Song of the Day:
The Decemberists, The Queen's Rebuke / The Crossing.mp3
Geryrock Mountain sits North East of Fort Collins. It is a popular day hike for the residents of this fair city, and the object of today's Motor Free Month Adventure. I do love the outdoors, and hiking in the mountains is an important leisure-time activity for me, so going on a hike is a required element during Motor Free Month. The theory tested today therefore: is it possible to get good hiking in while living motor free? In short the answer is yes, but your options are probably limited to hiking options that are close, and that this lack of variety will become boring rather quickly.
The road bike was the option for today's ride, as the traihead was 20 miles up the Podure canyon from our house. So this was going to be quite the day; 20 mile ride to the trailhead, 8 mile (round trip) hike to Greyrock summit and back, and then a 20 mile ride back home. But after shaking off the cobwebs from last night's festivities, I was excited and ready to go. I left the house at about 9 a.m. It took me about 1 hour and 15 minutes to reach the trailhead from home, and I had a very pleasant ride; first through town, then up the bike path to La Porte, and from La Porte to Ted's Place (not a very pleasant bit, alongside US 287), and then up the Poudre canyon to the trailhead. Since I was on the road bike which required special biking shoes with clips, I had to pack hiking shoes in my backpack. I also had to pack my lock so no one would steal the bike while I was on the hike. What a disaster that would be, to end up stranded 20 miles from home, up poudre creek without a pedal! C_, Lou, Katrinka, and Jacob, and our dog Lincoln were all to join me on the hike portion of the event, but since they were driving they did not leave the Fort until well after I had left the Fort. Incredibly, their timing was excellent; they arrived just as I finished locking my bike (for a second time, as I discovered that my first locking attempt was far from secure). Thusly met, we all started up the trail to the mountain.
The hike was a lot of fun and I did not seem to feel any adverse affects from the 20 mile ride to the trailhead. I was really happy to be in the forest and thought what a blessing it is to have this so close to where I live. Motor Free living feels bounded, constrained sometimes (bounded by a nutshell!), and I was also very happy that I decided to stretch out a bit and forge into the mountains. I began to think more about the logistics of this event. It took me a little more than one hour to reach the trailhead. How far could I have gone in one hour in the car? Certainly farther. Having the car would give me many more hiking options for the day. Fine then, what if I got up earlier and rode for two hours? How far could I make it on a bike in that time? Farther, with more options certainly, but in a car, two hours gets me from Ft Collins to Walden, or Almost to Copper Mountain! There a lot of hiking between here and there. And also the fatigue factor must set in at some point; exactly how far could one travel on a bike before one was too fatigued to go on a proper hike afterwards? And you still have to have enough energy to ride home afterwards!
Speaking of fatigue, halfway into the hike I was starting to feel some affects. Mostly I'd run out of water! Not smart. I packed two biking water bottles for the trip and figured they would last me for the bike up the canyon and the hike. Then I could refill for the ride down the canyon, which isn't as difficult anyway. But I was out of water before I even summited Geryrock, and getting thirsty. I would have borrowed some water but everyone else was out also! This was not as big of a problem for them though; when they got back to the trailhead they could restfully drive and ride in relative comfort, and simply pick up water at the store if needed. I still had about one hour's riding ahead of me and needed to stay hydrated. So that was certainly a mistake; I did not pack enough water and that is a basic and critical error.
The other issue in the back of my mind was the weather. When we approached the final summit rock, we noticed quite acutely that the weather had become rather cloudy and threatening. On the summit we could hear a lot of thunder, but we could also see that the rain seemed to be to the South of us, and moving East from there, so we were in no significant danger exposed on the top of the mountain. But that was not my chief concern. Where there rain was heading was right through my route home from the hike. So far on Motor Free Month I'd been lucky with the weather. really good weather is one of the primary reasons for choosing September as my Motor Free Month. But could my good fortune run out today? That's certainly another risk you take on a bike, particularly on a bike in the mountains. I brought a rain jacket and it wasn't that cold at any rate, but I was more concerned about wet roads and RVs with bald tires. All manner of grisly and frightening situations passed through my brain as we began to descend!
