The wind swirled in what appeared to be several directions at once, skittering leaves in hapless shoals along the gravel road and kicking up clouds of dust that formed into vague funnels before dissipating just as quickly as they appeared.
As I climbed higher toward the trail, not for the first time I marveled at the ability of the human mind to gloss over the unpleasant side of certain events and memories.
Science tells us that few women would endure the travails of childbirth a second time if their brains retained a true and accurate recollection of the pain and discomfort involved with the first.
So too I wondered at the power of my enthusiasm for the single track that awaited at the top of this trail, that it makes me forget the grind of the climb to get there.
A fresh gust of wind peppered my bare legs and the frame of the bike in a fine spray of grit.
I thought briefly of turning around, of the comforts of the couch.
Riding solo is when the mind games become their most challenging.
With someone up the trail ahead of you, there is always the incentive, not to mention the peer pressure, to keep pushing, to keep them in sight and match their effort.
With someone behind you, the pressure is to keep performing, to set an example or not let them gain on you, or see you resting.
Riding alone, one needs a stronger mindset, a mantra or train of thought that takes the center of focus away from the distance still to be climbed and the ache in the legs and the burning in the lungs and the fact that at the top of the next rise there is a junction in the trail and the left turn takes you back downhill toward home while the right turn holds more misery. ...
With blinkers on, I pushed past the junction.
A respite in the climb came in the form of a brief downhill, at the bottom of which I stopped.
Here the terrain, until now relatively open, narrowed.
The trail began to climb in earnest with trees growing close on either side, their co-mingling canopies arching over the trail, filtering out direct sunlight.
The damp, cool earth was carpeted in yellow and gold, infusing the light and glowing softly in the gloom.
Although the worst place to stop in terms of sacrificing momentum for the next leg of the climb, I dismounted and for a few minutes drank in the scene along with some water.
Back on the bike, a mile and a half to go to the top, I broke the climb down into small pieces, looking no further ahead than the next pitch, the next twenty pedal strokes, the next twist in the trail, crossing through streams and more carpets of gold and pockets of dank, fertile air.
Finally, a small clearing at the top of the climb and a return of the wind.
I sat with my back to it as a shower of leaves and pine needles and dust rained down, the song of the wind through the trees carrying notes that spoke of change, a reminder that nothing stands still.
Already the ache in my legs began turning from painful to pleasant, accompanied by a sense of gratitude, for sticking to my task, and for living in such a place.
Still there were miles to come, but the hardest were behind me. The air became still, and I mounted up and pedaled on.
Hayden Mellsop is a Realtor with Pinon Real Estate Group and a former fishing guide.