I love gates. snow gates. the kind of gates that are pulled across the roads and locked tight for the winter season, allowing snowplows some time off and those of us who enjoy non-motorized sports some time on.
I often use gates as landmarks for timing myself, or for checking miles per hour in one direction compared to the other (let's see, I'm riding up this road at 14.7 mph, I wonder how fast I'll be riding down this road at the same spot, oh, I'll use this gate as the spot to check myself on the way down...).
when riding up big cottonwood canyon I know that I average one hour eight minutes from the base to the big gate, and once I reach the big gate it's only another 35 or so minutes to the top.
you know I love the east canyon gate, which remains blissfully shut and locked six months of the year.
some gates remain shut longer, and I am amazed by the willingness of the forest/park services to let us walkers, runners, hikers, and cyclists own these roads for so many months of the year.
I rode around one such gate this morning, the one half-way up millcreek canyon. this gate remains locked until july 1st each summer, and then it is unlocked for a mere four months until the sweeping metal arms are drawn shut again for the snow to pile, untouched, upon the narrow swath of asphalt that winds its way to the meadow at the top.
each of the past three springs I've ridden up millcreek, past the gate, and then at some point been thwarted by snow-packed stretches that have kept me from reaching the top. june is the best time to ride millcreek, when you can possibly get all the way to the top while you definitely have a road to ride that's free of cars.
it has other things: pine needles and cones galore, fallen timber and twigs, the debris of a winter without plowing, and walkers/runners/dogs/bicyclists. which all ~ especially the tail-wagging, grinning dogs ~ bring a smile to my face.
this morning the canyon also gave me a few opportunities to dismount and ford the snowbanks.
about five times, when four-to-ten foot stretches of snow lay thick and frozen across the road, daring me to pass them and climb onward toward the top.
they threw their frozen, bike-tire tracked gauntlets down in front of me, and I picked the darn things up. where others have travailed, I, too, will travel.
have I told you that I am determined?
the parking lot at the top of the canyon road is clear of snow but littered with dog droppings that have fallen as the snow has melted, and the yurt remains tented. it was a quiet place this morning, cold and seemingly motionless, though I know better.
five more fords on the way down that last half-mile to the top, and then a bitterly cold descent that brought me back down to a snowless world where fording is unnecessary and only a distant, yet exhilarating, memory.