Paunsaugunt Enduro

A while ago I flippantly mentioned that this weekend would constitute retribution for the KMC.
I could say that I ought to watch my words, except I wanted it that way. We know what we want, even if we don’t know it. I spent a while talking myself down from the 96 miler, the first 30 miles took five hours, and they weren’t easy hours either. But the turn right and up the road, and the way past the spring and down off the plateau was almost mundane.
I ought to be used to that by know, but it still takes me a little by surprise.
Moods of the Grandview in the first few hours:

This is real mountain biking, not 10 mph avg singletrack.

The next four hours and twenty miles were hard won and well enjoyed, though the mercilessly clear sky and white sand which lurked below 8000′ wasn’t cutting me any breaks.
As Scott said, I should have had a GPS track on the unit. Bottom line, I really should have had a good topo map for a route so remote. But I had neither, my odometer said 51.7, the cues said turn left, Dave’s tracks went both straight and right, and I burned an hour going all three ways and gained little clarity in the process. Continuing on the Grandview would have been the conservative bet (and the led me to the correct turn a few miles later), but I was stubborn as I can be, and rode uphill to the north and left. The faint road ended after 1/5 of a mile, and the pass looked like it might be the requisite 4/5 of a mile, so I bushwacked uphill. I crested the pass at 5 pm, with no trail in sight. It still would have made more sense to turn tail, but I saw a break in the cliffs across the cirque that would go, and continued on. I was out of water, and in some zone, somewhere.
Let me only say that cross country hiking with a bike has different rules than doing so without one. My natural inclination was to stay high, which would have been good except for that ways the bike brought me to a standstill on the steep scree and third-class dirt traverses. I would have been better off going straight line, even if it meant loosing more elevation. I wouldn’t have run across the tiny seep doing that, and the water I dug out of the gravel really made my evening.
At a little after eight, on the final steep scree, I cried uncle and took the wheels off the bike, carried the frame to the top, and went back for the wheels. I put the bike back together over three hours after I started down from the pass, in a straight line much less than a mile away. How does such foolishness seem acceptable? In the moment that question was not worthwhile, and at a distance today I don’t much care. This may be the foundation of enduro memory syndrome.
Just walking and carrying my bike through manzanita and around Aspen groves was so easy, and I saw a dirt road in the valley below, just as expected, when the lightening went off just ahead. Too close. Then the rain started, I took shelter, and it built into a full downpour with thunder cracking all around. It wasn’t safe to be moving, and I didn’t have the clothes anyway as the temp plummeted 30 degrees instantly. It stormed for 20 minutes, but rain and lightening lingered for longer, and I easily realized that I wasn’t going anywhere that evening. I’ll let it speak for itself.

With only an emergency bivy or only a fire, the night would have been quite uncomfortable. As it was, once I accumulated enough wood and spent 40 minutes coaxing tinder I found under a log into being, I was quite comfortable, and wrung 5 or so hours of decent sleep out of building up the fire and snoozing for 40 minutes or so until it burnt down, then stoking it up again. The emergency bivy worked very well, as did wads of cotton and dryer lint soaked in denatured alcohol. Don’t leave home without them.

Before I took the video above, I called M. I had cell service (I presume from somewhere to the south), and wanted her to know I was ok if she thought to check her phone. I left another message at around 630 the next morning, before I pissed out the fire and got underway.
I got on the road within five minutes, and pedaling for the first time in over 12 hours felt a bit odd. The road was generally down hill, smooth, and very fast. My legs felt fantastic after the first five minutes, and within twenty I coasted down into a bigger valley, past cows, and onto the road to Tropic Reservoir. It seemed like I ought to try to make it back for a late breakfast, so I hammered. The road was even faster and generally downhill, and I was almost always in one of my top two gears (34: 14 or 16). I passed by the reservoir barely more than an hour after I started, and shortly after 8 I was almost to the top of the last hill before the open sage plains leading to the pavement when M and our truck came over the top of the hill. We zipped back to camp, chatted, packed, I showered, and soon enough we were at the Bryce Pines enjoying one of favorite breakfasts anywhere (their ham and eggs are exceptional, and they have rye toast!).
That day was M’s birthday, so we touristed around Bryce and Zion, and saw Harry Potter again in Hurricane. I tried not to be too out of it, but really had no stomach for the heat. We got a hotel that night.

