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Leap For Life
By Frosty Wooldridge
"I went to the woods because I wished to
live deliberately, to front only the
essential facts of life, and see if I could
not learn what it had to teach, and not, when
I came to die, discover that I had not lived."
--Henry David Thoreau
Heading east on Route 92 out of Provo, Utah, Pam and I cranked hard through the afternoon. Above us, craggy 10,000 foot peaks poked into a cloudy sky. It was so hot, we dripped our way through deep canyons. We stopped for a rest area at a turnout.
"Sure is a lot different than the salt flats," Pam said, sucking on her water bottle.
"My legs are feeling this hill," I added, with a sweat bead ready to drop off my nose. "Guess they­ forgot about climbing after so long on the flats."
"It's prettier up here."
"Sure is," I said. "These mountains inspire me."
A few minutes later, we coasted down a steep incline, only ­to climb again. I hate losing altitude, only to climb again, but­ it's useless to fight it. We coasted through endless curves. Ahead of us, on the crest of a climb, a large boulder had fallen onto the road. I decided to move it off the road so it wouldn't smash a car's undercarriage to bits.
"Give me a minute Pam," I said, laying my bike on the side­ of the road. "I'm gonna' get this rock off the road. Could get somebody killed."
"I need a rest anyway," she said.
At that moment, another small rock cracked down from­ overhead. It bounced across the road before slamming into the guardrail.
"Looks like we're under some falling rock," I said, hoisting the boulder to the side of the road.
"LOOK OUT!" Pam yelled.
A shower of small rocks bounced across the road. I looked ­up to see where it was coming from.
"Look at that," I said, pointing upward.
"It's a Bighorn sheep," Pam said. "He's knocking those­ rocks down on us. He looks like he's in a tight spot."
About 150 feet above us, a Bighorn stood on a ledge, stuck where he was, because the path ended. His massive curled horns swept back from the top of his head. He looked a bit pensive as­ he nearly leaped forward, but stopped.
"He's gonna jump, but there's no place to go," Pam said.
"Unless it's that ledge above him."
"That's gotta' be more than 15 feet away and higher!"
"Maybe that's why he's hesitating."
Without a second pause, the ram coiled his body before launching himself up and out to the ledge above him. His trajectory rose upward, but not quite high enough to reach the higher rock. Instead, his two front feet slid like skids on a flat rock, and one rear leg caught the edge of the ledge. He ­was about to fall 150 feet to his death before our eyes. But in­ a split second, with his one leg locked onto the ledge, he threw his front legs upward and thrust his head back. He kicked with­ his one back leg to launch himself upside down, his hooves pointed to the sky, back toward his original ledge. While in the­ middle of his flight back, he twisted his body like a cat before­ landing. But again, only his front legs made the lower ledge, ­and his one back hoof reached the rock. His front legs skidded­ onto the ledge again, but his rear end was not going to make it. ­ With only a split second left before he slipped off the ledge, he­ bellowed as he kicked hard with his one back leg that had made ­the ledge. That thrust kicked the back of his body upward and­ with the momentum of the leap, spun his rump around until he fell ­sideways onto the ledge. He lay there stunned. Seconds later,­ he stood up, and walked back the other way.
"My God," Pam gasped.
"I felt that," I said.
John Muir, America's first environmentalist and creator of our national park systems said it best: "How many hearts with warm red blood in them are beating under the cover of the woods, and how many teeth and eyes are shining? A multitude of animal people, intimately related to us, but whose lives we know almost nothing, are as busy about their own lives as we about ours."
While bicycling, I roll quietly into the last of the silence. It allows me to peek into their lives--often.
Except from: Bicycling Around the World: Tire Tracks for Your Imagination by Frosty Wooldridge, copies 1 888 280 7715
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