The Spiritual Side of Mountain Biking in Seventeen Syllables

Every time I click my cleats into my Shimanos, I expect to have a wonderful interaction with the trail, and those expectations are almost always met. But some rides end up being more. Occasionally, the interaction between knobby and dirt gives way to the spirit absorbing the totality of one’s surroundings. In recognition of those times where the ride becomes more than just the ride, my second installment of mountain bike haikus includes tales of days that left an imprint beyond the mere mechanics of turning cranks.

In Sedona, you can experiece great heights and depths--all in one spot!

Spires above sinkholes
Universe in Harmony
Heights and depths are one

I have a friend who is a sort of self-made Zen master.  He once explained to me how there could be no highs without the lows as well.  Ridiculous, I said.  I’m gonna’ be high all the time—no need to go through the lows.  Then one day, I was riding the northwest Sedona trails and came upon a fascinating geological phenomenon—a tremendous sinkhole dropped over a hundred feet out of solid rock (Sedona has a few—another can be seen just off the Broken Arrow trail as well).  This particular sinkhole just happened to sit at the foot of one of Sedona’s many great red rock formations.  The contrast was awe inspiring.  At that moment, I saw the parallel between the geographic separation of high and low, and the corresponding highs and lows in life.  The fact is, that heights too easily gained are not appreciated and therefore, not really highs at all.

Sedona is truly a magnificent place.  You will find everything from traditional American Christian churches to Native American spiritual centers; from Buddhists to new age spiritualists; and from vortex chasers to tarot card readers. And everybody melds in a unique and seamless heterogeneity.  No matter who you are or what you believe, time in Sedona will tap into whatever innate spirituality you possess.  As I rode the Templeton Trail beside Oak Creek and on to Cathedral Rock, marveling at the juxtaposition of the bluest sky and most colorful rocks I had ever seen, this unity inspired me to pen the following:

Red rocks and blue sky
Sun, river, and all Mankind
Together we seek

More stunning Sedona scenery on the Templeton Trail

As is so often the case, now on to Fruita:

For me, the Moore Fun trail is indeed more fun--just like everything else in Fruita

For me, Fruita possesses yet another kind of magic:  for some reason, I just feel good there—which always translates into better riding.  In Fruita I can clean larger obstacles with less energy and better flow.  I noticed this on my very first Fruita trip.  I was actually on a ski trip to Aspen in late March, but a bizarre week of 60-70 degree temps turned the mountains into big white slurpees—so I decided to head down the road and give Fruita a go.  In midwinter bike shape, coming from near sea level, and on a rented bike, I charged rocks that would have given me pause anywhere else—and cleaned them with surprising ease.  This experience has repeated itself on each and every Fruita run since; and has even extended to Miniskibum now that he accompanies me on those trips.

A magical place
I always ride better on
Fruita singletrack

Mt Ogden towers over the valley by the Southern Skyline Trail (Singletracks photo by ricknorman)

Once upon a time, early in my biking history, I had occasion to travel frequently from Cheyenne, WY to Ogden, UT.  One day in June, I chose to challenge myself with a climb up the Southern Skyline Trail on my way into Ogden.  The trail was great and the weather perfect, but what really stood out from that ride was one moment.  As I took a short pause, I stood in the most lush, knee deep foliage surrounded by the most fantastic scenery.  Was I really in a desert state?  It had been a big snow year and May had seen rapid melting, so all the flora was booming in early June.  I looked across the valley at the still snow-covered and quite stunning Mt Ogden, perfectly framed by the fully leafed out trees on the sides and green bushes below and saw radiant perfection.  I wish I had taken a picture to share, but I don’t need one for myself as that vision was captured in my mind’s eye and I carry it with me to this day.

A great white mountain
over a verdant valley
Wasatch spring color

I have raved in the past about the remote-feeling solitude you get on the Rock Creek trail in Wyoming.   It is truly a great trail, descending 2,000 feet over 12 miles, passing through fantastic pine forests, jagged scree fields, and forbidding canyons.  But what makes it so special is that, despite being a stone’s throw from I-80, you will have this magnificence all to yourself.  If you want to adventure solo, this is the place.

In a rough canyon
Unparalleled solitude
Descend the Rock Creek

Got self-reliance? Head for Rock Creek (Singletracks photo by dauw)

Lastly, I leave you with a haiku to the haiku itself.  When I was introduced to the haiku as a youngster, I thought it ridiculous that one could attempt to convey any meaning in a mere 17 syllables.  Somewhere along the line, as I began to appreciate bigger things in life, the haiku became meaningful to me.  Admittedly, some of them carry a “I guess you had to be there” component, but when you come across one that radiates some level of universal experience, it’s a gem indeed.

How brief, yet complete
Just seventeen syllables
Behold a Haiku!

8 thoughts on “The Spiritual Side of Mountain Biking in Seventeen Syllables

  1. Haiku is but a fleeting pass at rhyme
    Barely capturing what happens on two wheels
    Like an epic ride, good verse takes the time
    To fully explore the way the rider feels
    So while haiku is quick and really fun
    It’s like a ride after work when days are short
    A glimpse of greatness then suddenly; done
    But still, as poems go, a good last resort
    Longer verse, like conquering an epic trail
    Takes practice and skill to fully refine
    The path is fraught with many ways to fail
    But with practice you’ll find the perfect line
    Apologies in advance, I hope you’ll see
    This simply had to be done, wont you agree?

      • Also , I did find it interesting that the haikus were linked together with long sections of explanatory prose… ;) I think creative prose should take cues from poetry in the sense of creative language and rhythm, but in my opinion the explanatory power of prose reigns supreme.

        However, it definitely isn’t Zen…

      • Like I said, I avoid poetry like the plague.

        Also, I will graduate college in May without having read any Shakespeare since high school… Mission accomplished!

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