I made several glaring mistakes: navigational preparedness being by far the most important. My Goretex jacket and some knee warmers might well have allowed me to start riding again around 2130, and to have taken the fast route back to camp by midnight. Perhaps more significantly, there is no doubt in my mind that had I stayed on route and not wasted time, I would have been able to finish (albiet in the dark, certainly). The rain could have proved my undoing elsewhere (it sounded like Rob had some nasty mud on Thunder Mountain), but my nutrition, pacing, hydration, and fitness were spot on.

But I have no regrets. I walked full into an adventure, and acquitted myself well. And had fun, though I’m really glad to be home. I’ve been a bit wasted for the last few days. Now where is all the ice cream and pizza….
It is worth noting that M’s much feared quarter life crisis came and went with only the expected sound and fury. I might have missed something, given depletions ability to enhance my perceptivity, but one never knows. And in the future adventure department, my mother and I will be visiting Egypt in the first two weeks of 2010. Airline tickets were purchased this evening.
I had some trepidation about stepping up to the plate on this one, evocation as always being a poor tool. I took particular inspiration from Jill’s Colorado, that meaning indeterminecy (re: Quine) need not and indeed should not deter anything. Her words also moved me to think about the terror of ordinary life as contrasted with the extraordinary, which we so conveniently set apart with travel, special clothes, and technological contrivences. What I fear about this is that I am somehow missing out, shrinking from the shirking the opportunity to make more if not all of my life as extraordinary as those moments riding the Paunsaugunt.
But this is false, dishonestly black and white thinking. It is not either/or. I can have more extraordinary moments in my life, of this kind and of others, as well as moments of extraordinary repose. Distance and difference being the key to perspective, and it was no coincidence that my favorite moments of the southern traverse were when I was able to look back at the trail far off that I had already traveled.
To DH, a most sincere and genuine thanks. That really was good fun.

9 responses to “Paunsaugunt Enduro”

  1. Still processing the words you put down great post!

  2. Yes, great post. This is something I'm learning more every day myself – it's the experiences we don't bank on that become the most valuable. Glad to hear it turned out surprisingly fun given the harrowing nature of it all – brutal hike a bike off route, camping in an emergency bivy (something I've still never tried and hope to never have to, but thanks for guinea-pigging the experience.)The little riding I did in the southern Utah desert this summer showed me that I have a lot of work to do before I would be ready for something like Trans Utah. That region, and those roads/trails, are the real deal. Nice work.

  3. Fwiw, DH's Trans Utah route was BRUTAL as it existed last fall.Jill, you da man.It should also be noted that I had no mechanical issues this past weekend. The Lenz rules.

  4. Hey Dave, glad to see you survived.I'm with Jill, if everything goes as planned the memories (and stories) are not as good.Have a great one…

  5. Good stuff. Restitution perhaps.I forgot about the cue sheets since I pretty much ignored them. Cues based on GPS tracks and memory, while sitting in front of TopoFusion aren't always the best, as you found out.Sometimes you get epic'd.

  6. Your welcome Dave. And thanks for giving this thing a shot. When I said I wasn't sure it could be done in a day I clearly wasn't kidding. It's a most difficult route. What you missed in the planning stages you more than made up for with intent and tenacity.It's been a real pleasure to read others thoughts on the route. Only you and I though know what it's like to hang it out on the southern traverse. That has been one of my more memorable rides of both '08 and '09…cool place, tough as it is.There is always time for repose. Getting epic'd makes it that much more meaningful.

  7. […] all that practice, I would not have been able to make the fire in the video above, and would have been in for a truly miserable, possibly quite dangerous evening. […]

  8. […] chosen to bivouac out without prior planning, and with marginal equipment.  The first was in the summer of 2009 during a high altitude mountain bike “race” in Utah, where poor route choices and lack […]

  9. […] untold miles the other way, into the unknown. Over a decade ago I experienced that unknown, and had a cold night out as part of my trouble. On this trip I tucked into the subtleties of the descent to the road, glad […]

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