There is a undercurrent of panic among my Mountain Biking friends. The clouds descended last week, covering Boulder in a film of dew, coating the trees in an erie layer of humidity. The temperature dropped and the wind blew in the smell of fresh, wintery air. It barely dipped into trousers weather, but the change from oppressive heat was felt. It was a signal.
Evening rides come in two kinds. First, there’s the frantic assembly on lycra pulled on after a stressful day; a ride sandwiched closely between the commute and darkness. These rides are the bread and butter of Spring and Autumn. They are what keeps the wheels turning when there isn’t another time to ride. The second kind of evening ride is the rare adventure; the carefully planned escape from work before the clock strikes five. Friends organised, riding kit ready, tyres pre-pumped and chains well oiled. You drive away from the bustle of rush hour – the opposite direction from normal. Your stomach grumbles a little as it realises it won’t be getting any post-work cake and a cup of tea. This is what makes the summertime: The Magic Hour.
I had to stop, I couldn’t just flow on by. It was hard though; I’d only just got back in the groove and I didn’t know how long it was going to last. It had been stop and go all day – not more than 2 minutes of riding between trail work. We knew we were pushing it, and it was certainly the price we had to pay to get early tracks on the high trails.
I love trees. Trees that stand up tall and sway gently in the breeze. Or trees that shelter you from the pounding mid afternoon sun. Trees’ canopies which harbour all kinds of tweeting and screeching wildlife.
These trees, though, were different. Horizontal was the main problem. Trees rarely cause problems in the vertical plane, but these had met their match with a Front Range winter of snow and wind. Well, lets be honest – probably a fair chunk more wind than snow this year.
So we’d hiked our bikes up the little access trail – the trail that not many people ride up because quite simply it isn’t any fun – but once up there we had our elevation in hand and planned to use it wisely. Unfortunately the trees had other ideas, and the prime condition pine laden single-track was criss-crossed with downed trees – Aspens and pines felled easily by the elements, but unmovable by the combined might of our Four.
This stop was by choice. After so many breaks to move the timber I nearly sailed right on by. But as I looked back and saw James Peak looming above me, I had to pull on the brakes and slow down. The only white left on the circle of peaks above, the mountains’ 13,400 feet height towers over the Rollins pass road, with just small wisps of clouds hugging its torso, indicating the thunderstorms to roll in later that day.
I wait for the other rides to catch me – they, sensibly, choose to keep rolling on and embracing the flow of this uninterrupted stretch of trail. I’m glad they didn’t stop. I snap a couple photos as they zoom by, then turn back to my mountain and take a few more seconds. I know it will still be there the next time I head up and explore, but I save just a little bit to take back down to the Front Range with me.
I turn the pedals a few times and let the freewheel buzz in excitement at the flow left to go.