I had shamefully fallen out of the habit of mountain biking for a couple of years now, but even though you don’t have to search back far in this blog to find my post cursing Gerry’s name, I’m here to say that I have him to thank for not letting me give up and reminding me how much I actually enjoy it.
Here we are at Waterton Canyon, which isn’t really a trail as much as a dirt road, but it’s incredibly scenic, with longhorn sheep who are totally bored by the sight of humans.
But this isn’t about this trip. Why? Because I don’t think reading about biking is terribly interesting without pretty pictures, and Mr. Man ain’t got time to stop for many. So I will instead tell you about the following weekend, when I went alone to my favorite trail in all the world, Little Scraggy/Shinglemill.
This is, in fact, the same trail featured in my previous “which do I hate more, mountain biking or Gerry?” post, except I started at the top of the mountain, which I wanted to do with Gerry because it’s infinitely more enjoyable.
This post will be very photo heavy, but I used an Android app (Vignette, which I can’t recommend highly enough) to gussy them up and make them more interesting, hopefully. Let’s begin our photo journey, shall we?
Shinglemill is where the fun really begins. It’s impossible to describe to you if you aren’t in the mountain biking scene, but it’s about a 20-minute descent on sandy (but mostly hard packed) singletrack. The trail is so well engineered that the few turns are smooth and natural, not sharp and sudden. Virtually no rocks or roots. It’s supposedly one of the top rated singletracks in America, and it’s not hard to see why. The one thought in my head the whole way down was just “JOY.” Utter joy. Wish I could bottle it and sell it, better than any drug.
But alas, what goes down must come up, and despite my best efforts there was no easy way around that fact.
So I stopped at a quiet place beside a stream for a quick snack. Well, quiet except for an extremely put-out rodent.
I started back up on The Tramway, hoping it was somehow flat-ish.
I still need to work on my uphill, because I walked and pushed most of it yet again, with few brief spates of riding not nearly enough feet. It was sweaty work, and stopping was nearly as unpleasant as moving, thanks to hordes of huge stinging black flies that descended every time I halted for longer than a few seconds (one of which left me with a welt I’m still scratching at two weeks later).
I plodded laboriously for what seemed like hours (it wasn’t). I had a map, but again the little squiggles gave no hint how far I still had to go to get to the point I was familiar with, where I knew I was in the home stretch. I was rationing my water, not knowing how much farther I had but wanting to gulp the entire pouch in one stop. I started fantasizing about an extra large McDonald’s orange soda, my favorite treat after every ride.
Then I met a man who changed my (mountain biking) life.
As a woman alone in the mountains, there is of course a fear of violence always at the back of my mind; very far back, as I’ve never let it stop me, but there all the same. But I’ve only ever met friendly outgoing men, knock on wood, and men always willing to help out a vaguely grumpy-looking damsel in distress.
As I pushed my bike half-heartedly up yet another incline, I noticed an older gentleman (well, 50s; time is coming for me that I’ll have to stop using that adjective) riding up behind me in granny gears, pedaling patiently, slowly, but pedaling nonetheless.
As he got closer, I asked if he knew how far to the Shinglemill crossing where I had started. He stopped for me and I apologized for losing his momentum, but he didn’t mind. He said he wasn’t sure how far, he could lie to me, haha. I noticed he wasn’t even remotely out of breath.
Maybe he was onto something. I realized when I try to bike uphill, I pedal too fast and get winded quickly. After he passed me I tried slow and deliberate, and whaddya know? He couldn’t give me directions, but he improved my situation radically anyway.
Thanks to him, I mounted the next crest on two wheels like a proper biker looking like I knew what I was doing, where two younger men rested on the way down. I asked the same question, and they said it was about three miles. I groaned despairingly, but they assured me there was a good amount of downhill to it and that cheered me up.
They were right and I started making good time again. I also had my second fall of the day when I tried a second too late to take the high branch of the path but gravity had other plans and sucked my wheel into an eroded gully (first fall was from almost a complete stop when I didn’t get to the pedals fast enough; very embarrassing).
Not long after that, I reached the spectacular valley overlook I normally approach from the other direction, which meant I suddenly knew exactly where I was.
I made very short work of the remaining trail. I even passed Mr. Granny Gears on his way back, and for a split second felt like expressing gratitude for his unintended riding lesson, but didn’t.
By now I was craving a burger to go with my orange soda, and felt I had earned it. Just under 14 miles in 2-1/2 hours that felt twice as long on both counts. A perfect day.