Where the good pictures are

Great photography is the province of the muses and a lifetime of toil. Even good photography is next to impossible. The best we can hope for in this i-Life is a good picture, which is a rare, elusive beast at that.

But good pictures have something in common with good bike rides, in this way: They get a bit more common the more you labor. Or as Thomas Jefferson famously said, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

Good bike rides are quintessentially hard ones. The bike has little to offer on its own. It’s a prism and you have shine effort, hard effort, through it in order for it to refract its multiple wavelengths of fun, of fitness, of independence, of freedom, of, of, of …

Here at the foot of Walton’s Mountain there aren’t simply hard bike rides available; that’s all there are. You leave the driveway, turn left, and climb for a couple of hours. By “climb” I mean “hope you got at least a 32 in back and an aspirin in front.” After that perhaps you get a break; I wouldn’t know as I’ve not made it more than about 1.5 hours up. And in addition to hard rides, there are innumerable hard walks.

I mean real fucking hard ones. Steep grades that go on for miles, sheer hikes that bust almost straight up for as long as your legs will hold out, and then miles more after they won’t. I’ve always enjoyed walking and this kind of perambulation is some of the best ever. It’s not dangerous, it’s endless, strenuous, beautiful, high, the kind of wandering you can’t fall into but have to train into.

Every other day I’ve been out stomping, mixing up my rides with hikes. Today I left the dirt road completely after about half a mile and struck out, or rather struck up, the steep and narrow trails. My only goal was not to stop until I got to where I was going, even if that meant plodding deathly slow, even if it meant that my pacing mountain goat was a mile ahead not even cracking a sweat, hands in pockets like it was a pancake flat stroll on the bike path.

After a certain distance, a certain pain, a certain resignation to the bitter sting of “up,” out came the good pictures because good pictures are like that. You get far enough away, you work enough of your ass off, you hop ten, twenty, thirty, a thousand stone skips across the pond until you’re out of sight and beyond mind, everything brimming with lactic acid including your fucking teeth, that’s when the air stings fresh and cool way up high, and the good pictures take themselves.

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10 thoughts on “Where the good pictures are”

  1. WA State calling out again saying “if you thought our biking was nice, wait until you see our hiking” 🙂

  2. I try to tell people. The best things to see take a LOT of effort to go see them. The inside of a giant bowl at the headwaters of the Imnaha River? You have to hike for days to get there. The view from the saddle of any pass is a lot of calories burned to get there, but the views are so worth every moment. I suppose there are some passes along major highways that offer some sampling of this, but it is the smaller road passes, like the Stelvio, or any of those damn Pyrenees passages in the Tour. A lot of effort to get there. The hiking versions, are breathtaking. You have the whole pass to yourself usually.

  3. These clearly aren’t your iPhone 6s. Not that the iPhone can’t take pretty decent shots like these, but they aren’t tagged as iPhone photos.

  4. If you are going to be living wherever it is you choose not to share with us you might be well advised to get a mountain bike so you can enjoy the downhill parts of bike riding. Maybe not. Maybe you enjoy going slowly and beating up on your body. Beautiful photos.

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