Let me start out by stating the obvious: I'm not a great rider, by no stretch. Those of you who ride with me or have ridden with me know that I am pretty slow, and overly cautious especially going down loose stuff (after snapping a wrist two summers ago). But I'm not a bad rider, and I don't think I take unnecessary risks.
Just curious how many of you have had what you consider to be "near-death experiences" while out riding. I'm not talking about nearly having a bad crash but averting it, I mean an all-out "damn, that WOULD have been it" event, but somehow you came through it unscathed. I've had that happen twice.
The first time was in 1996, dropping over the lip of Poison Spider Mesa above Moab. I was maybe halfway to The Portal, several hundred feet above the road to Wall Street and the river. If you haven't ridden it, I hope you get the chance to do so. It's a HOLY BALLS sort of trail. A momentary lapse in concentration had my right bar-end catching the vertical cliff-face wall bounding the right side of the trail and I went over the handlebars to the left, onto and down the steep, exposed, and short scree slope above oblivion. I and my bike were saved by a small juniper, maybe waist-high, from sprawling over the edge, into space and certain death below. I immediately got back on my bike, pedaled on to the big right turn at the actual Portal where the trail widens out, got off my bike and collapsed. I had never been knowingly that close to death before or since. Until yesterday.
After parking a car at Rock Springs, we started out at the future Antelope Creek Road trailhead of the BCT, intent on a southbound ride on one of those perfect-weather Saturdays that make the summer heat worth it. I had not yet ridden the Antelope Creek section, my first attempt at it with DW having been foiled weeks ago by a snapped seat stay not even a mile into the ride. The Antelope Creek section is absolutely spectacular, if you've ridden it you know, if you haven't ridden it, you need to. The BCT is a true treasure, and between it and the AZ Trail, good god we have some spectacular through-rides in this state.
This was my second ride on the Hidden Treasure Mine segment. My first ride on the HTM was during an AES race three (?) years ago, soon after this section of trail had been completed. There are a few dry falls that the trail "vees" into and out of, a couple with the trail tread built with large rocks across the apex. There is one maybe a couple miles at most from the BCT intersection with the Crown King Road, a quick right turn into the vee and a left turn out. There isn't much exposure, maybe 10 or 15 feet of air between the trail and the polished granite bottom of the dry fall. But the geometry of the fall would make it impossible to arrest a fall or brace for "falling correctly" as we learn to do. A fall here would be a ride-ender, a game changer, a Flight for Life. A fall here would simply be disastrous.
Yesterday, I had scrubbed off too much momentum heading into the quick right turn. I wobbled, and I had to unclip and drop my left, outer foot...and almost went headfirst over the edge, right foot still in the pedal. It would not have ended well. I don't know what kept me from going over. I felt like even the molecules in my jersey were pulling me back from the fall, something more than my questionable balance, an unseen force pulling me back from the brink. I remember accepting what was about to happen, if it happened, as it was happening. Just like on Poison Spider Mesa. I would not have chosen to cash in my chips just yet, and not exactly like this (though I hope I am lucky enough to be doing something I love when the time comes), but there was a momentary sense of staring imminent death in the face, and in the nanoseconds that seem to spin slowly forward, there can only be one word to describe my state of being in that moment: acceptance.
Some would call it God. I call it physics. Nonetheless, the "what-ifs" can really be a mind-f***. It will absolutely not hinder me from my next ride, I can't even imagine not having a "next ride" to look forward to. While laying new flooring in my house today, in those silent spaces between thoughts and measuring tape and saw and tile snapper, my mind replays that moment from yesterday, and from 17 years ago, and I am profoundly thankful.
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