Every New Year’s Day, Kenny has a group ride — a mountain bike ride on the snow up to the top of Squaw Peak. It’s a four mile climb, and usually rideable, since it’s a popular route for snowmobilers.
But there were two problems with this tradition this year. First, Squaw Peak is not rideable right now. Even Kenny couldn’t make it more than a few feet past the first mile.
And the second problem was even more dire: I was not in town on New Year’s Day. So, naturally, I asked Kenny to shift his tradition to a day later.
To my amazement, he complied. Evidently, my superpower of asking people to do stuff for me and having them say “yes” is even more powerful than I thought.
And so, on January 2, a dozen of us rode our mountain bikes to the Hot Pots — a naturally-occurring hot tub — on the Diamond Fork Trail.
Part 1 of The Ride: The Sucky Part
The ride to the Hot Pots — which, to be clear, are nothing at all like Hot Pockets — can be divided into two parts: The part that sucked, and the part that didn’t.
The first part was the part that sucked.
Kenny had assured us that the snow covering the moderately-uphill dirt road had been packed down by snowmobilers and ATVs. I would dispute that assertion, and propose the counter assertion that the snow was the consistency of cream cheese frosting.
I would ride, on average, about nine feet, before finding my bike steered against my will in a random direction. Then, in another nine feet, I would find myself off the side of the road, in soft, fluffy powder up to my eyeballs.
Also, I had overdressed.
Here’s me, right at the beginning of the ride, suited up in my shorts, tights, base layer, long-sleeve jersey, jacket, wool hat, and snowboarder’s gloves.
In my mouth, in case you’re curious, is the handwarmer I was about to insert into my glove.
Now, compare and contrast my clothing choice with Heather’s:
Yes, she is wearing a little black dress. Her armwarmers go stunningly with that getup, wouldn’t you agree?
I laughed at her insanity…until about ten minutes into the ride, at which point I was peeling off layer after layer of soaked-in-sweat clothes. Riding in cream cheese frosting is hard work, after all.
Fortunately, Steve was along for the group ride, and had brought a bike outfitted with an Xtracycle, having made himself the designated Hot Pots Beverage Mule:
Steve was kind enough to take on all my extra clothes stuff. Of which there was a lot.
Part 2 of the Ride: The Not-Sucky Part
As I churned up the road toward the singletrack trailhead, I dreaded what was ahead. Certainly, in the absence of ATVs and snowmobiles to pack the snow down, it would be even worse, right?
The Hot Pots are a popular destination, and most people get there on foot. As a result, the singletrack was packed and relatively easy to ride.
If you squint, you can see the singletrack on the right side of the river. It’s nice and rideable. Trust me.
You know what the best thing about riding on deep snowy singletrack is, though? When you fall over on your side, it feels awesome. Like falling into a cloud, except you don’t then continue falling and eventually hit the earth with a splat.
So I guess it’s not really like falling into a cloud at all. Maybe it’s more like falling into really soft snow.
Yes, I think that metaphor works nicely.
The Hot Pots
I’ve always enjoyed Kenny’s New Year’s Squaw Peak climbs, but I’ve never really enjoyed the destination. You get to the top of Squaw Peak, hot from the climb, and then you’re hit by the wind as you try to talk with the group.
Before long, you’re freezing cold and just want to get down from there.
Social interactions are therefore limited.
By making the ride’s destination the Hot Pots, on the other hand, we quite literally stayed for hours, talking, eating and drinking.
When you get too hot, you jump into the cold water — by which I mean snow runoff-cold — for a moment.
It feels wonderful.
Eventually, I got pruny and cold and had to seriously consider the probability that I was going to be riding home in the dark. So I climbed out of the water to put my wet clothes back on.
And then I had to stop and stand, bent over — and still wearing nothing but my shorts — for a while. I was totally lightheaded and getting tunnel vision, and wouldn’t have been surprised to have keeled back over into the water.
In a few minutes, though, I cleared up and got dressed, at which point I was — for the katrillionth time in my life — left to ponder the miracle of wool. It’s soaked and cold, having hung out in the near-freezing air for hours. You put it on, and it warms you up.
I need to buy more Smartwool base layer clothing for Winter riding. That is the best stuff there has ever been (Full disclosure: I have never been given any free stuff by Smartwool, have no relationship with them and have always either bought it myself through retail channels or sometimes been given it as a gift from friends and family).
Oh, here’s one more picture of Kenny lounging in the Hot Pots. For the ladies.
Yeah, he’s looking at you.
The Shame and the Resolution
During the ride to the Hot Pots, I ran across a number of people who asked how far it was ’til the Hot Pots.
I had to admit: I had never been there.
Yes, that’s right. There’s a mountain bike trail — about forty minutes from my house — leading to a natural hot-springs soaking pool, and I had never ridden there before.
I’m just stupid. That’s all there is to it.
And the thing is, the Diamond Fork trail is just a single example of my problem, which is: there is so much excellent riding to be had starting from my home that I tend to ride the same trails over and over.
I’ve never mountain biked in Payson off the Nebo Loop. I’ve hardly explored the riding outside Salt Lake at all.
To be honest, I haven’t been anywhere near as adventurous in discovering the incredible variety of bike rides around here as I should have been.
I’ve been a comfort zone rider.
Which leads me to my New Year’s Resolution: This year, I am going to leave my comfort zone. I am going to find new stuff — both road and mountain — that I haven’t ridden, and I’m going to explore it.
And I’m not going to limit this resolution to riding, either. In some ways, I’ve been coasting — sure, I’ve had my reasons, but still — for a long time.
2010 is the year I’m going to take some risks.