We’re ascending, I know, but paying attention it feels the other direction, listless sinking and revolutions turning slower heavier. Spend the afternoon linking together quiet asphalt and dirt roads parallel to the highway up to Molas Pass before looping back down for three days on the Colorado Trail to Durango.
I’d been among these peaks before, maybe fifteen years ago with all my recollections dry scraping sunshine and futile gulps of thin atmosphere. Again that sensation of being further away from the center of the earth, where the orbital distance is like leaving the weight of your chest far below. A suffocation that’s equal parts diminishing morale and loneliness and stampede, those emotional narratives. Perceptually, full lungs are a precondition for detailed rich format consciousness, so now instead it’s gauzy sloshing attention from one supernova peak mass to another with the smeared green valleys in between that we wend through. A lot of the time it’s a narrow sharpie line of a track before us, properly singular, not only the one of imagination when American West mountain biking is called to heart, but likely the actual one from seared glossy images.
We mark our sorry pace by the progress of hikers. Some dawdle and make us feel heroic but others have their heads down, bobbing hoods shielding rainswirl and those two prosthetic sticks and clack and tock so their elbows are always in mesmerizing motion. Anyway that latter group has us sheepish in our slow pushing and when we go by on a riding section I keep hoping it gives us a chance to put enough distance to avoid the ignominious recatch.
Altitude makes it so that you only have one burst for a rockpile or for a steep bit, legs twang tense up hard spin and the bike lifts but then the delicate state of your breathing spiral lofts into a wobble in an unstable trough and it’s all you can do to keep going forward. I envision another metaphor where my hips and knees turbine up until fuses start to crack open, I’ve thirty five seconds of full power before everything shuts down.
Campsites framed by trees and distance, down climb to slipping creeks to crouch with the stoves and stories that aren’t directly related to the day but more like determinate angles from it so they’re not non-sequiturs either. Jack and I played in a prog metal band in grad school, we both wrote melodies, those themes and arrangements that rattled in us in our 20s are now a laughter touchstone, he knows me and I him through lyrics that we wrote. The distance of it is a paradox closeness and constancy in our conversations. He talks about his daughter and how she might like the skree slopes and views.
Aim the wheels at the muddy sluice between the rocks, the slip and drop and sideways. Rain isn’t cold enough for jackets but isn’t warm enough for forgetting so instead squinting until hail. This section is an indentation in shale all the rocks moving in small quiver pivots so it feels like the bike is blowing around like the clouds. Downward, loft an iceslick waterbar rear wheels kicks far out comes back and I think Jack maybe should be told somethings and I look back to see him falling and we both laugh.
Soon it’s like the horizon is upside down and we’re pedaling on the sky, these mountains impossible formations of cumulus clouds, the lakes are the patches of blue then mostly there is the grey rock and low brush dappled background light. We look up at where we came from. The metaphysical transposition height and depth we dissolve into the fewer O’s all of my me’s blowing close radiation prism refracting. Colorado breaks through our sleep raw and insistent, on the last day we’ll go downhill for hours hip steering through turns climbing back into ordinary things and breath.