Six hundred miles of driving and near 365 days of abstinence had me primed for a rendevous with my beloved. I was eager for some mind/body/soul action.
The digital red numbers on the clock read 5:13. I had gone to bed 5 hours before, after driving 9.5 hours from Hoosier-lands to PA-landscape. Along the way, I received text messages from a friend hiking in the high Sierra above Yosemite. Could there be any any greater polar opposites than the mechanized flatness of agri-business Indiana/Ohio and the rugged, raw natural beauty of John Muir’s true home?
Subie swung its hind end around the curves of the forest road, easing to a stop at the trailhead by Long Pine Reservoir. I turned the ignition off, and simultaneously, the rain started falling.
A non-believer, other than in the possibility of human love, I changed into my riding clothes, took the Scalpel off the roof, shaked and shivered a little from the cold morning rain, and clipped into the pedals.
“Start out on the res…ride it out and go from there.”
Michaux isn’t far from major nuclei of people. The potential for it to be overrun with recreationalists is high. However, it might not be urbane enough to attract those needing cell phone signals or hot water showers and toilets that flush and smell like chemical cleaners.
The rain fell, and I warmed up as I swung around to the spillway and entered the trail. Is there nirvana beyond riding singletrack on a rainy morning through pines where the only sound is your bike slicing through trees and your breathing?
Two boats were on the water, fisher people out early as well. Lightning flashed across the sky and thunder rolled around the mountains. A storm was upon me, and I smiled in the fore-knowledge that I was not going back to the car.
Beaver Trail was a little overgrown with rhodos, and with the torrential downpour, already making for an epic ride. Somehow the tires locked up on the rocks, giving me more confidence, despite the gnarley, slimey roots that skidded out my back tire.
On I went, determined to join Mother Nature in her offering of cleansing.
North on Birch Run and east on Ridge Road, up the hump and the down on to one of my favorite little downhills. The trail was a rivulet, feeding feeder streams that drained into the reservoir, or the Chesapeake via the Potomac.
Everything on my body was soaked, and my shoes swished with water. I grinned from ear to ear. Why had I not ventured in the mad rain in the past?
Michaux is remote enough for wet, soggy mountain biking without worry of messing up trails like at park trail systems. If you ride Michaux, you’re expecting an ass-kicking, which keeps many riders away.
I made way back to my car and kept going. Twenty minutes later I was at the powerline cut and climbed up it. Then on to an intense rocky downhill on a trail that became a mountain stream. I then bottomed out and climbed up on to the ridge on the backside of the reservoir. No dabs on the climb made my ride for the day.
Meandering on, I heard voices in my head as turtle shell and shark fin rocks tried to break my spirit…
“This is the best Michaux ride you’ve ever had.”
“Michaux is epic all the time, but EPIC in a storm.”
More lightning and the thunder rolled closer. I came to one of my favorite drops, one that requires leaning way back, holding on and finding faith in the Lefty.
I eventually dropped out back at the reservoir, hearing the rush of water over the spillway while strong-arming it through the rocks and boulders above. I took the same trail as 2.5 hours previously, Subie sitting with 203,000 miles on her waiting patiently for my return.
Covered in Appalachian sandstone grit, I walked over to the stream, found my way to a secluded spot, stripped down and washed my clothes and body in post-ride bliss.