Friday, August 09, 2013

Idaho- End of days

End of July 2013

I spent another day in Sun Valley just soaking it all in and then going for a grueling bike ride on the Red Warrior trail.  The ride back bombing down the mountain was great, but the ride up left me with just enough energy to once again refresh myself in the hot spring and then sit my butt down along the bank of  Warm Springs Creek for the evening. Appeased and enthralled by nothing more than listening to the creek's incessantly melodious babbling while watching the tiniest of fish maintain itself against the current while zipping left and right to capture its food. My big concern for the evening is wondering where will the little fish go once its belly is full? For the moment I prefer to not think about the fact that there may also be bigger fish in the stream. 
Pettit Lake at night.

Afraid that if I didn't leave the area today I might never leave, I packed up and drove up to Stanley, Idaho and dropped in on the Stanley Adventure Company to meet a new friend of friends who said to stop in and say hello. I find my options for the evening are restricted because of a forest fire in the area, but luckily the picturesque Pettit Lake area is open. So I set up camp there and hope that today's 70% containment status of the fire means they will open back up the Fisher Creek Loop in the morning. It's supposedly Idaho's best mountain bike trail and it would be a crying shame if I didn't get to partake of its offering. 

Kayakers avoiding the lake sharks!
After I managed to repair a solar system snafu in the morning I strolled down for some leisurely reading by the lakeside which, by the way, has a view to die for. Other than the view the only distraction was one boy who swam out to a point with his older brother, but was scared to death to swim back alone, clinging to a large floating log like it was his protector and savior. Someone had mentioned the word shark and after that you could hear him shout, "It's the dark water freaking me out!". Of course there were no sharks in the lake, nor anything else remotely dangerous or scary in the dark water which was actually quite clear. They were all in his head. It's funny how we can become fearful and paralyzed by nothing more than illusions created by our minds. Silly boy, silly minds.

After a while I decided that the Rangers had had enough time to open up the trail if it was going to happen today and decided to head that way to check. The wood fairies were smiling upon me because they had indeed opened the Fisher Creek Loop. It was surely a somewhat epic 17.5 mile ride, but there were two shortcomings. 

1) To complete the loop you have to do some road riding which is a "no-no" for any truly "epic" mountain bike ride.

2) I crashed! After the long climb a connector trail starts the downhill and it's very fast, sandy, has lots of switchbacks and is a very narrow singletrack right on the edge of the seriously steep and deep precipice! Seriously sketchy!! So much so that at the moment in question I was overcompensating and favoring the inside when I caught the singletrack's wall and bit it pretty hard and fast. I suffered some scrapes and a nice gash on my arm while nearly kissing a tree stump intimately, but all in all it could have been a lot worse. With the exception of that and one downed tree on the Williams Creek trail which could easily ruin someone's week, month or life the rest of the ride was real sweet!  (I'll only take off an additional quarter point deduction  because the stream at the end of the ride where I cleaned up was horrifyingly frigid ;) But now I'm just nitpicking!
Stanley Lake, Idaho

I knew the fire was out the next morning because I was woken up by a parade of fire trucks and personnel filing into Pettit Lake's parking lot to enjoy some much deserved R&R and partake of some of area's features they had been working so hard to protect. It was a little too crowded for me so I decided to make some space and move on to Stanley Lake not far up the road. The scene there was so eerily similar that I did a double take and then momentarily had to consider whether or not I had somehow circled back around on Pettit Lake! 

Life ain't bad when you can trade one beautiful lakeside view for another the next day. As a bonus there was another great ride to be had only a few hundred yards away.  The Elk Mountain trail was a great 11.5 mile ride and I felt great too, even after my previous crash. It's a little rocky at beginning, but still good and has a few downed trees, but nothing treacherous. All in all, a really enjoyable intermediate type ride on which to exit Idaho and enter Oregon where I may not travel on "The" Oregon Trail, but you can be sure I'll find myself riding some "Oregon trails"!
I'll look for you on the downhill.....

Peregrine- I spy with my little eyes....

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Monday, August 05, 2013

Potatoes with Relish!?

