Thursday, March 03, 2011

The journey reveals more along the way

This week, I went for bike rides. I went for bike rides the way I used to in the summertime, when there was daylight to burn, and I had no agenda, and the miles and space slipped away like so much dust in a warm breeze. I just wanted to ride, to somewhere. I usually didn't know where, until I got there. They were always amazing places, these summertime places, bathed in pink light and the pungent aroma of pine. They helped me leave Alaska behind, for a while, and reminded me that happiness is not a place; it's a series of moments. The moments come and go like the summertime wind. Following happiness is like following the wind. Sometimes you will go miles in a strange direction; other times, you'll weave erratically back and forth in the same place. Eventually you may realize that the place you are seeking isn't a place at all; it's the movement itself. Happiness isn't carried by the wind. It is the wind.

On Monday, I rode through the crowded part of town and headed up Grant Creek Canyon, into the opague edge of a sleet storm. As pellets of ice pelted my face, I attempted a jaunt up the Ravine Trail. The narrow packed-snow singletrack was too slushy and soft to gain enough traction, so I turned around.

On Tuesday, it snowed. I looked for more trails in Pattee Canyon. Mount Dean Stone had been reduced to a single ski track beyond the gate. Crazy Canyon Road wasn't much more feasible. The descent was a full-body shower of gray slush and little bits of gravel. Winter is losing its battle, but it's still strong enough to block out the expansiveness of summer. I felt like I was on the front line, trying to choose sides. Do I seek solitude and tranquility, or energy and expansiveness? On Wednesday, I rode in pursuit of both.

Butler Creek Canyon — a seldom-used utility route for power lines and TV towers. It's not trafficked by the general public. Finding a rideable snowmobile trail was a far-away chance, but I took it. I rode my snow bike 10 grinding miles into the wind just to see what new kinds of places existed on the far side of town. It had been four months since I last came here.

Despite temperatures in the high 30s and waning but strong streaks of sunshine, the lightly tracked trail was in decent if soft shape. The grade is relentless, even in the summer. I rode to the limits of my endurance for a blistering 4 mph until I was ready to blow up, then pushed until my sore feet started to complain. It was a good, happy slog, my best since Susitna. The cool breeze chilled the droplets of sweat on my face, and the sun warmed my soul.

Far, far up the mountain, the direction I wanted to go abruptly ended. There was a single ski track, no trail. I could slog through thigh-deep snow for two miles to Snowbowl Ski Resort, or I could go back the way I came. I had this vague feeling that I had been here before, in a long-ago moment in the summertime. In the midst of a 50-mile evening ride, I came to this junction from the Snowbowl side. Darkness was coming, and I was afraid of the unknown path ahead. Did it dead end? Shoot out on the wrong side of the mountains? I wanted to go back the way I came. But something pulled me toward the setting sun. I launched down the Butler Creek Canyon side, with no idea where I might end up.

I am moving to California. I am moving there to follow happiness, my relationship and my adventures with Beat. It is a long story that is impossible to tell in a blog post, but the details have been here all along. I made a life-changing decision to leave Alaska; then the winds changed, and I had to choose again. There are so many things I have to leave behind ... a good job, great friends, amazing mountain biking, regular access to winter and the brilliant expansiveness of summer in Montana. It is hard, and yet beyond the narrow focus of dismantling my entire life, again — I feel only optimism. I don't know where this wind will take me. But if I don't follow it, I will spend a static life always wondering where it went.