Turquoise Reflections Past Yellowstone

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A bike park. A national treasure. A city. Each one held significantly more impact on my life than the other. Wyoming will never be ephemeral to me. It held up a mirror and made me stare long into that view. A few years ago, all my unhealthy coping mechanisms emerged full speed. Painfully they glistened before finally immolating. Out of those old fears and ash, Wyoming gave me new mental sensitivity and body attunement.

And to think it all started with a fucking bicycle.

Geared up with a grin, my Tonka truck heaved over Teton Pass and shot north just inside Idaho. What spectacular country! Jackson Hole deserves all the tourists but the western side holds quite similar visual magic. Grand Targhee was to be the final park of my trip. If the road leading up to the resort doesn't get you excited, you might be way out of touch with nature. Maybe take up a sports video game. Live vicariously with those 'characters'. Virtual immersion is better than the real thing, no?

Prepare to have the Tetons tower over you as if they were commanding elders. Grand Traverse was a spectacular introduction of a run. Those wild flowers! The twists and alpine exposure. It's a blue and delivers you to the top of either Sidewinder or Bullwinkle. Turns and flow galore on that aptly named serpentine track. If you're looking for some mild air, cruise control down Bullwinkle for that carnival ride. Loads of fun! Wish I could corroborate on how awesome the black rated trails were. Thunderstorms rolled in and ended the day prematurely. Not even mad because it was such a great day!

Yellowstone is my Mecca. Every single time I'm within an hour or so of it, I'm drawn in by it's colossal beauty and majesty. Years in Saudi Arabia make that a fairly accurate personal description. Remembering pilgrims around Medina or Mecca connected the dots on how my soul glows when I'm there. Nature is my church/mosque/synagogue. The more that I'm out in the wild during my travels, the more I'm convinced of this. So did you know there's a spot to rip on some sublime topography?

Easily one of my most cherished memories of this mountain bike extravaganza. Bunsen Peak made every cell in my body spin on their y-axis with excitement. I dropped into Yellowstone from the north entrance and stopped in Mammoth. Chatted up the park rangers for specifics and advice. Possible grizzly encounter brought sobriety to the day's load out. From the parking lot, Bunsen will be a 1300' climb that has to be done by hiking. Some will complain that it will be strenuous to hike-a-bike up there but it will be so very damn rewarding; I double Dutch promise. The communications cabin will alert you that you've topped out. This is the time to look over your equipment before launching down hill.

Plateau riding, burnt trees, and scree aplenty was the start. Singing or screaming all along with way. Wonder and deep inhalations. Amazing but steep switchbacks on the main descent was the most technical aspect. Some renegade roots or rocks were sprinkled throughout as any great ride should have. A two track road welcomed me at the end. Osprey Falls was a 8 mile round trip (no bikes) down into Sheepeater Canyon. Done on those names alone! The weather turned rather nasty as I got to that rad 150' wall of water. Simple enough ride back to the parking lot while still reeling from that day's events.

Targhee was the most scenic bike park. Yellowstone felt the most off beaten. Casper was the birth place of my outdoor lifestyle. The memory is crystal clear of walking into Mountain Sports and purchasing my first mountain bike, a base model hard tail with disc brakes, 3 summers ago. I asked the gentleman, 'Where's the kick stand?' Embarrassingly green question but there are so many of us that got into consuming hobbies at various ages. That group was always super sweet in their support over the years as they watched the scratches on my bike and I accumulate. I give them credit for properly diagnosing what I needed to upgrade to; a long travel enduro shredder. Cross country gnar has never been the same since!

Credit does go to Casper for changing me for the better. It was a welcome change moving there from Saudi Arabia. What started off as fun and harmless alcohol consumption, over time, ended up a wasteful and destructive pattern. Boredom. Socialization. Nights based on fun with friends or on stress and unhappiness. After riding some simple but fun tracks on Casper Mountain and around Glendo, the 'fast' lifestyle got decidedly slower. I hated cigarettes because they reduced my performance. The smell of trees and dirt became intoxicating. No longer was there room for negative people stuck in ruts of cynicism. Outside time and workout recovery grew into being essential. My creativity and confidence reblossomed amid work induced anxieties and constant travel.

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New habits can die hard deaths though. Who has scaled out of a pit only to slip and fall again? With crimson streaks on my calves from my pedals instead of conjured djinn, I worried how the deep Wyoming winter would affect my new found spirit. Indoor rock climbing swooped in with uplifting purpose and challenges. That's a whole other series of adventures and articles! Skydiving down in Longmont, CO would follow in the spring. The determination and grit I applied to my rides led me away from bad impulses and towards better decision making. How random or from where may these kind of sparks come from!

On this go-around, my time in Casper was spent video editing and writing. On a Saturday, participated in a hugely fun race around the Nordic trails. Pedaled around Muddy Mountain. Journeyed out by Hogadon to demo some Pivot bikes on Lamberson's Loop. Wow, the carbon Mach 6! All the loam that was getting kicked up was rehashing such good memories. My past thought patterns vacillated between love and hate of Oil City. These days? Just love and appreciation for those hard learned lessons. Internal combustion engines? I don't think of cars when I hear that anymore. My imagination generates images of collecting experience as fuel, compressing them with serious reflection inside my rib cage, lighting my personal reactor up by that, and shooting off in the direction desired. Suck. Squeeze. Bang. Blow!

See, shipmates? I still remember plenty from my Navy days!

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