Thursday, February 24, 2011

Night on South Mountain...

Octotillo and Towers

It is shortly after 6 pm.  I am standing in the parking lot just inside the entrance gate to South Mountain regional park.  I have to pick up my brother at the airport after 8 PM,  but now I have time to fill.  The Coy Mistress has waited patiently in the car all day.  She is excited.  I have taken bicycles up the mountain before but thus far, she has not had that opportunity until tonight.

With little ado we are off climbing the light hills which wander among the desert hills and pass the historic building of the inner park entrance constructed many years ago when this area was made into what would become the largest city park in the country.  Traffic is light and I am occasionally passed by a car but mostly it is the setting sun and the falling hush of evening keeping me company as we move up past the turn to San Juan.  San Juan will come later if there is time.

Into the main climb and I am feeling amazingly strong.  Much stronger and faster than I was last time I climbed this.   I'm a lot lighter now,  and I have been doing a lot more hill work as of late.  It is an enjoyable climb as I start to warm up and as I move through the saddle I start to breath heavy as the grade increases for the next mile to the first crest.  Above the tower lights come on and are not particularly radiant as the sun has not completely given over to night yet.

 Radio Towers

After a few rollers I am at the bottom of the first of two final hills.  Two rather steep final hills.  I work my way up and have to stand for the last bit as the grade gets steep.  The glow of sunset is nearly snuffed out.   There is only enough light left to sillouette the cacti and Ocotillo against the sky as I pass by.  After a quick picture I am into the last throws of the climb and the grade has shot up to 10% and I am breathing heavy.  Soon it is over and I am at the top looking down at the lights of Chandler and the many couples who have driven up to see the lights.    Above our heads the blinking towers reach for the sky and scream their messages in inaudible waves to the masses below.

As I turn off of the radio tower road I am suddenly surrounded by the calls of Coyotes out among the rocky hills.  It is a pretty cool moment.  Coyote calls all around,  the stars above,  and the city lights below.

At the Lookout before I drop off the mountain I stop to look at the city lights spread out to the horizon out in the blanket of night somewhere.   Cacti and desert brush are sillouetted against the lights of the city.  As I drop off the mountain I look up and Orion is tip toeing across the tops of the radio towers in a celestial game of hopscotch.

My light glows brilliant as my descending speed increases.  I am conservative though as I don't ride here often and I have never descended this at night.  Far behind I see the light of the cyclist I passed up by the towers coming down behind me.  He won't catch me but he passes when I stop to consider going down to San Juan.  I have 25 minutes to kill and I decide to see how far I can get.

The road is closed to motorized traffic and the stars shine brilliant above as I place the glow of the city to my back.  The road has some cracks in it but overall it is in good shape.   I do not make it to San Juan,  but I do get over 3 miles down before I turn around and head back up.  First I turn off my lights (except my taillight).  The glow of the city illuminates the road well enough for me to climb without the aid of a headlight.  It is only me,  the sounds of the desert and the mighty hunter in the sky looking down on me.

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