Nowhere is the onslaught of spring more evident than in the arid southwest. For a brief period each year our typically drab, parched landscapes explode with verdant fervor, and as the unpredictable weather of winter gives way to stable, cool temperatures. Tacky trails beckon.
The land transforms from rolling shades of yellow, brown and gray, into an ephemeral sea of green, interrupted only by vivid sparks of blooming wildflowers. Vibrant petals of wild hyacinth, fiesta flower, mariposa lily, and hundreds of other varieties shine as brightly as stars in a clear night’s sky. Various sages, buckwheat, and coyote brush shoot up new growth in response to winter’s moisture; still lurking beneath the surface of the soil, counting its days as the sun rides ever higher in the sky. Tires easily lean farther into corners, and shins gather no dust.
Almost as if programmed, myriad insects emerge to exploit the surplus of blossoms and foliage, and take to the sky all at once like a fluttering army. Swooping down on the alate feast, flycatchers, phoebes and kingbirds clamber to consume much-needed calories, stopping only to sing and gather materials for their nests. Mule deer graze on a carpet of annual grasses beneath a thick canopy of coast live oak, and ticks sit poised on the terminal branches of trail-side shrubs, anxiously awaiting the next passerby.
Much to my chagrin, temperatures inevitably begin to warm. The days grow longer and before long the temporarily green flora fades to yellow, then brown, then gray. The strengthening sun bakes the soil; tires slide, and sweaty shins accumulate sediment. The cacophony of songbirds dissipates as they scramble to raise their young before summer’s dry heat completely quenches the last remaining resources of spring.
Like aromas emitting from an oven, desiccated shrubs exude odors of sage, rosemary and tarragon; sticking to skin, bike, and clothing like some sort of organic patchouli oil. Deer, rabbits, and gophers struggle to consume spring’s last green shoots, and as such, coyotes, bobcats, and mountain lions begin their crepuscular quests for the first victims of summer’s ever-dwindling resources. Long, exposed climbs produce copious amounts of sweat, stinging the eyes. Water bottles and Camelbaks run dry, and I retreat into the mountains, chasing spring up towards the pines.
Exhausted, but satisfied as I survey the valley below; the cool, thin air at the top soothes my tired lungs. It is in this moment that I savor spring, every last minute of it and I can think of no better way to do it than to access what little bit of it remains by pedaling to the top.