Last night I rode out to Chicken Point -- Slim Shady -> HT -> Little Horse & back -> Llama -> Bell Rock Path -> Slim Shady.
There was a trail maintenance crew, 3 workers and a Forest Service official with a shiny badge, working on that first downhill stretch of shades with the oh-shit ledge on the left. They had the trail closed down with a little sign like it was an escalator out of order. I walked my bike through and one of the crew noticed my scars, "Looks like you just crashed!" "No, that was earlier this week." "Oh, yeah, you're right, that's already yellow." He was referring to the bruising. A little intimate, though, huh? Cracked me up. Can't wait to see how they improve the trail through there. Also, right at the beginning of Shades, someone put a little cairn with about 15 levels and a tiny little pebble on top, right in the middle of the trail. It's crazy adorable and so far no one has knocked it over. Of course it's only been two days, but still. Super fragile adorable rock stacking, which, of course, is the name of my new band.
When I got out to Chicken Point, the Pink Jeeps were out in full force, which is cool because it turns that slick rock into a stadium and you get a wilderness audience. I got off the Blur to inspect a section that I wanted to re-try and I heard one of las touristas shouting down at me, "Hey, can I take your picture?" "Me?" "Yeah." "Just standing here?" He snapped the pic, gave a thumbs up and turned around. I rode up and around to Yard Bird Point and some little kid's dad was pointing me out to his son, "Do you see how he's riding over this rock...", "Do you see how he's focusing on the trail…" And on and on. It was a dual-action pump to the ego -- Lauren had to perform a tracheotomy with the tube of a ball point pen just so I could breathe to brag about it when I got home. Too much even for me. But I couldn't leave before eavesdropping on the Jeep Tour guides. Great stories -- I think those tours would be a lot of fun if the jeeps weren't so terrifying; the guides have some serious swagger.
Then, as I was cruising home on Llama (I forgot how fast and smooth that trail can be), a coyote totally crossed my path. I have nothing but the deepest respect for those wire-haired old tricksters, but I'd never seen one up close before. He was so much bigger than I expected -- total wolf suit. Then, a short bit later, he crossed my path again, with a buddy this time. He got less than 50 feet away and stopped, turned his head around, and, I might have imagined this last bit, winked at me. It may not have been a wink, but there was definitely some namaste between us there. After that I started hauling because Lauren had been telling me this long story she heard on the radio about how mountain lions are everywhere, and this little manzanita-born duo was giving me a serious sunset last-call vibe.
Then I jumped back on to Shades for the ride home. I had just enough light and now that I've ridden those rocks about twenty times in the past week and a half, I was so cruisy on that stretch. I hit some straight-to-the-vein flow. I kept my speed up, mostly left my brakes alone and just worked inside that trail. That little stretch of dirt and rocks just does not disappoint. It goes on for so long and just keeps getting better. It's like fermenting agave into tequila in fifteen minutes.
Oh also, we're letting Chickee run loose on lower shades and she is straight loosing her mind. She is one bone-fide high desert rat. Within ten seconds she was tearing after a covey of quail. I've never heard paws slap the dirt or wings beat the air so hard. She was grinning so hard she popped out a few more whiskers. We kept heading down the trail and she scurried up those little climbs so fast and leapt so deftly off those ledges that we're calling her the mini-Nomad. She's even walking through the cactus without getting pricked, which sent out strong the-chosen-one chills. Definitely a little daughter of the desert.