Cattle Tracks to Snow

Cinch pull straps tight or velcro closures, loaded up the bikes last night so now we roll away from the bustle and businesses of the center of town and crunch hiss onto the Ridge Trail, patches of sloshing mud and snow lingering here and there. We’d been on it already on this trip but tracks have a way of seeming different when they are not part of a loop back to a start point but instead are on a way somewhere with none of the implied closure. In this case for us first to Prescott, then zagging south to Phoenix. The bags wag our steering, thorough cooking through turns and berms, but the idea of motion eclipses all that.

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Take off our socks for the Oak Creek crossing, the stepping stones well submerged knee deep cold shimmer glassy with recent rains and somewhere snowmelt. Red Rock State Park jeep wide then a thread of dirt like the path of unusually ambitious and purposeful cows through brush, the Lime Kiln Trail. Push the bikes up to a sharp crag ridge, textures somehow remind me of Tucson Mountain Park but then a short fast drop and it’s dusty and snaking through rolling brush, mountains in the distance, a scene from a dozen Westerns and we open it up.

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Lunch in the shade from a stubborn against winter shine. Even with the bursts, they’re more expressions of joy at being out than anything else, our pace isn’t any victory. There are hours we’ll do with our minds in a low steady hum, weaving and circling, sometimes with waving burnished gold stalks high up pushing against our wrists. Here and there a mercurial tantrum into a rockpile that calls for shoulders and snap. We end up liking the Lime Kiln, acts like its a footnote that you might forget to read but is a notable contribution to the overall story.

The sky still has some static bright when we coast toward Cottonwood.

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All the pickup trucks in a home from work hurry but the boulevards are wide like always out West. We suss out a Mexican restaurant and roll the bikes right up the porch, enormous burritos and a bottomless pitcher of lemonade. We didn’t bother packing burners and pots for this trip, enough resupply breaks for it to be easy to do it the way we are, grab a dinner before the sun sets and then—this the painful part—full belly pedal to dark before setting up the tents. Mingus Ave. transitions to Forrest Road 493, we’re pointed at Mingus Mountain but will leave that for an early tomorrow project.

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Tents up in a rose purple sky, it’s so early so we just sit and talk in darkness. We don’t know yet that we’ll trudge through snow tomorrow for hours, or we might have chatted on that matter, too. In the event, there’s no reflection to be applied to it, just the doing and so. Our toes frozen but we’re still in short sleeves. Again, the going somewhere different from where you started feels like the difference between a mere orbit and a beyond the heliosphere. It’s not, of course, but the embodied metaphor, the cognitive recast is why we trip this way, no matter how much fun it was to stay put in Sedona.

That day over Mingus passes unexpectedly outside our awareness, peanut butter switchbacks, always views of the dry desert below, our calls to each other smothered by frost, footfalls to prints to a trace behind us, upward lifting into fatigue and over. There’s a highway and headwind time trial that hardly makes a mark on our psyches, we arrive Prescott.