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Archive for July 30th, 2013

I have spent many hours studying and reading this summer. That’s good, but I find myself wanting to balance that with exercise and time in the woods. It was one of about 6 beautiful days we’ve had in the last 2 months so I had plans to get out. That fell through. I went back to studying, getting to a good stopping point. Then I moped a bit. Then I was irritated at myself because life is too short and interesting for that. I got up and made a plan. I’ve been focused on hiking and climbing lately and haven’t had my mountain bike out in quite some time. I told my wife where I was going; I put a few things in my pack; I oiled the chain and derailleur: I inflated the tires; I put the bike rack and bike on the back of the car; I went. Mountain biking by yourself is probably not advisable, but I was determined not to jump anything or go too fast since I’ve never been great at either and I’m out of practice. Instead, I determined to explore an old logging trail, which is essentially single-track because of the undergrowth, to see where it goes. On the way up by car I realized that this back-burner adventure (something I tuck away in my mind for a later opportunity)  had simmered for 7 or 8 years since I had been on the trail last. Time had prevented me from exploring to my satisfaction the two previous times I’d been there. I don’t even know what made me think of it now.

At the pull out the mosquitoes were copious, but as soon as I started moving it was the dozens of spider webs across the trail that kept my attention. I zipped down the approximately mile and a half from the gravel road, getting off only a few times for downed trees. The surface was relatively smooth and mostly leaf covered. The creek was, of course, higher than I had seen it previously due to the excess rain. I removed shoes and socks, wading and reshoeing. As I strained up the switchbacks away from the creek, out of shape for bike as I am, I began to notice the sky darkening. I had to walk some when my lungs hurt. I think I had gotten about as far up the ridge as I had come down on the other side to the creek and thought I saw light through the trees, indicating the top of the ridge. Soon after this thought of possible completion of my adventure the bike rear derailleur struck a downed branch which hung up and broke the derailleur off. I was amazed because I didn’t think it had struck that hard. It was obvious that uphill biking was terminated. I tried to jam the chain and derailleur in a position out of the way of spokes and turned to coast back down to the creek. What else could I do? That part of the return went smoothly and quickly. I reversed the process of crossing the creek and began to push. Mosquitoes urged me on. As long as I kept moving I hardly noticed them, but woe be unto me if I stopped for a moment. The slower pace allowed me to tune into the surroundings more. The woods were strangely quiet- no wind, no birds, no insects (while I moved)- and the sky was gray. I was thankful that my mind was clear of concerns and my body didn’t feel sluggish from sitting, but the woods spoke a melancholy hush to my spirit. If you think that I was imposing my feelings on the woods rather that the other way around, then I would contend that you have not spent much time in the woods alone. Check out the 1983 movie, “Never Cry Wolf”, especially the ‘thaw scene’. The Creation really does groan (Romans 8:19-23), frequently with deafening silence. 

I felt that the adventure part of the trip was just getting my bike and myself back, not so exciting. I did have several consolation gifts as I pushed the bike forward. A large bird startled the silence and flew up from a widowmaker tree upslope. It must have been a turkey judging from the large, fan shaped tail feathers, but for the life of me I’d never seen a turkey gain altitude that fast before. It was at treetop level before it flew over me. That startled me. Later, when I stopped for water, I noticed several Indian Pipe Fungi. As I took off my pack to get the camera, I again noticed this most regular companion of all my travels, my Jansport daypack. I bought it just before my sophomore year in college, which means I’ve had it about 34 years. It reminds me of the stuffed animals that become real with love and handling. It is on the third pair of zippers, two of the tabs now paperclips. The shoulder straps are paper thin. It is limp as a rag and hasn’t seen waterproofing in two decades. But that pack has been to the top of a 12,000′ peak overnight, to France and Costa Rica and New Mexico and Florida and Montana. It’s carried water, food, and clothing on 1000’s of miles of day hikes and some overnighters, bouldering sessions, mountain and road bike trips, vacations. It carried books and still does, tools, towels and watershoes to swimming holes and on canoe trips. I guess I rambled a bit. I guess I’ll keep the pack a little longer.

I saw a few more fungi before I reached the car. I battled the mosquitoes one more time as I racked the ‘tore up’ bike. I felt mellow and cool as the breeze dried me off coming down the gravel road. Wilderness, however it comes, clears the mind of concerns and body of sluggishness. The melancholy wilderness reminds me how thankful I am to have peace with God through the Savior. It’s lonely out there.

Indian Pipe Fungus

Indian Pipe Fungus, Red Maple and Black Cherry seedlings, Rhododendron foliage

Indian Pipe Fungi

Indian Pipe Fungi

Yellow Spindle Coral Mushroom?

Yellow Spindle Coral Mushroom? What is the black glob?

100_7459

Tore Up!

Tore Up!

Amazing Pack!

Amazing Pack!

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