You never know who is watching as you slowly, slog up an uphill twisty turny trail until you hear from the distant trees, “ why are you pushing your bike.” Instantly, I knew it was Courtland. Friend and awesome trail builder who I just passed and chatted with 15 minutes prior. Funny how sounds carry through the trails of open spaces sprinkled with an outline of tall evergreens to keep the sound of my grunting near by for him to zero in on my slow progress up an incline. ( I swear, IT was a hill !!! ).
Today I decided to go to 360 to ride a couple laps, get lost in the moment of jumps, burms, turns, down hill flowy trails with a few up hills too keep me working. What I hadn’t planned was trying new trails that I hadn’t seen before. The first section I came to was appropriately called “ Jump Line”, a succession of sweet double steep jumps, one leading to another with near perfect pitch and landings. The key to any types of jumps are speed and popping that jump and keeping the body level, not too far forward or too far backward. After a walk through I pushed the bike back up to the start line and pedaled fast to gain that speed. The first jump I hit perfectly, landed and readied for the second, this one I was too far forward and nearly ended pretty ugly, so I bailed off to the side and rode around the final steep jump. Suddenly common sense kicked in and I realized I shouldn’t be jumping alone, well, besides in yelling distance to other riders and our favorite trailmaster, I thought I should at least have two things: my knee pads, and a buddy. Both were left elsewhere on this day.
I know understand my my back surgeon made me wait nearly 8 months before he would allow me to ride my mt. bike. He told me that if he knew I could ride down a flat path and not feel the urge to jump the cracks or a pebble he would be more apt to let me go ride……but, unfortunately or perhaps fortunately for me, he made me wait. Besides, he also checked up on me through mutual friends to ask if I was really being have. (yes I was ) J
I finished this lap, eager to pedal the fire road back to the beginning to run another. At the trail head, there is a sign, it is the beginning of the Mountain Bike only trail. A one way trial only for mountain biking. No hikers, horses, motorized vehicles, walkers… just bikes going the same direction. At least that is it’s intent. I did get lost on this trail the very first time I rode it. Ended up circling around and around and never made it out of a loop before calling a friend to see where she went. Now with much needed signage for folks like me that can get lost on a one way trial system, there is virtually no way to get lost…… but, I don’t want to hold my breath too long. There could be more like me out there somewhere. Scary !!!
On the second lap about a half mile in there is a choice to be made. “Short route, or Long route”. The first lap I chose the short lap because I know it and know there isn’t a lot of up hill, just nice flowy down hill with a few jumps and pumps that make it fun and entertaining. This second time I decided to go find Courland, since I could hear him over the hill digging in the dirt. I had seen his car at the trial head and figured I would go say hi….so that meant taking the “Long Route”. As guessed, Courland was just off the top of this section digging a new wide burm/turn into a down hill portion. This man is unbelievable in his skill and determination to have a trail system that is awesome and maintained. This is his baby. He does have others that have pitched in and helped build these trails. However, the majority of the digging and trail work has been orchestrated by this man alone. Myself and another rider stopped, chatted exchanged stories and we were off again. Knowing that I am slow, especially in the uphills I suggested that he go first, and so he did, never to be seen by myself again for the day. As I started to ride, I was happily riding unfamiliar trails, riding fast, leaning into the corners, powering out of the turns, over a few of the tiny jumps, the suddenly ! The first hill…. I have to dismount and push my bike. I am huffing and puffing and feel my tired legs and lungs gulp for more oxygen, more strength. One foot in front of the other, I finally am at a spot where I can ride again. I swing my leg over my 29er and start pedaling on. I feel my body tired already. I had only expected to ride two laps…but two on the shorter route and now I was thinking to myself… “whew… I haven’t ridden in a while, I am so out of shape, and I am tired, but let’s keep going, keep going.” And so I do. I come to another up hill section and manage to muscle up, albeit huffing and puffing and am able to keep plugging along when the trail makes a sharp right turn that I swear goes straight up. So I dismount and start pushing the bike, when in the distant, which comes across very clearly I might add “hey why are you pushing your bike?” I laugh and in between gasps for air I say “ because I am fat and out of shape and umm… it’s a hill ! “, thinking that was all logic. I then hear Courtland chuckle and say “well ok then hahaha. “ I keep pushing.
I make it out of the “Long route”, gladly to see the familiar trail that is now the main trial where I know I can fly down as it is slightly down hill with jumps, burms, turns and is flowly. I am fast on this section, I feel the bike is one with me and I lean with it though the turns, pushing the handle bars through the turns as if I am pushing something away, just to bring it in close again. The up hills in this section are nothing as compared to the previous and I am able to ascend with ease.
I told Courtland that I loved his new trail at the end that takes you back to the parking lot. Having said that I planned to ride it out today. Once I was finished with the swift exit of the mountain bike only trail I climbed the hill towards the fire road. Just before the fire road is the new trail. It’s deceivingly long, and yes there are hills to go UP. I forgot that part and was cursing my decision when I came to that first hill where I again had to push my bike. Now I know I am out of riding shape. Haven’t ridden too much since school had taken up all my free non-working time. Still manage to go running and lift a few times a week, just not riding. So, even if I were to loose the ten or fifteen pound I had put on since my last back surgery I would still hate hills. Hills are evil, they are meant for skinny 130 pound riders to hammer up with ease. You add my 175 frame and my hatred towards struggling up a hill and it’s ugly. I am much happier to hammer down a hill with a few added jumps and twists and turns that test my skill or level of sanity.
The things that stand out to me on these rides are the absolute beauty of nature. The smells of the forest, the trails, the colors of all of foliage even the dirt. I was amazed with how great the trail conditions were from the rains of last week. I didn’t even get muddy !
As I hammered up a few last hills on my way out of the ever setting day light and fog setting in I am reminded that I am so grateful for moments like this. Just me, the bike, mother nature. Nothing matters, even the hills that I curse I laugh at and am happy to conquer another. Life is much simpler when you are living in the moment and have not fear of the unknown or regrets of the trails past. Life is Good !
As I reminisce on this ride I am laughing and yet thankful for all the helpful signage. I know it’s not just for me, but I chuckle to think I really NEED those signs. It’s great to have refreshers on where you are, which way you are going and how to get out. I liked the signs that read: “Emergency Exit”, and a meek trail through the bushes, and usually at the top of a hill I might note. I laugh to myself, “ how did they know I needed a bail out spot… at the top of the hill?” Also, the signs that signal a merging trail…. NOT a turn, note to self !
All in all what an awesome afternoon of riding. Thanks Courtland and everyone that helps build these amazing trails at 360.