Mid July 2013

I don't like relish and I would certainly never put relish on a potato, but I did find myself relishing the spud State of Idaho. As I arrive in Sun Valley I can't help but notice that there is a palpable good vibe emanating from this place. It brought the idea to mind that perhaps I should add this place to my list of possible homestead sites. Then I realized my bank account is probably a zero or two shy of being able to pull that off. Oh well, I can still enjoy the visit and I will, thank you very much! Making my way through the Sawtooth National Forest, I stumbled across an unexpected surprise. Frenchman's Bend Hot Springs and it provided just the right remedy for knocking off the residue of a dusty ride. 

My Warm Springs Creek neighbor.
After soaking up some of Gaia's good ole' natural mineral waters it wasn't long before I found a campsite. The combination of what I brought and everything that it provided created a nearly utopian like scene of simplicity with all the finer things in life that I could possibly ask for at this time. A comfy chair, a cold beverage, a good book, the warm sun illuminating the beautiful mountainous forest scenery and a cool babbling brook all added up to heaven on earth. The lively stream before me was made up of a seemingly innumerable amount of infinitely sized, shaped and colored stones all congregating in the bed of the stream as if the mountain waters themselves gave birth to them. Even the faint smell of wildfire smoke in the air lent itself to the completeness of the scene by representing the culmination of the life cycle. Birth, life lived and death. From dust back to dust. Along with all the glory which occurs throughout that process. 

I know I shouldn't talk about stress. After all, what does a guy who is on sabbatical and gallivanting around the country have to be stressed about. Well, maybe stress isn't the right word, but throughout these travels there are, shall we say, certain expectations to be met, even if the "expecter" is only myself. Inevitably every destination along the way has some sort of goal in mind which if not met will leave a feeling of failure or at least incompleteness. It may be seemingly small and arbitrarily insignificant to someone outside looking in, but none the less, it can gnaw at you. Maybe it's something someone recommended you "have" to see, or an expectation you've set for yourself, or simply a thought such as, "I'm going to this place and by-golly I'm gonna learn something new and take something concrete away from it".   Admittedly on a trip such as mine these stresses are self imposed, but that doesn't make them any less real. 

So it is times like this one, entering the Sawtooth National Forest in Sun Valley, Idaho which are extra special for me. Prior to entering that state of Idaho, I had received not much more than the somewhat common vegetable sex-education talk conveying that this is where potatoes come from. A couple of people had vaguely mentioned to me that experiencing Idaho's offerings  would be rewarding, but other than that, I had no itinerary, no expectations and no real plans. As it turns out, this was one of those times which allows one to forget all about plans, goals and obligations while instead allowing one to wax philosophical. To experience life as rarely experienced. To "experience" pure and simple  and perhaps receive a glimpse into what life is really all about, or at least, what it could be.  
As the sun set and the coolness of the evening settled upon the forest valley there was nothing to do! Nowhere to go. No worries to work out. Nothing to expect, nothing to be disappointed in. There was no question, "To be or not to be?" All there was, was "To Be"! And it was refreshing. The Warm Springs Creek I was overlooking would flow and continue to flow, the wind would gently and invisibly cause the grass to sway. The dead trees would continue standing as if in salute to their former glorious lives and the living fauna  would carry on living in their honor. And nothing was expected of me, but to stand witness. What a wonderful honor. No past, no future. Only an inexplicable present there to be unwrapped and appreciated with presence, concentration  and awe of  a child ripping into a Xmas present. A gift, eternally given once, but never again. To be fully enjoyed now, but never again in the same capacity. At this moment there is no tomorrow.  Yesterday is but an amnesia like forgotten daydream. My only thoughts float towards an eternal question: This creek I see before me....."Is it the same that I spied just a moment ago? Is it different?" The answers like the unceasing flow of its waters flood in: "No, it is not the same. Yet it is." Congruently and conversely,  "Yes it is different and yet the same!" My mind spins in infinite eddies not unlike the movement of the creek I sit before as the sun sets and darkness descends. A darkness which try as it might can not overshadow the light which has shown today. A light which will continue to shine, night and day, if only we open our eyes to see. 

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