day of it with a ride in the Stansbury Mountains.

I took the long way through the town of Tooele just to see what had changed, and felt a little unsettled by my first drive down Main Street in nearly five years. Tooele is the kind of place you can grow to love, but it is what it is ... a strip mall town in a rather desolate valley that's home to a chemical weapons incinerating plant and a big Army depot. I was fairly unhappy when I lived there. I weighed 25 pounds more than I do now, I ate a lot of fast food because I was really busy and watched a fair amount of television because I was burnt out. My relationship (yeah, that relationship) was going nowhere. I rode my touring bike a few times a week, but was fairly bored with the activity. My life in Tooele was mildly toxic. I knew it at the time but didn't know what to do.

Today, some of those old sour feelings came bubbling back up from somewhere deep in my gut. It's hard to revisit the places where your life took a wrong turn and wonder if you're currently on a similarly misguided path. But those unsettled feelings quickly dissolved as I mounted my bike and started pedaling up South Willow Canyon. Hard climbs turn off my brain. Usually, that's a good thing. I stopped at the wilderness boundary and turned around, thinking about the possibility of making it a short ride. But on the way back down, I stumbled across a sign for the Stansbury Front Trail and veered off. I knew 100 yards into that trail that I was in for a sufferfest. There's not much I can say about the Stansbury Front Trail as a bike trail. It's technically a trail and bikes are allowed, but unless you're the kind of manimal that can climb 1,000 feet in one mile on rocky, loose dirt, it's really more of a long hike with intermittent terrifying downhill coasting thrown in. I'm pretty sure my shoulders got a better workout than my legs.

Um, really?

Um, wow.

And that's the reason I stuck with it. The little creek valleys that the trail dropped into were absolutely stunning. I'd throttle the brakes to the bottom and mash the pedals to get as far up the next climb as I could stomach, until my forehead was throbbing and my legs were nearly stalled out. Then, off the bike and walking again, I'd look around at electric green aspen leaves and fields of sunflowers and think about the parts of 2004 that were good ... hiking to the top of Deseret Peak; making a fairly successful go of freelance outdoor writing for local publications; being adopted by an adorable little alley cat.

Sometimes it's good to go back to the places where you were unhappy, and realize you really weren't.