My original plan had been to ride on Saturday. I knew it was supposed to be single digit temps. I knew there was snow on the ground. In fact, those were the very reasons I had decided to ride instead of build trail, run, hike, or think about home improvement projects. Until Friday evening I was even prepared to ride. I dug out my winter clothing. I packed a backpacking stove for heating up a warm drink while out on the trail. I even posted to Facebook asking if any other mountain bikers wanted to get out in the Gorge on trails for some fun pretend adventure.
By Saturday morning I had thought better of it. While my long experience with cycling in frigid temps gave me plenty of confidence and the tools and techniques for a wintry ride that same experience also informed me as to the misery I would experience as my toes turned to solid blocks of ice while I would sweat under my torso layers. I knew the ride would be a forced exercise in fun.
It didn’t take much mental acrobatics for me to conclude that I’d be better off hiking on Saturday than riding. I decided to keep my destination the same but shortened my expectations somewhat. After a breakfast of oatmeal, homemade biscuits and canned apple butter, and backyard eggs (don’t forget the wonderfully a pretentious freshly ground coffee pourover) I ambled around the house getting my things together. I took a Klean Kanteen full of said coffee and a water bottle but little else. I actually dressed somewhat light, but took some heavier layers just in case. It turns out I was pretty comfortable for the two and a half hours I tromped around on top of Tarr Ridge.
The sky was blue and the sun shone brightly with a cold, white light. It was enough to take the bite out of the air. While the stark winter shadows were a cold steel blue there was little wind, and my skillful use of layers kept me warm but not overwarm as I hiked out two ridgetops for a double out-and-back hike.
Of course as soon as I was in the woods crunching over an inch or two of snow I wished I’d brought the bike instead. Or my running shoes. I soldiered on, hiking through the winter-bare trees and catching glimpses of white-tinged valleys below. The occasional distant sandstone cliffline accented the normally drab scenes with blazes of yellow and orange and an offwhite-ish gray stone shining in the peaceful midmorning sun.
I only saw one person on my hike. For the most part it felt like I had the world to myself. As I lingered at the end of Tarr Ridge on top of the towering Fortress Wall climbing area I felt more at peace than I had of late. Life has been more hectic with the holidays, a return to cubicle life, and in my insane plan to put on a mountain bike race. I’m having my first moments of doubt as I wish I could walk away. And I want to find a way to stop caring about building new mountain bike trails in the area. I think this all stems from normal winter blahs. While Saturday was enjoyable in its frozenness the days leading up to it and for certain coming in the week ahead have been typical Season of Mud diurnal anomalies. Meaning: I can’t really be building trails while everything is do damp and dreary, and I can’t do much planning for the race so early on when there are critical things that need to be sorted out. It’s just bad timing for the obvious biochemical degradation that goes on at this time of year anyway.
These are the doldrums of each year—January, February and to some extend March…ugh. While I love winter and cold weather the mundane day to day existence that is the Season of Mud is intolerable.
I did good last week with running. I put in two days with a 5k each day and felt good afterward. I planned to get in my runs before the weather turned and that was a good thing. And then I hiked six miles on Saturday. Sunday was a wash but I kept waiting for the stomach bug to hit me that had afflicted the rest of the family. I didn’t want to get too far from aid so I lounged in the recliner all day. Ugh.
Don’t get me wrong…I have wanted to take my big boned bike out for a bona fide winter ride on real (not fake made at a ski resort) snow. I rode it a lot in mud around the holidays. I put it through a lot of abuse for only having it such a short time. I decided I needed to give it a break and let it recover from its abuses. But soon. And I need to start riding to town more often. Instead of driving to the grocery or hardware stores or to pick up the bi- or tri-weekly pizza…I need to get on the bike! Which reminds me, I have a cargo bike.