Glimpses of Eden

I had wanted to write about Yosemite for some time, but I was either lacking in time, equipment, or energy.  I wanted to write about the majesty and beauty I experienced there and how amazing that day’s ride was.  But the days after turned into weeks.  The road went up the coast where the air was filled with fog.  The route turned east where the mountains turned into desert. But then, we reached a place that was equal in wonder and allure.  This place was called Glacier.  Thus the story follows:

The ride through Yosemite was the best ride of my life.  This Monday was filled with everything a cyclist could ask for: descents, forests, tailwinds, monstrous climbs, breathtaking views, and cool temperatures.  The day started from approximately 8,600′ at the top of a town called Mammoth Lakes, where we were incredibly blessed at the last minute with a condo to ourselves for the weekend.  When we let go of our brakes at the bottom of the town, we took an incredible road through the forest that was filled with pine trees.  A slight climb led to mostly down hills and turned out to be brilliantly more enjoyable compared to the highway.  With a couple of climbs and a few more descents, we arrived at the low point of the day (altitude-wise).  Here started the climb; a climb to be remembered; a climb worthy of God’s praise.  Tioga Pass.  The next 8.5 miles were possibly the most grueling climb I have encountered.  It was not as steep as the hills of Austin, but it was much, much longer.  The headwind merely added to its grandeur. As soon as the climb started, you could see a line cut alongside the mountains that curved around the valley which could only be a road.  After countless repetitions of switching between sitting-down-granny-gear and standing-up-second-gear and 3,200 vertical feet later, I reached the top!  I had the entrance booth at the peak in my sight.  I rode by our rest stop, yards short of the goal, and passed the long line of cars waiting to get in.  I rode right up to the booth, set my bike in front of the elevation sign for a quick picture and hopped back on the beast, heading back down (towards the rest stop).  The waiting motorists must have thought this was a mere training exercise that I had accomplished and was now going back home from all the shouts of encouragement and way-to-go hand signs I received.

The air is much thinner and cooler  at 9,945′, but not so much to impede a quick play in the snow.  Taking a quick break from the chronology of the story, I would like to mention a simply magnificent lake that I passed right before the summit.  It was a lake that only appears to men in dreams.  Unexpectedly appearing around a corner, the blue water was a sight of beauty as it wore a crown of snowcapped mountains around its edge.  The clear blue skies beyond it declared that this lake was lifted above all others.  Returning to the story, the rest of the ride was such a joy and my lack of descriptive capability will not do it justice.  There were several more decent climbs through the park, usually resulting in a great view of the grey rock canyon below and a nice descent to enjoy.  The road snaked along the edge of the canyon wall and composed of twists and turns, trees and stones, and waterfalls and creeks.  The sheer beauty and diverse terrain has earned Tioga Pass the top ranking spot of my cycling days.  The only point of criticism would be the traffic on the small, shoulderless road.  One was required to play traffic cop while riding and to thank God when the huge RV renters didn’t run you over.

The second glimpse of Eden was through Glacier National Park.  While Yosemite was my favorite ride of the trip, Glacier would have to be my favorite place so far. A few days before, I stumbled upon the interesting fact that cyclists are not allowed on the climb named Going-to-the-Sun Road between 11am and 4pm.  This either meant that we would have a very long rest stop before a 3,400′, ten mile climb or we would have a very early morning.  As a team, we unanimously chose the latter.  Some time before the sun did, we woke up in a church gym in Kalispell, MT.  It was a cold morning and my gloves were still wet from washing them the night before.  With the absence of a dryer in the church that had a McDonald’s type playland, I pulled up a chair to the oven to keep an eye on my gloves cooking in front of me.  At 5:45 we were off; unfortunately, the sun wouldn’t be until 6:35.  With our bike lights on, and Abe wearing my headlight, we proceeded towards the snowy peaks.  The calculations were foolproof: leave at 5:45, average 14mph for 50 miles, two 5 minute rest stops, average 7mph up the 10 mile climb, arrive at the top exactly at 11am.  We had the wind at our backs and the light was increasing.  We reached the entrance of the park a little past 8am where the man-in-the-booth did not allow us to just ride through without paying per bike like the girl-in-the-booth did at Yosemite.  He responded with a stern “This ain’t no Yosemite son.”  With a line forming behind us, we threw our bikes in the trailer (along with Abe and myself), drove 10 feet through the gate, stopped, unloaded, and we were once again on our way with an extra $48.  Twenty more quick miles along the beautiful lake next to the mountains and we stopped shortly to de-clothe and refuel.  The plan was going swimmingly; we were on time.  At the base of the climb, I started to see some shimmers high up on the mountainside.  When I realized that the shimmers were cars and they were on the road ahead of me, I let out a gasp at the unthinkable height difference between us.  The climb turned out to be much easier than I had readied for.  The grade was a constant 6% and never felt to change.  Don’t get me wrong, the climb was definitely long and impressive no doubt, but not as grueling as the previous Tioga Pass.

I think I would have easily made it to the top in time if I had not stopped for so many photo-shoots.  The road went up through wonderfully green vegetation with rock cliffs jutting out into and over the road.  In several places there was water pouring off the side right onto the path.  After the one and only switchback of the climb, the views became more and more magnificent.  Many times I thought as I stopped to take a picture, “Wow! This view is even better!”  The road overlooked the valley and the mountains continued to increase in height, sharpness of peaks, and accumulation of snow.  I have seen breath-taking mountains before, but the ones here in Glacier are definitely unique.  A sight to see no doubt!  They had a barren and wilderness feel to them that suggested we were in a place few people have been.  While the picture taking slowed me down, I’m pretty sure I still could have made it in time if it weren’t for the several construction sections that I had to wait at for our turn to go.  I reached the top at 11:17am, close enough to not get a ticket, which apparently they give out to violators.  After pondering the engineering marvel of the road and the design of the surrounding mountains for awhile, we finally saw Abe walking atop the peak after getting his second flat of the climb.  What followed was an exhilarating descent about half as large as the climb on mostly dirt construction roads.  A few more miles along another massive glacial lake and we had arrived at our campsite.  The next day was filled with awe and a couple of short hikes through this small glimpse of Eden.

About T

I ride because I am no longer thirsty. God rescued me from a life of sin through the work of His son, Jesus, and has given me a life of seeking His desires. God led me to living water that has quenched my thirst forever. And now I ride my bike for His name. Read more...

2 WordPress Comments on “Glimpses of Eden”

  1. Lucho August 13, 2014 10:51 AM #

    Absolutely gorgeous! I vtisied Yosemite for the first time in late May and was absolutely captivated. Already planning my trip back, especially since we only had a few hours there. (Crazy, I know.) Lovely photos!

  2. Chiodo August 10, 2014 9:33 AM #

    That really caterups the spirit of it. Thanks for posting.

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