It's eight in the morning and already grey storm clouds loom drearily overhead. Beyond the chitter chatter of the squirrels and woodpeckers I can hear the ocean. Heavy winds crash through the trees like waves upon jagged rocks. I open my eyes to see the swaying canopy of pines above my hammock. I occupy the only sunbeam around, trying desperately to warm up as the weather does just the opposite. Unable to cope with the winds at my back while laying in the hammock, I make my way to the edge of the Mogollon Rim hoping for more sun. Looking to the West I can see the area I rode yesterday, Horton Springs. The weather was perfect and downhill riding was amazing. I was hoping for continued idealistic weather, instead my enemies the cold and rain seemed inevitable. I decide to put off riding the Highline trail for the next day due to exposure, today I would explore the top of the rim where I have more cover from bad weather. This solitary bike trip is all a constant push for better physical shape for my impending journey to Colorado's mountains.
My downhill speed is steadily increasing, I adjust my line to the right as the single track weaves between the trees. I'm rolling towards new scenery, the transition from shade to sunny meadow is instant. Scanning my horizons for obstacles I spot a deer grazing in the far side of the field. Quickly I dismount and have my zoom lens out on my new subject. Click, click. Two great shots without it noticing, I modify my position for a vertical shot and fire off some more. Feeling confident with a few good shots I move closer, no longer afraid of the deer bolting out of sight. I freeze as the deer directs its attention onto me, closer than before I score another few shots. I wait and eventually decide to advance again, eyes still watching me. Suddenly a second dear bolts into the scene from the left, just as rapidly the pair are gone into the darkness of the forest. I make my way back to my equipment, very content with achieving an image I had missed from just the night before. Sunset riding back to my campsite, camera in hand biking, I missed 5 deer who were beautifully lit, crossing between the trees in a pocket of orange light. My shutter speed was inadequate for their speed and I missed the shot, although surely enjoyed the moment itself.
My muscles are screaming to stop. But it's just one more step, and another, whatever you do, I tell myself, don't stop. I have a goal, to push through this climb to my campsite at the top of the rim without stopping. My arms ache more than anything, somehow after thirty plus miles throughout three days of riding. Pushing my thirty pound bike this last mile up two thousand feet of elevation is really draining me. I keep my motivation at the front of my mind, this won't be the hardest thing I do, it won't kill me, just keep stepping. If I were mountaineering the world's highest peaks, stopping for a rest could easily lead to death. As long as I'm not dehydrated or injured, I can keep going, one more step after another. Eventually I reach the top of the trail, the last half mile ride to my campsite seems to drag on forever. The only thing to do at this point is to rest and enjoy the forest scenery with a beer and my harmonica from the rim's edge.
Every mile, pedal stroke, and drop of sweat is part of my invariable determination to train for my first taste at mountaineering. About a month away, I have been very hard on myself to be in optimum physical shape. Two of my best friends, Conner, Alex, and myself will be travelling to Colorado's Elk Range to conquer three fourteens. The thought of standing upon the summits of Snowmass Mountain, Capitol Peak and the northern Maroon Bell keeps me on track and motivated. It's a personal goal, with no reward outside of my own mind. Once completed, personally knowing what I have accomplished, and the things I have learned on this expedition will help me later in life to conquer greater challenges. Trekking with my camera gear as always, I aim to document our personal experience in the mountains. Honing my skills of storytelling, I plan to one day photograph for larger expeditions. In the mountains and elsewhere, everything I do is one step closer to my summit goal as a travelling adventure photographer.