Saturday, August 6, 2016

Dragons After Rains

Trail 100, east end, start/stop

In the midst of our August rains, the desert changes, comes to life**. It's the best of both worlds: plentiful if brief water, blazing sunshine, warm nights. After a strong rain, the trails are kind of a mess, not just sandy and muddy, but also washed over with rocks of all shapes and sizes, from ball bearing gravel to flip up and hit you in the shins tire pucks. But, also, Saturday morning, the desert seemed full of dragonflies*.

Some combination of days of rain, the season, the right weather, brought them out this morning, flocks of them, exuberant, diving, hovering in front of me in the low rising sunlight, urgent with activity to accomplish their purposes this time around their wheel of life. We have them here, but normally I only notice them hanging around man-made ponds, or golf courses. This morning, though, Dreamy Draw was full of them. My wife hiked a totally different section from where I rode my bike, and she also remarked on them.

The sketchy trails made me walk and work the bike more than I like. Mainly up sections that seem steeper when they are painted with slippery gravel. That's a bit disheartening, but the dragonflies cheered me along my noob hike-a-bike nervousness. On the positive side, I went faster downhill than last time, used a lot less brake, felt some more whispers of something like flow and rhythm that I remember distantly from when I used to hit the trails twice a week.

Ride tech notes: rear shock seems set up just right. Front fork did not quite go through all the travel, so I will let some air out next ride. Odd squeaking noise from the front seemed to be the disc brake. I do have a theory about odd squeaking sounds and new mountain bikes, though: it's the bike telling you that it needs to be bounced around a rocky trail for a few hours. Nothing shuts up an odd squeaky sound like a few rocky miles. One way or another.

One of my Phoenix places. At least briefly, I don't think fire danger was actually high today.

I paused a few minutes at the east end of Trail 100 in the little parking area and grass patch there. So many places in Phoenix get torn up and developed with new stuff that it's difficult to find consistency and familiarity sometimes. But this little parking lot and small patch of grass at the east end of Trail 100 is one of those touchstone places that holds importance for me, sort of like a geographical cache of good memories.

As I sat on the grass, I watched the dragonflies dance in the sunlight. On a new bike in an old spot, some years later on myself, but with a thread of rootedness and knowing that place. The way that after rains the air is cleaner, the desert more fragrant, the plants more lush, the ground itself more active and rich with moisture. The cicadas singing their August songs in the eucalyptus trees grounded in things my heart knows and my mind feels. Some soreness in my wrists earned from the morning ride. But I don't loiter or linger, no lollygagging here, because the ride home from here is fun, too, and like the dragons after rains, I have some more to do this time around the wheel.

*I could not find an official collective noun for dragonflies. Searching the interwebs, I did locate this excellent suggestion by Velvet Snoutingdingle: a valkyr of dragonflies. However, given that I've named this bike Shimmer, I feel most amenable to the suggestion of "a shimmer of dragonflies."
 **According to World Wildlife Federation, our bi-seasonal rainfall pattern results in the most diverse vegetation of all the deserts in the world. 


  1. Well we have not had an abundance, or anything like that, of early August rain, so it is a little curious that we should write about the numbers of dragonflies (on nearly the same day) in two places distant from one another.

    1. It is curious. I'm not sure what's really behind their numbers here, though, so it's even harder to say why we both experienced something similar at the same time.

  2. When will a little extra sign be added to the "Preserve" sign that says "Sponsored by Phoenix University?"

    1. I don't think that will happen soon, although I wonder if it would help with trail maintenance...


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