26 May 2012

Authoritatively, the bristlecone pine

Bristlecone pine on Hart Prairie
Authoritatively, the bristlecone pine grows at or above 9500 feet in elevation in Arizona, and only on the San Francisco Peaks and White Mountains, well isolated from it's cousins in the Rockies and Sierra Nevadas.

Today, on my ride with Ken, we rode up the segment of the Arizona Trail which runs parallel to the Snowbowl Road up to Hart Prairie, to around 9000 feet.  We turned around to head back down in the middle of the beautiful meadow which overlooks Alfa Fia tank and the broad expanse of smaller mountains to the west.  It's an incredible view.

Authoritatively, the bristlecone pine should not be found at this elevation.  But they are here.  Interspersed, at random, between the ponderosas and firs there are a few, all much taller and fuller than their kindred which grow at higher elevations and live for thousands of years, with which I'm more familiar.  In fact, Ken and I were both so dubious of the tree's identity, that I took the picture which accompanies this post in order to use my very-favorite field guide when I got home to more accurately and confidently identify it.

Short, furry needles.  Foxtail-like boughs. You can even see the bristles from which it derives its name, on the younger, smaller cone in the center of the photo.  Definitely a bristlecone.

22 May 2012

And then the dream was done

I had a dream the other night in which our old dog, Shadow, visited me.  We were lying in tall green grass on a sunny hillside in the mountains, the three of us, my wife, my daughter, and I, and Shadow nosed-up quietly from somewhere behind me, as she was prone to do, and gently stuck her snout in my hand, as she was similarly prone to do.  I saw her vibrant blue-black coat and the so-familiar gleam in her deep-brown eyes, and I knew, in my dream, that she was an apparition, the spirit of our dog, come in this dream to greet me.  I stroked her ears, still as soft as velvet, and the broad furry patch of her scalp between them, and she grunted quietly. Content, as always.

And then the dream was done.

When I awoke, I told my wife about my dream.  "I had almost the same dream," she said.  "About Shadow.  That she'd come to visit us.  She was happy."

I've never been one to put much stock in dreams, except to give credit to the joy that comes, at times, from good, lucid dreaming.   But this?  What is this?  It is a strange thing, indeed, and it has caused us to wonder.  And to be glad.  Glad that we have been visited by a happy, healthy vision of our good old dog, both of us, in our own dreams, but on the very same night.

05 May 2012

Peaks pavé

My recently-unbroken fancy-bike and I went on a fine long solo-ride today to celebrate the ending of my most recent grad-class. The ride wasn't fast. Nor was I especially skillful along the way.  But it was nice to be out, freed from the constraints of what has become the standard-fare of my weekend: spending my Saturdays buried under a mound of homework.  

Peaks pavé
I had a little extra-time on my hands today.

My homework was mostly-done, and the day ahead was generally otherwise uncluttered.  So I planned to head out on a somewhat longer ride than I've been on in a while this morning after breakfast.  Two hours.  That's what I wanted.  Just two solid hours on the bike.  Two hours of riding never used to seem particularly long.  But these days, what with work and life and the classes I'm taking, I cannot recall the last time I got out for a ride so lengthy.

The hint of a tail-breeze going up Schultz had me feeling pretty great on the way out. And post-ride, seeing a new season-PR on the stretch from the parking lot to the Lincoln logs, confirms the sense of well-being I had heading up to my climbing-goal: Weatherford.

I typically only ride Weatherford Trail a few times in any season.  It doesn't really connect to much of anywhere.  And it never seems easy.  But it felt especially-not-easy today.  Having recently served duty as a major fire-line, the first half of Weatherford has been trashed and reassembled since the Schultz Fire a few years ago.  But to say the trailwork that got done was an improvement would be to overstate the facts; it's still pretty sucky.  But it's lovely compared to the upper half, which is still just as bony and loosely-cobbled with Peaks pavé as it always has been, for as long as I've known it.  Makes for slow-going and calls for the occasional dab, too.

Nevertheless, the trail tops out at the wilderness boundary at 8880 feet, the climbing-limit for bicycles on the south-facing slopes of the Peaks, in the middle of a beautiful high-alpine meadow with broad views of the landscape above and below, which tends to make the whole suffer-fest of getting there feel almost worth it.

Got home with a total riding time of 2:02.
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. -- Ed Abbey