Thursday, April 4, 2013

Descent into Spring

There is a road near my house that connects the Tooele and Salt Lake City Valleys across the Oquirrh Mountains. On the western side it rises through Middle canyon, and on the eastern side it descends through Butterfield canyon. Before the road tips down it has risen to something like 9,000 feet. This is close to 3,500 feet above the mouth of the canyon.

Pavement has been steadily creeping up to the summit for years. On the Eastern side it is nearly at the top.

The road is closed in winter, and even though spring is pushing up through the ground all around the mouth of the canyon, winter lurks just a couple miles from the locked seasonal gate.

The road is marvelous this time of year. Up to the gate the roadside displays treasures collected for months in the snow. Unfortunately most of the treasures are beautiful only in the way broken beer bottles catch the sun; although there were a number of brightly colored former condoms that, in their new life as simple wadded latex flotsam, competed with early spring flowers in the underbrush.

Today I rode up beyond spring. I rode until winter settled in, and snow covered the road. It was the first time I’ve taken out my newly spiffed-up 29er so I did not ride until I could ride no further. ATVs and dirt-bikes had ridden groves in the snow that I could have easily followed.

In winter I improve my bikes. I try to only make slight improvements as I’ve had to discard so many come spring in order to enjoy riding. What sounds like a good idea when my major concerns involve melting yet another back tire on my trainer are less effective when I am sweating over the handlebars on an 11% grade.

I stopped where I stopped, and spent a minute listening to nothing in particular, and added a hint of nitrogen to the future snowmelt.

Then I descended into spring. I hit speeds my new “pavement ready” balloon tires complained about in corners (they even have a reflective stripe). I used the disk brakes a little more forcefully than I had planned; my newly installed used rotors (they were such a good deal) began to chirp in time with the rotation of the tire. I’m still not sure about the Thudbuster seat-post, but the new classic swept-back handlebars are a win.

I passed through early spring, and the snow patches disappeared. The road was dry, and the air was crisp. I hopped the gravely bypass around the seasonal gate, and the road straightened out as it fell farther and farther into spring.

My route took me up a few pitches and a bit earlier into spring before I made it home. I’ve set aside some time to examine deeper winter with a roadbike in a couple days. Maybe I’ll switch out the pavement balloon tires for knobbies and see just how much winter is still clinging to the mountain.

Sometimes spring clings to the top of the pass while summer scorches the valley floor.

Someplace to the south it is summer now. This weekend it is conference weekend for the Mormons. Twice a year the most holy prophets speak to their saints and most of them listen in absentia from Las Vegas.