Winter arrived here in Prescott a few weeks ago. Three storms, one on the heels of the last, blanketed hid the rocks and trees beneath a calm shroud of white. All our trails met the same fate, but if you knew where they meandered, you could still find them. I headed out on my fattest set of tires to explore. It was one of the more peaceful rides I've been on in quite some time, even with several hours of hiking involved.
But with the semester finished up, grading completed, this was just about the last of the Arizona snow I saw for quite some time. In Minnesota, I found more of the same - snowpacked and icy trails. I had the pleasure of riding with some of the Salsa crew at the River Bottoms trails. Back in high school, I rode this long, sandy, mosquito-infested trail more often in the summers than probably any other trail in the Twin Cities. But I had not been back on it in more than a decade, so it was a treat to get back out there and hear about how it had changed in recent years. To me, it looked like the same old trail, though.
Then it was time to head west to drier lands. First came Nevada, where we found somewhat disconcerted skies, cobbly washes, and contorted layers of rock in all directions.
A few days in California followed. The deep valleys, enormous mountains, salt flats, and desolate yet inviting landscapes of the Death Valley region surrounded us. Many roads stretched for miles toward opposite horizons. We sought out one that didn't and pedaled on for a day, finding virtually no level terrain the entire day. Instead, we spent hours on steady climbs and descents, with an incessant cold wind blowing steadily out of the north.
Then heading east, we aimed for the Beaver Dam Mountains and the St. George Basin. I'll soon be teaching a class in the area, so I had some recon to do. And there was also some pedaling to be done. So we did both. It was exciting to be back in some familiar country that I've grown to really love. Chilly winds and cold nights persisted here, too, but the red cliffs beneath snowy Pine Valley Mountain seemed to have a bit of a warming effect. I'm looking forward to sharing this place and its fantastic geology with my students next month. But for now, it's back to snowy Prescott.