coming up on it, you see sky, blue and vibrant, reaching down to touch the road and it looks as though, as the road bends, you will climb up and fall off the top, down into the abyss of the far away valley, its rounded hills coated with gold and orange aspen and deeply dark sharp-tipped pines.
there are few true passes that I climb around here, and guardsman is the sharpest, the highest (my garmin says 9533, but it's stated to be 9700' above sea level), the narrowest, dustiest, most invigorating and empowering of them all. the road from the big cottonwood canyon turnoff to the top---a mere three miles---is so painfully steep at times that I most always experience, at least once, a desire to vomit. yesterday it was right after the hairpin turn where the grade is somewhere around 16 percent and the road just sits there, taunting, unwilling to compromise and soften, just a bit. you're halfway, I told myself. the whole thing is only three miles, which, relatively, is absolutely nothing.
anyone can climb three miles.
I thought about turning around. I thought about stopping, just for a minute or two. and what kept me from that is the knowledge that I'd done it before, I'd survived, and I'd done it without stopping. if I had made it before, I could make it again.
I sat at the top, resting my bike against a rocky shale hillside then perching on the same tumbly rocks, sprigs of pungent sage fragrancing my little oasis. the pass rounds the hill, the road hugging snugly the hillside upon which I sat. a snow frosted mountain side faced me, its north-facing self protected from the melting power of the sun. the valley spread before me, ridges separating midway from park city from the snyderville basin. I can see bits of deer valley, I can see mechanical structures from the ski resort. I see the dirt road, pathways, little teeny cars in the distance, thousands of feet below me.
I chewed my s'mores protein bar (oh I love that marshmallowy stuff on top) and sipped my water, and thanked God for not letting me turn around a mile or three miles back.
I tend to ride here just once a year, in the fall, and each time I make my way up the hill I'm reminded why I don't do it more often.
and each time I sit at the top, I wonder why I don't do it more often.