29 November 2011

Island in the Sky

Payne Benchmark
Payne Benchmark, Lost Creek Wilderness

For several months, we planned to climb something on the seventh anniversary of my back surgery. I'd had my heart set on Bison Peak for a while because it's near and in the same wilderness area as Payne and No Payne (yes, those are the REAL names!), which I successfully climbed (after multiple payneful failures) on the third anniversary of my surgery. The Lost Creek Wilderness also tends to be more accessible in winter than most of the 14ers and less crowded.

Alas, even Bison Peak was being pounded by a blizzard on November 5. No climbing that day.

The following weekend, we couldn't climb because both The Lizard and I had signed up and paid for a CPR/AED class. No climbing that day. Yep, you're safe adventuring with us now! We're certified. You'll have to carry your own AED, though. We don't own one. But we do know how to operate an AED now.

A friend from high school had scheduled family photos and senior portraits the next weekend. No climbing that weekend, unless you count Garden of the Gods. What a terrific location!

S and Family

That brought us to Thanksgiving weekend. Family obligations prevent us from venturing into the wilderness for four days, but we were close enough to Moab that a special ride or two could be planned well in advance.

It's not a mountain climbed, but we did something big. What we did Friday and Saturday will count as my seventh surgery anniversary milestone.

Colorado National Monument profile

Saturday we'd planned to ride Colorado National Monument, one of our favorite rides in the state. The mercury had climbed to only 32 degrees by the time we took off, and the Monument would have been about ten degrees colder, plus lined with shady canyons and steep descents that would have been bone-chilling. So The Lizard took me on one of his typical after-work loops from before we met. We rode 38 miles in three layers. I took photos a la Mrs. Micawber style because her blog is what our ride continually made me think of. I didn't write a haiku, though. Yet. I may! There were some mighty inspiring scenes along the way.

Alphabet Cornfields
Alphabet Cornfields

still blooming
still blooming

all lined up
all lined up

ICK!!!
hungry worms

ready for winter

autumn's artwork
autumn's artwork

My favorite scene, of course, was one I was unable to capture with my iPhone camera. The thing just doesn't power up fast enough, and to top that off, I have to remove a glove to operate it. It understands only flesh commands. As we passed cornfield after cornfield, I wondered why the farmers had allowed the corn to go to seed. The Lizard explained this was field corn, not the sweet Olathe corn we cherish every autumn. The corn and stalks would be ground up and used as feed for cattle.

As we were riding by one of the cornfields, I kept thinking I could hear sandhill cranes. The Lizard and I have seen and heard the birds in Monte Vista during the annual spring Crane Festival, and I'd seen them a couple of times in Bosque del Apache in New Mexico long before I knew anything about them. Their migrating path does not typically include that stretch of the Grand Valley, so what I was hearing really captured my attention.

At 2:23 p.m., a flock (or herd or sedge, to be precise) of approximately 80 sandhill cranes flew directly over us, close enough for positive identification. I wish I had a photo! Oh, how I wish I had a photo!

Sandhills in Monte Vista
sandhill cranes over Monte Vista Wildlife Refuge

Friday's ride was much bigger. We rode from downtown Moab to Island in the Sky in Canyonlands National Park, 68 miles for me and 76 for The Lizard. I now have 9 consecutive months with a 60-mile (or better) ride, and a 60-mile (or better) ride in every month this year except February. I think this was my first ever 60-mile ride in the month of November, and my two-day mileage totals 106 miles. That's another November first for me.

I took no photos on Friday. The first 30 miles of the ride were uphill, although not at the altitude I typically climb in Colorado, so I could breathe during this ride! The return trip was in a headwind and partially in the dark. The entire ride was cold, and my iPhone battery bit the dust before we reached Island in the Sky.

The best thing about Friday's ride is The Lizard wanting to ride nearly eight hours with me instead of Black Friday shopping or watching football. He could have finished his ride in half the time it took me, but he kept pedaling back to me to check on me after sprinting up portions of the climb.

I hope your Thanksgiving was as treasured as mine!

Sunset on Merrimac and Monitor
Sunset on Merrimac and Monitor


Sunset from Canyonlands
Arches National Park sunset from Canyonlands National Park

5 comments :

  1. I love that picture of Dennis and Sandra!!!!

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  2. I just love drooling over your photos! Thank you so much!

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  3. Oh Deb, I loved this post. But it made me very hungry for riding, as I haven't been on the bike for 2 1/2 weeks now - my season is essentially over. (It's going to be a long winter.)

    You are surrounded by so much that is breathtaking and beautiful. I love the shot of the dried flower pods, and the Lizard with cornfields behind him, and the one of hay bales. Actually I love them all.

    What a nice way to spend Thanksgiving weekend. Your mileage floors me. And what a very nice husband you have. :)

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  4. Pretty sure this is the most perfect way to spend a holiday weekend! There's something about riding together... it's altogether different. Better. In every way.

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  5. I cannot believe that we were circling the same area at the same time. My biggest mountain bike ride was a big loop that included circling the Monitor and Merrimac! And, there you have a beautiful photo of them at sunset.

    Congrats on the big anniversary. It's a great thing to celebrate it with a show of your physical strength! You and I take similar attitudes about these things.

    Ah, the Sandhill Cranes. You are so lucky to have seen them. I love the photo from years ago. Apparently, they circled my house for a fairly long time this fall but I wasn't home! I was sad to miss it.

    Thanks for the inspiring post! I wish that we'd run into each other in Moab. That would have been such a wonderful surprise.

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