So between the lack of water in my backpack, and the surplus of water in those threatening clouds, my mood became more serious on the way down. I was still enjoying myself overall and thankful to be in the mountains, but I needed to make sure I stayed safe. I resolved to get water as soon as possible after finishing the hike. This meant I'd have to actually travel 1.5 more miles up the canyon to Poudre Park to the little store there, before making my trip back home. Essentially I was putting my hydration needs ahead of my desire to beat the weather. I figured if I got too dehydrated I'd be a mess even in good conditions, so up the canyon I went. Happily for me the store was open (no guarantees!). I wasn't too hungry, so I stocked up with a bottle of water, a Gatorade, and a coke. Everything looked good! And everything was so cold, so good when it hits your mouth! I took a huge swig of the water, and a huge swig of the Gatorade. A massive brain-freeze assaulted my skull but it hurt do good! I put the rest of the water and Gatorade in my biking bottles, and stuck the coke in my backpack. Motor Free advice: don't forget your wallet! Happily I was able to pay for these liquid delights.
The weather was still iffy but holding. I got back on the bike and started down the canyon. For the most part it was a very pleasant ride, which was somewhat surprising. The Poudre can get clogged up pretty badly with cars and campers, particularly on a holiday weekend. In a car you are almost guaranteed to get stuck in a train of 15 cars and campers, all impatiently coasting behind an old RV belching black smoke as its driver blissfully cruises home. I think on a bike this situation worked to my advantage. There were short moments of relative terror when all the angry cars and campers would pass, but for the most part the road was nice and quiet actually. I'd always been nervous about biking the Poudre because of the lack of shoulder and the heavy traffic, but I have to say it wasn't really that bad. Maybe I'm just getting used to being on a bike though.
The ride home passed uneventfully enough until I got back through La Porte. I was cruising down the bike path over this really cool bridge over the Poudre. It looks like an old railroad iron trestle bridge, with wooden slats as the bridge surface. It had rained there recently, and most of the wooden slats had pools of water in them. the water was reflecting the tops of the bridge trestles and the blue sky overhead, and it all looked really beautiful. I thought, "how about a picture," and reached back to get my camera out of my back pocket. But by the time I got the camera out and took a picture, I had nearly reached a part on the bridge where it makes a sharp left hand turn. I realized I was going too fast to make the turn, and I had only one hand on the brake (the other was trying to take a picture), and I couldn't brake hard anyway because of the wet surface conditions, and I was heading for a crash! The bridge had a shoulder-high railing so there was no danger of falling into the river. I braked as much as I dared while making the turn on the wet wooden bridge surface, and careened into the railing! Ouch, right into my shoulder and rib cage, that metal doesn't give. Off I bounced from the right rail, and the force of the collision sent me back across the bridge to the left rail. Somehow I stayed on and was able to stabilize and keep moving. How about putting the camera away! Safety first and stuff, you know. Here is the picture I took right before crashing into the rail. In fact, this picture caused me to crash into the rail!
So no harm done (well a little harm; my shoulder and rib cage are a little sore this next morning!), and I was able to make back to town without any more major mishaps. Except I also got my first flat tire of Motor Free Month! I was wondering how long that would take to happen. I was literally one block from home and making a broad right turn when I noticed that I could hardly turn my stupid bike! What, am I that fatigued? Then I looked down and could see way too much front tire squeezing out from under my front rim. Ahhh, a flat. Well thank goodness that didn't happen up the canyon! I took Riverside home which I don't normally do since it is a busy street, and I think I must have rolled over something sharp on that stretch of road. Note to self, avoid Riverside, it's not bike-friendly.
Well that was quite the day, and quite the weekend! It's back to work today, where my Motor Free Adventures will seem quite tame in comparison. I'm therefore going to write about the activities I've had to give up by going Motor Free.