Uinta National Forest sign.
Well, up until Tuesday the highest hill I had climbed was 2000' After Tuesday that figure would be raised to 2800'. Today I would blow them both out of the water. Upon leaving Arizona I had two rides I wanted to do while we were up here in Springville Utah. One was the Alpine loop (a ride I had been hankering on doing for a number of years), and the Nebo Loop. Originally I had thought the Nebo Loop would be the easier of the two. Then I compared the estimated climbing between the two and the Nebo route was not only longer but the hill was not quite double what the Alpine Loop hill was. The Alpine Loop would be the precursur.
Seeing as I am supposed to be working while I am up here, an early start would be necessary so I could be back before 9:30 Arizona time. This meant starting at 4:30 Utah time which would be 3:30 Arizona time. Early, but not bright. There was a full moon out which was nice but my lights gave out plenty of light for cruising along just above 20mph on the way out of town. It was definitely warmer this morning than Tuesday and as I entered Spanish Fork (pronounced Fark by the locals) the winds coming down Spanish fork canyon blew hard and fast across the road making my aero bars whistle in the darkness. Fortunately it was a crosswind instead of a headwind and as I turned west in Mapleton it would be a tailwind (the Utah Valley is full of these quaint little towns full of old brick houses). I made really good time down to Spanish Fork and discovered along here that I had forgotten to fill my water bottles. I had grabbed three trailmix bars but had forgotten water.
Spanish Fork it turns out, did not have a store on the route that was open and I would have to wait until Salem to find one. After a five minute stop I was packed with gatorade and ready to hit the hills which were just a few miles down the road in Payson. My wife was born in Payson and as I rode past the Payson hospital I wondered if this was the place but the building was too new so it must have been torn down or something. Around here the cue sheet was steering me to roads that just looked wrong but after a little riding along I noticed the baseball fields I had seen as I scanned the satellite imagery of the route and knew I was close to the road anyway. A mile or two down the road I would realize that the roads I had selected were not the main route but managed to get me on it nonetheless.
Payson canyon did not have the same abrupt change in vegetation that American Fork canyon did on Tuesday's ride. Payson canyon started out with scrub oak and trees by the creek. Foothills surround it, not cliffs. To all appearences it was a drab little canyon with a small creek in it. Looking up the canyon it looked hilly, but definitely not mountainous. Twilight was growing and I shut my light off. It wasn't light enough to get good pictures yet as you can see. Still, there were sections in this lower half that were just beautiful. Instead of tall cliffs, I had humungous Sycamore trees towering above me. Places along the creek they had built the road up with stone walls and it had a definite back east look to it. I startled several groups of Deer through here. Bicycles are awesome for wildlife viewing as they are by nature quiet machines. Of course I hadn't started really wheezing yet. Perhaps that is why I didn't see any deer on the steeper parts?
After lulling you along up the easier part of the hill, teasing you with views of hills that don't look that special, lulling you into a false security, the hill starts to ratchet things up a notch. The gradient steepens to 6% and starts to wind back through those innocent looking hills which as it turns out are actually pretty good sized. In fact, together they make quite a challenge, one behind the other. You climb to what you think is the top, only to round it and find the hill goes on, further up and further back. There is no view of any kind of "Big" mountains in here. Then the road starts some long switchbacks. This is serious now. There are sections peaking at 10-11%. Did the air just get a bit warmer? Is that a raindrop? Nope, just some sweat dripping off my cap. Soon I pass the 7000' elevation sign. That feels good. Feels real good since the hill started at 4400' or so.
A large hill is a metaphor really. Sometimes things don't look like they are ever going to end. You set a goal on what looks like the top only to find that was just a corner, or a dip, and you find yourself staring up at another hill even larger. There are those who deem the task to great and turn around, never knowing what would have been if they only pushed just a little more. There are those that push on, groaning under the pressure, turning the pedal one more time, pushing themselves for one more hill, enduring the experience but not enjoying it, these people are usually vocal about it and slow others down with them as they grudgingly move along. Then there are those that accept what the hill is. Realize that the hill will not change, but the change can come in them. They can press on, hear the birds, smell the pines, enjoy the breeze (not curse it), and find after all is said and done, that they have arrived at the top. The hill has not changed, but they have. Sure their legs are tired, their lungs heave, they totter as they stand at the summit, but they are there.
At around 11 miles into the hill it changed a bit. The constant steepness let off a bit but instead came in sections of steep and less steep as the road slowly made it's way up the hills along a ridge heading towards Mt. Nebo. The first mountain I saw was really bald mountain but I thought it was Nebo and was dissapointed at it really. It didn't look like that big a deal and was nothing compared to Mt. Timpanogas from Tuesdays ride. Then I turned another corner or two.
Aha! Theres the Mountain, funny not seeing a thing that big until now.
I had trouble trusting my odometer in here. It kept saying I had 8 or 9 miles to go and yet I could see the mountain right there! I would spend the next 9 miles stairstepping .5 - 1 mile hills of pretty steep grades. These drops and climbs would add extra altitude to my total climbing. It was getting a little discouraging seeing the odometer and the mountain right there. Of course, around one of the turns I ran into the 9000' sign and that perked me up a bit. I was getting tired now. I had climbed around 5000 feet all told and I was feeling it.
Mt. Nebo from near road summit.
One happy fella.
All in all this was a 5000 foot hill. It was a real piece of work I tried to get a picture of me and the sign but there was nowhere to set the camera for a timed shot. I don't know of many bigger hills out there folks. I think it will be a long time before I top another one like this. I suppose the Mt. Lemmon ride in November should have similar climbing though, so perhaps it won't be too long.
Mt. Nebo from Road Summit
Of course, what goes up must come down. I had a few hills to cover in the first few miles, but aside from that it was 20 miles of 30-40mph bliss, slowing only for the hairpin turns of course. Somewhere around 8000' a bee flew into my helmet and I coasted along hoping he would fly out soon. Of course, when you think a bee has landed on your head you start imagining things. I just knew I could feel him crawling around up there getting ready to flip out and sting me. I was happy I had my cap on. After giving him ample time to fly out I could still feel him up there. Or could I? Upon stopping I discovered that he had in fact flown out and that the last bit could be chalked up to "Theres a bee on my head aphobia".
Looking way down on Utah Valley (Payson, Spanish Fork, Springville, and Provo)
I kept going down. Even if you are cooking down a hill, a 20 mile hill takes a long time to go down. Granted it's a lot longer going up but it seemed like I was descending forever. It turned out to be around 30-40 minutes but that can seem like a long time when you are barreling down a mountain with your eyes peeled for potholes. I could feel it getting warmer. Climbing up I had basically kept the same temperature all the way up (63 degrees). But getting back down to Payson the temps were in the 80's. I was warm. Not hot, but not necessarily comfortably cool either. Seeing as I was pushing my ETA a bit I phoned and told my Nephew to let D'Net know I was in Salem and would be home in a half hour or so.
Climbing up into Mapleton I took a parting photo of the mountain as I turned my head for home.
Upon arriving in the driveway my Nephew asks if I rode all the way to Payson. I told him I had, then I climbed the Nebo loop and rode all the way back. He was incredulous. He had thought I was going to drive over to the bottom of the hill and ride it from there. Anyway, 80 miles is pretty impressive I guess. The elevation is what I am feeling satisfied with though. I have done 80 mile rides and longer. I have never climbed a hill like that. I now have a new definition of what a big hill is.
6600' of climbing +
14 mph average speed +
5 hours 40 minutes riding time. +
= One tired Paul