A beautiful fall day. It’s hard to imagine that on November 30, the temperature reached 80 degrees (26C). Who wouldn’t go biking in that weather? I sure would.
For the second ride in a row, I took out my mountain bike. Usually, Sundays are reserved for longish rides on the road bike, but it’s been giving me problems in the shifting department lately, and I’ll have to take it to my mechanic. So, the mountain bike it would be.
That raised a new concern — the condition of the trails. We had two solid days of rain a week ago, which was a blessing for our drought-afflicted area. But the ground became saturated, and standing water in the area has just begun to disappear. The best mountain biking trail close by — Slaughter Creek Trail — remains closed because of some muddy spots. I figured I would head to my go-to trail, because odds were better that it would be usable.
My go-to trail is Dick Nichols Park. It’s a good-sized metropolitan park, a little over a mile from home. To get there, I can take some trails through the neighborhood that I discovered during my mountain biking epiphany over the summer. One little loop of about seven-tenths of a mile winds sometimes rocky singletrack through woods. It looked okay, so I set out on it.
It was mostly okay. I hit a patch of deep mud that was only about five feet long, but required some powerful pedaling to keep from bogging down. That clogged the tread of my tires with heavy, wet mud, that got thrown against the bike frame and me as we kept on. But when I hit another dry and rocky stretch, a lot of the mud fell off.
I continued on to Dick Nichols Park, dodging dog walkers along a wide part of the trail that is dedicated to multiple use. In the park, a paved walk winds in a wide circle around the park, and although I have to ride it a ways, I can jump off and take some of the unmarked trails that have popped up there.
One leads north, where it exits the park at a local library. This is a particularly enjoyable path, because it’s got a couple of nice features — an abrupt hill that leads around a small pond. Near the pond, a sign explains its role in the ecology of the area. Our recent rains have been great for the pond. I’ve never seen it as high as it was today.
The trail along here is hard-packed earth, and it might have been damp, but it wasn’t muddy at all. Back in the park proper, I took some more unmarked trails through the woods, and found that spots in the shade — in almost constant shade — were still a bit muddy. In most cases, I could stay right at the edge of the path and miss the bad stuff.
One thing I’ve discovered about riding a mountain bike: When you’re on a trail, it dares you to go fast. I pushed a little too hard for a little too long, and had to stop for a breather. It takes twice the effort to pedal a mountain bike as a road bike, and on a day like this, maybe even more. For me, an hour and a half on the mountain bike is a great workout. I knew I could count on a good night’s sleep after this jaunt.
I headed home, happy that I was able to get in a couple of good rides over the weekend, and looking forward to the end of the semester at the university — when I’ll once again try to ride every day. That never happens, but I can dream, can’t I?