Happy trails, Summit County
The season is changing. The aspens have peaked and are beginning to drop their leaves. According to some weather forecasts, we may get our first dustings of snow in the High Country this weekend. Some of us start to turn our thoughts to sliding on snow, some of us want to keep on our bikes as long as possible, some of us have embraced fat bikes and ride year-round. Regardless of where you fall in that spectrum, the writing is on the wall — the days of riding dirt are numbered, and we won’t see uncovered singletrack again until next May, or June.
We’re getting into the, as I call it, “second road trip season.” We did our spring trips to Moab, Fruita and maybe other places, like Sedona or the Four Corners region. Now, it’s time for the autumn pilgrimage. The campsites at those locales will once again be at a premium. It’s smarter to go mid-week if you can — you’ll have a much better chance of getting a prime spot.
I always value those October days in the desert and other low-elevation areas. Late August though early October is the busiest time of the year for my job, but it’s the only time I have for one last hurrah before it’s time to put up the bike and put on the skis (The fat bike bug has not yet bitten me).
I’m always a little conflicted this time of year — I love skiing and winter, but summers are too short at 9,600 feet. Those glorious fall days with friends in the Red Rock Canyon country extend my mountain bike season and rejuvenate my heart and body. During the autumn trips, I get a sense of nostalgia (My first trips to Moab were fall trips) for long-past excursions on fully rigid, steel-frame bikes with rim brakes. The equipment has improved, but the fun, adventure and sense of wonder in those surroundings are the same.
Looking back on this past (or almost past) mountain-biking season, I think about how, even though I’ve been doing this for 30 years, I’m still not tired of it. I still get a sense of satisfaction from cleaning a technical section that often stymies me, or from riding a tough climb strongly and railing a corner with confidence. I still love stopping and taking in the scenery, whether it’s a view I’ve seen hundreds of times or one I’ve never seen before. When I stop to sit quietly and listen to the wind in the trees or catch the birds chittering and animals shuffling through the brush, I’m instilled with the knowledge that, no matter how life deals out warts, wrinkles and farts, I’m still a very lucky guy to have the leisure and resources to play on an expensive toy like a carbon fiber bike with fancy suspension, disk brakes and gears that enable me to climb steep hills or pedal fast, flowing trails at warp speed (in appropriate places and times, of course).
Recently, I had an interesting encounter on the trail. I was on my way up to Janet’s Cabin for work-related projects when I came upon three people on foot wearing large backpacks. It was a man who looked to be in his early 30s with a woman who seemed to be of similar age, along with another woman who appeared to be quite a bit younger — early 20s at most. They were all dressed very conservatively: Jeans and a long-sleeved shirt for the man, who also sported an impressive beard, and long skirts with conservative blouses and headscarves for the women.
I stopped to yield, and we ended up chatting for almost 20 minutes. It turned out they had sold their dairy farm and were hiking from coast to coast, taking “as long as it took” on the American Discovery trail. We talked about their journey, Janet’s Cabin and the beauty of the country. I didn’t ask them about their personal lives, but I couldn’t help wonder — Mennonites? Amish? Polygamists?
In truth, it didn’t really matter. They were just folks taking advantage of life’s circumstances to see the country from a perspective few people get. If I had been on my bike at that time — if I hadn’t stopped and yielded the trail — I wouldn’t have had the encounter.
Yep, you never know when you’ll experience something that makes your day.
This will be my last mountain bike column this season. I really don’t know how many people have read me, but I hope you’ve found them somewhat interesting and useful. Obviously, I’m not a professional writer. I often sit down in front of the computer a few hours before the thing is due, with only a vague idea of what I’m going to write about. I get the columns in so late that I’m sure it drives the folks at the SDN a little crazy. My grammar and punctuation are atrocious to an editor, I’m sure, but I don’t give them much time to make corrections, so sometimes my faux pas are left intact. (Hey, I do have a sixth grade education.)
Anyway, thanks for reading.
A couple things to mention before signing off: The Summit Fat Tire Society is having its annual meeting on Oct. 16 at the Kenosha Steakhouse in Breckenridge. The annual meeting is a chance for you to get the inside scoop on all things trails, give your input and get more involved in the local MTB society. Organizations like the SFTS are only as good as the people involved, and we very much need new people with ideas and energy.
The SFTS will also be hosting its second-annual Moab hootenanny and campout form Oct. 23-25. We have a group campsite reserved, and we’ll spend the weekend doing a couple group rides, hanging around the campfire and having a beer or two. Go to www.summitfattire.org for more info.
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