Thursday, June 30, 2011

Rising Green

Word by Greg
Photos by Greg and Trina

The pale green and the delicate flowering of spring are now gone from the desert valley where we live. But spring in the mountain west is not just a factor of time, but of elevation. Spring rises week by week up plateaus and mountains, painting away the vanishing snow with green.

Rumor has it that much of the high country is still locked away under snow. We made our escape from the desert heat to the middle elevations and found ourselves amid a bounty of blossoms and rolling waves of green. Temperatures were mild, sunshine was bright, breezes were cool. We rode on narrow trails, read books in the shade, and wandered among the flowers.

Circumstances like this suggest to me that the human tendency to be nomadic is something that should not be ignored. Despite lives that lean strongly toward stability, I think it best, when possible, to break away and follow, rising upward with the green.

The dogs became captivated by...

Prey! Large, pointy-hoofed prey. Which they were very disappointed we would not allow them to hunt.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Summer Heat

Words and photos by Greg

Summer is upon us in all its hot-dry-chapped-sunburned glory. In our valley, the heat pretty much shuts off daytime riding. Early morning is good. But I'll admit to having some trouble with the concept of morning and especially early morning as it relates to riding. Late evening seem more appropriate. Cloudy evenings are better yet.

This is the time of year when the mountains begin to call to us, tempting us upward toward green meadows strewn with flowers, to the shade of pine forests, to cool frothy streams, to the blur of white aspen trunks slipping past us on a narrow trail.

We will give in to those temptations. But for our semi-daily rides, we'll stay close, spinning out our miles on the dust and rock of the local trails as days slip toward twilight.


Stepping Sticks

Words and photos by Greg

The rivers that come together in this town ran high as mountain snow melted in late spring's heat. The water is retreating into its banks now but has left marks of its passing. There are missing riverside walkways and paths. And there are new piles of silt-polished driftwood in places where there weren't any before.

Early this spring we spent some time along the rivers "stick shopping" -- looking for straight-ish driftwood sticks among the tangles of dead and polished trees and branches washed up on the riverbanks. It was a handy way for us to gather a few functional sticks in a manner that didn't commercially cut down forests and which avoided the cost and waste of trimming, packing, and shipping that would be involved if we bought sticks.

We used the sticks to build arbors in the garden for the squash and bean vines to climb. We though this would be a good way vertically maximize our garden's limited space, which would allow us to grow more food. If we grow more food we hope we'll be able to cut down on the cost and waste of fertilizer, pesticides, packaging, and shipping that would be involved if we bought that food.

We're not self-sufficient pioneers wresting our living from the land. The amount of food we'll be able to grow for ourselves this year will be a fraction of the food we'll eat. But with each home-grown bite we'll be taking an important step away from a status quo that we see as increasingly inappropriate.

We'll step away from chemicals that damage the world we live in. We'll step away from a economy that thrives on private profits from common resources. We'll take a step away from leaving our next meal in the hands of an agribusiness empire which has lost sight of the ethical and the humane in a fog of profit and greed.

Our squash and bean vines are just now reaching the lower portions of the arbors. The sticks from the river are helping us take a small step toward changing the way we live our lives. One small step that may become a stumbling walk, which may become a steady stride toward positive change in the world.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Words and photos by Greg

Summer is upon us in our big valley. Long hours of sunlight tempt us to stay outside. There's no snow, no mud, and really, no excuse not to indulge in the local trails. It can be hot, but there's also water to splash in. With sunshine, trails, bikes and boats, we're afloat in options.

Recently, as I was strolling with Trina and the dogs to a nearby pond, I was gratified to see a heap of children piled onto a floating log. Which is something I guess I don't see often enough. There are times when I get a bit befuddled trying to wrap my mind around both the good parts of civilization and the parts where good intentions seem to become twisted enough to cloud what may be one of the main goals of civilization: to promote the enjoyment of life.

I suppose I'd rather think that inside me, despite some rather stuffy tendencies of my own, there's an inner child who would rather be dressed in shorts and a t-shirt and floating on a log in a pond, than to be attired in a designer swim suit floating on a pool toy in a chlorinated pool watched over by a lifeguard. But where the line between those two exists, I'm not sure.

Further befuddlement comes courtesy of Mike, who's new exotic pool toy has me frothing with admiration. His boat/bike set-up allows for the collision of bicycling and floating. It expands the possibilities for traveling through wild country from point A to point B to include a river (for instance) that would otherwise have stopped a cyclist dead (wet and drowned) in his tracks.

His own near-future plans exceed any of my own dreams, and precipitate his current choice of extremely fat tires for sandy beach riding, as well. (Plus clothes and supplies for many days of cold, wet, ice, tundra, brush, bears...) But here's the gist of the game during one of his recent test runs.

Arrive at selected body of water. Remove rolled packraft from handlebar.

Inflate packraft.

Partially disassemble bike.

Attach bike to raft.

Strap remaining gear in place.

Get into water.

Paddle away. (about 20 minutes from arriving, but he'll get faster)

Cross body of water and get out. Reassemble bike and return raft to handlebars. (about 10 minutes). Ride away. (Gear geeks please note that other than the clothes he will be wearing, in these shots he's loaded with everything he'll need for longer than a week of wilderness travel -- sleep kit, food and cooking stuff, and big camera gear. I, ever over-self-laden, stand in awe.)

Back in the 1960s I was told that we would all soon be driving cars that could turn into a boat with the press of a button. That has not happened. But this bike/raft thing should help make up for it.

Trina, the dogs and I inflated her (non super-lightweight) kayak and joined these two packrafters (sans bikes) for a pleasant float down a swollen local river.

Mike nails the big rapid (cough cough) of the day.

Zeek already likes packrafting!

Runoff was high and the banks were full to overflowing. Which meant a little extra paddling along the road after we'd reached the take-out.

Speaking of afloat, due to the swollen local rivers, we've also had the chance to enjoy the water as we've pedaled around town on our evening dog-run rides. The high water has been flowing over the paved paths. Sometimes that has stopped us.

Sometimes it has not.

And, lest our faithful viewers think that this blog no longer has anything to do with mountain biking on actual dirt trails, I offer these recent photos. Okay. Stop reading this and go have fun out there!