I’m coming out of a deep sleep and semiconscious. I’m aware of my deep sleep breathing and my legs feel extremely heavy, almost immovable and foreign. I’m not asleep nor awake. I can hear Barb’s bathwater running in the background. It is June 12th, 2017- 15:45 and the room has heated from the afternoon sun. The fog has cleared in my head and have a good feeling about this morning’s solo fat tire bike ride in Riverside State Park. I rode into new territory on trail # 25.
I switched out my pedals at the car from clip in on both sides of the pedal to clip in on one side and flat on the other so that I could be clip free in tight spots. I knew that I was in for some rough terrain because of the color-coded profile on the MTB project App Map. There were several areas in red indicating steep grade and little squares on the trail line with exclamation points.
As I pedaled away from the Wilber Street Trailhead alone, I felt a small amount of apprehension but also felt like I could handle whatever the exclamation points were warning about.
A short distance into the NW bound trail, I came to the first steep climb. I geared down and lowered my shoulders almost to handle bar level and pointed my elbows out as I was taught in a class that I took a couple of years ago. The idea is to spread out the weight so that the front wheel doesn’t come off the ground and the back wheel has enough traction to keep from spinning out. I gave it all that I had but had to stop and hike a bike about a third of the way up. After reaching the top and recovering my breath, I took out my phone to see where I was on the profile. To my astonishment, the section that I had just climbed wasn’t even a blip on the map’s elevation profile. Yikes.
I was in familiar territory for the next mile or so until I crossed the dirt road adjacent to deep creek. I stopped at the trail marker to access the situation. The trail was narrow and lined with tall bushes with a slight bend and I couldn’t tell what I was getting into until I was on the bike and committed.
The trail followed the steep deep creek contour nearly straight down with no switchbacks. The trail is dusty with basalt rocks poking through like mountain tops mysteriously popping through the clouds as your plane glides toward to Seattle over the North Cascades on a cloudy day. The difference is that it isn’t eerily silent. The four inch tires groan as they pass over and from one rock tip to another. The hydraulic powered disc brakes are doing their job and stopping the wheel rotation as requested but I must release and engage repeatedly to keep from going over the handlebars. As I near the bottom, there is a ninety degree turn and my momentum has slowed enough that I could unclip and dismount to walk the bike the rest of the way. Unfortunately, the grade and momentum didn’t allow me to get control even though I was off the bike. I let go of the bike as I fell to my left onto the rocky trail and felt a thud on my helmit. No injuries, only a few scrapes on the elbow and knees. As I was descending, my conscious self-seemed to be watching objectively in slow motion and heard me say, “holy shit, that was steep.”
As I emerged from the trail into a nearly dry creek bed, I felt like I had emerged into another world like in Jurassic Park. I looked around in awe and couldn’t find a continuation of trail #25. I laid my bike down and wandered up and down the creek until I saw the familiar “25” on a signpost and a nearly hidden trail back up the canyon wall. This was without a doubt, hike a bike for me and it was a long time before I could attempt to ride, even for short distances. Pushing my 37-pound bike up a narrow rocky trail was humbling. I was glad that I was riding solo.
Forty-five minutes later, I descended onto West Carlson Rd near a parking lot and outdoor restroom. I tried to orient my map and find the continuation (back towards the beginning) but couldn’t find it on the map or physically. I decided that I must have missed a turn back up the trail so set off in that direction. (up a steep incline, of course). The trail looked familiar for a short time but then looked unfamiliar. I decided that I must have accidentally gotten back on the right trail and pressed on over rough terrain and frequent hike a bike circumstances. After about an eternity, I came to a sign, “interpretive trail ->”. I remembered seeing it earlier and immediately realized that I had, indeed, backtracked on the trail and was about to re-enter the Deep Creed Canyon.
I had previously noticed a trail on the ground and on the map indicating a way to traverse down the ridge to the Aubrey White Trail (paved). I rode (and walked) back to that point and was soon descending a steep and winding trail back to the paved road. Twenty minutes later (on dirt trails), I arrived at the car.
Once home, I studied the maps and figured out just where I had been and how much of trail #25 that I still need to do. I had a good feeling about the experience.
I’m grateful, at age 70, to be able to get out on the trail and experience the unencumbered terrain of Eastern Washington. I’m also grateful that I can still mountain bike with my kids, their spouses and grandkids (this does require some patients on their part).
What else is going on? I’m doing a dirt rails to trail in Idaho next week: https://www.traillink.com/trail/weiser-river-national-recreation-trail/ with a friend. This will be an overnight self-supported Bikepacking experience. It is a trial run in anticipation of doing the cross-state Washington rail to trail (named: John Wayne Pioneer Trail. https://www.traillink.com/trail/john-wayne-pioneer-trail/) )this September. Stay tuned.
Life is good.