Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Chasing the rain

"Wow, where is everyone?" I muse as Bill and I ride into the Rattlesnake trailhead. On Saturday afternoon this same parking lot overflowed with dozens of vehicles. Now it's Monday evening, the weather is cool and damp, and the lot is completely empty.

"People in Missoula don't come out in the rain," Bill says. "They use it as time to catch their breath and regroup."

Catch a breath and regroup. Something I could use now more than ever. The death of my grandfathers. The emotionally draining trips to Utah. The constant traveling. Adapting to Missoula. New apartment. New job. Biking. Training. Running. Friends. Relationship. Breathe, breathe, breathe.

Bill splashes through cold mud puddles and I race beside him. I only have one speed and tonight it is not a slow one. Pumping, breathing, crackling leaves, breathing, grinding rocks, breathing, while the mist-shrouded mountainsides close in around us. Golden aspens, green hemlock and larch trees crowd the narrow corridor. The mostly unseen river gurgles nearby. Bill and I talk about life and love, patterns and chaos. My lungs burn amid gulps of moist, cool air. The sky imperceptibly fades to darker shades of gray.

"Sometimes I really miss riding in the rain," I say. "Not that I want to do it every day anymore, but sometimes it just feels right, and real." We stop at the Sheep Mountain trailhead and stare longingly at the scar that cuts deep into the wilderness. When I look back down the canyon, all I see is curtains of fog draped along the treetops. The vista resembles Southeast Alaska, and makes me feel deeply homesick in a way I sometimes still feel. "I can't believe I've never been up the corridor before," I continue, more quietly. "I plan to come back often."

Bill suggests going farther, so we continue forward. The grade steepens and my legs struggle. Darkness sets in. Bats and grouse flutter through our headlamp beams. Elk bugle eerie songs into the night. When I look back, I can no longer see any reflection of city lights from Missoula. The sky is black. We rode far. I am tired. I am really tired.

Breathe, breathe, breathe. We look out over the darkened valley and search for the shadows of elk and bears. My breathing slows and quiet sets in. Night cloaks the canyon in mystery, a release from homesickness and a spark of new energy. The sweet autumn air is rich with possibility, and I breathe it all in.


  1. Your blog posts are so inpsiring. I enjoy reading about your adventures and seeing the pictures. It's so different than Virginia. We hope to experience your terrain one day.

    And...it's so awesome that you're giving single speed riding a go. It rocks! I'm a newbie to riding (a little over a year), but have found that SS is my favorite...but, we don't have "hills" where we live like you do out there. If I was where you are I would have to break out the geared bike.

    Have a great day!

  2. Absolutely! I love the still warm but crisp autumn air that makes you feel alive with every breath. It's so ironic and yet awesome.

  3. Autumn is an amazing time of year.
    Sounds like you're working through a lot of "stuff", biking to the point of exhaustion has always been a good way for me to process and deal with the stresses of life...

    Hang in there...

  4. Apropos of nothing, just saw the movie "Ride the Divide" last night. Quite a race. Gave me new respect for you as the reigning women's record holder. To win that race you have to be mentally tough, really tenacious......and weird.

  5. ...in the best sense of the word.

  6. ...in the best sense of the word.

  7. Beautiful post. I've never heard an elk, but the thought of them bugling eery songs in the night is a lovely image that is staying with me.


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