I do this every year- retreat into winter. It seems as though the months of shorter days and longer nights becomes a dearth of creativity, as I focus more on cooking food and drinking tea on the couch than searching for poems out in the world. I seem to neglect this blog every winter. But now that trees are leafing out and birds are constructing nests with twigs from the ground and fur blowing on the wind, and there are more daylight hours for thinking and musing. I’m on my bike more this time of year, a surefire place where writing always emerges. On my jaunts down the Bear Creek Greenway bike path, sweet blossoms fall from tree branches and pollen tickles my nose and ears and eyes. Spring is always a sign that my writing life will return. I sit on my couch, this time with my door open, the hills east of town visibly flushed with green, bordered by a blue sky. I remember this year’s celebration of the vernal equinox just a few weeks ago, a celebration of spring that I did by bike. They say that spring comes in like a lion and out like a lamb, as it tests its entry into the year. Spring shines with fragile newness, as it stretches its boundaries and contemplates how much it will test our adventurous spirits.
Our journey began in a rainstorm down in the valley. We suited up, head to toe in Gore-tex and neoprene, feeing the full extent of our gear. Fat rain drops fell on helmets and glasses, Jeff’s back tire kicking back streams of spring’s finest into the air, hitting my nose. The road was slick, reflecting tree branches not yet fuzzy with new growth. Our tires whirrrrrred against the concrete…whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, splash. Dead Indian Memorial Road was ours.
We muscled our way up the mountain, steadily downshifting, slowly but surely making our way to the top. Every big sweeping turn in the road brought us further up, but closer to breathtaking views of the valley. As the rain eased up, long rays of sunshine burst through the storm clouds, spotlighting the lowlands in their virescent lushness. The sky was an opal and the hills were jewels.
After hours of pedaling, we reached the summit. Huzzah! We toasted our celebratory Gatorade, looking forward to a steady descent. And then we flew down the back side of the mountain to Howard Prairie. We rode past the prairie over slow rollers as the sun shone low in the sky, illuminating the golden grasses waiting for new growth. Back into a dense forest again, we pedaled along the shores of two lakes, finally arriving at our destination: a warm wooden cabin surrounded by trees. Soon enough, the fireplace was roarin, the beer was flowin, the heartiest of meals was made, and the hot tub became ultimate relaxation.
But not for long. Awaking early in a cozy, wood paneled sleeping loft, I peeked outside to see fat white snowflakes falling fast past the window, accumulating below. There must have been three inches already piled on the deck posts and unassuming ground! We couldn’t believe it We had planned on biking to Klamath Falls that day, still 45-50 miles away. Were we crazy enough to bike through a snowstorm to get there? Contemplating our options as we collected our layers, we suited up and rode the 1.5 miles to the Greensprings Inn, which was a welcome sight. Even the 1.5 miles meant biking through an inch of snow on freshly plowed concrete, icy bits sticking to my eyelashes, obstructing my view. Our hands were freezing and painfully tingly. I worried we wouldn’t even be able to squeeze our brakes.
After the pick-me-up of huevos rancheros, pancakes, and hot chocolate, we decided to descend back into Ashland. Who knows the fate of the mountain the next day after this spring dumping? We wouldn’t risk biking back over the pass the next day, as our small tires certainly couldn’t hold chains. As I descended Greensprings Highway in the snow, then hail, then sleet, then rain, I looked over the edge of the cliff on the opposite side of the road, careful not to stray over the painted lines in the middle. Are you kidding me? I thought. I live here? I live in a place where I can bike to a mountain lake and wake up in a snow storm? The view was breathtaking, gratitude filling my chest for this beautiful place I call home, even if it is a place that brings you snow for the vernal equinox.