Monday, April 18, 2005

Douthat

Sometimes you sit back, take it all in and think-- life can't get any better than this. I spent the weekend at Douthat State Park with the extended family: me, the wife, the kid, and about 20 of the coolest people you'd find anywhere. The weather was perfect and the trails were awesome, to put it lightly. Douthat has some of the best trails anywhere. Long climbs up to spectacular views and long downhills that dare you to lay off the brakes for just a second longer.

I had been to Douthat twice before, but this trip will be the most memorable for sure. For one, it would be the first time I took my daughter "mountain" biking. Trailer bike in tow, the kid and I set out Saturday morning with Gina, Maili, Julie, Marianne, and Karen for the long climb up Mountainside trail to the Douthat overlook. The climb proved to be quite a challenge with the extra load, even with my wimpy 32x20 gearing and the occassional pedal push from behind. And although my knees will probably never forgive me, the pain was worth the look on my kid's face when we crested the final hill and she saw the view from the top for the first time.



After we get back to the lodge there's still time for a good 2hrs in the saddle before dinner. But this time I leave the kid with Gina and go out for a solo ride. Destination: the Tuscarora Overlook. After a quick look at the trail map I decide to take the shortest route, which is to climb up the Blue Suck Falls trail to Lookout Rock and then to Middle Mountain. Bad choice. Climbing up Blue Suck Falls, well, sucks. I'm either shouldering the bike through rock gardens or I'm pushing it through uphill switchbacks that I would have never cleared, even with gears. At one point I catch my hand on a thorny vine and rip open my thumb. So now I'm leaving a trail of blood for the bears to follow. The sufferfest ends almost too soon as I catch sight of a trail marker pointing the way to the abandoned cabin at the overlook. Stopping for a minute to take in the view I glance at my watch and see there's only about a half hour till dinner. I point the bike downhill and let loose the brakes. The descent down Stony Run seems to last forever. It's fast, relatively smooth, and most importantly, long. The scenery changes from open and exposed off-camber ribbons of trail, to shaded canopies resembling an oasis, sometimes at the instant you turn a switchback. While I missed riding with the fellas, being out there alone on a trail I've never seen before, screaming down the mountain, is an epiphany unto itself. If I wasn't such a shallow person I would think I experienced zen, if only for a moment.

Meanwhile, back at the lodge, the tomfoolery raged on:


(photo by BeckyB)

On the last day at Douthat I took it easy and let Gina ride with the gang up to the same spot where I had been the day before. They were smarter and chose a more rideable route to the top. JoeF, ever the lens man, took some amazing pictures capturing all the fun I was missing. However, the smile on Gina's face when she got back to the lodge told me enough about how nice the ride was. I was really impressed with Gina, Maili, and Julie at how well they rode those trails. Now, there's even talk amongst them of teaming up at some of the races. Let's hope so.



Like learning to ride all over again: Maili tries clipless pedals.

1 Comments:

Blogger rickyd said...

If I didn't know you were a plasma physicist, I'd mistake you for a writer or sumthin'. Nice writeup.

12:22 PM

 

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