It was a quick trip with no agenda. Since I wasn't in it for the training I decided to carry my cameras on the bike, which I rarely do. I wanted to see some places I hadn't been before and maybe make a good photograph. The latter is hit or miss but I know that if I have a good, hard effort to wear me out I see better—effort makes me more sensitive.
I also know how to limit what I might get myself into: when I carry water and snacks I rarely get back on time so it's best to do without and this time of year I can generally ride three hours without either. Besides, calories weigh something and I'd rather carry a second camera than have some snacks to make me comfortable.
The Gazelle wanted to run for two hours and I suggested we drive to the top of the Mineral Bottom hill and go from there, "I'll ride while you run." I wanted to preview a bit more of the White Rim road so that I know what to expect next year when I hope to see a little more of it.
I waited at the base of the hill for the Gazelle to catch me so we could watch a dozen or so BASE jumpers exit, marveling at the explosive sound of canopies opening in the canyon, and then we separated. It's a speed thing. On that terrain I can roll at 20mph. She is on a different schedule. We agreed to meet back at the car in two hours.
The temperature shifts as I moved out of the sun into the shade and back were striking and I had to pedal hard to stay warm. Several oncoming cyclists gave me thumbs up and vice-versa. Some looked like they had been out there for a while. I was almost envious of the trip they were on. I put my head down and rode toward a time limit rather than a landmark or to close a loop. Everywhere I looked was beautiful and too much the same to photograph. Maybe I'm jaded.
As the road turned at the mouth of Taylor Canyon I noticed a sign that read, "Moses" and "6 Miles". I had always wanted to see that tower in person because it was on the cover of Eric Bjornstad's "Desert Rock" guidebook and I used to leaf through those pages at The North Face store where I worked in the early-80s. Oddly, I never researched where to find it or how to access it—definitely not a climbing objective back then as my eyes were elsewhere—so the sign was a nice surprise. But six miles out and back would add twelve and I would miss my rendezvous with the Gazelle if I went to see it. She had a key to the car though, and beer, blankets, and snacks so I figured she would be OK if I was late.
I rode hard anyway because I didn't want to return too late and because effort—in and of itself—is a drug and I needed that to make the colors more vivid, the scents sharper, and my eyes more clear.
In the valley below those towers I was all alone. No cars. No hikers or bikers. It was silent but for my tires on the dirt and my working lungs. All I could smell was the desert in autumn, which is different than in the summer. The air was practically still. I felt like I was trespassing, I was outside energy, and stress, and still connected to what I had left behind me. Out there I was the poison. My presence changed things, not enough to unbalance the natural order, unless I left more than tire tracks and footprints, which I wouldn't do.
Moses was as impressive as I hoped it would be. And stark. Clean. Staggeringly beautiful. Red rock thrust into a deep blue sky. And having returned to the valley, having satisfied my ambitions as a climber long ago, I could enjoy it from below, at peace, without desire or need. I was simply seeing and that was enough.