Last night, Dave and I did another awesome nighttime mountain bike ride — this time, in the rain. I’m not going to disclose the location of this ride because technically, we might have broken some “rules” and I wouldn’t want to make it difficult for us to do this ride again.
We set out down a smooth-packed gravel road; it was raining, and our lights reflected off the rain drops and almost made it look like snow was falling. Within a couple of minutes, we looked ahead down the road and saw two beady eyes glowing back at us. We couldn’t tell until we got within about 10 feet that it was a possum crossing the road. We nearly hit it, but rode around and it ran off.
Soon, we reached the end of the road, and the beginning of a trail. The leaf cover was substantial, and we kept thinking that we were seeing crumpled up pieces of aluminum foil on the ground. Upon closer inspection, we realized that every downturned yellow leaf had water beaded up on the back of it, and somehow the way our lights reflect off them gave off a silvery sparkle.
We rode a long, gradual downhill on the trail, our lights providing enough light to see the trail a bit in front of us, but not much more more. We had to navigate around, over, or through various mud holes, sticks, branches, even whole trees at times. I found it easiest to keep my speed up, it helped me roll over the sticks and through the mud.
We stopped to adjust our lights and when we did, we heard coyotes yipping and yelping and howling, in the not-too-distant distance. We fell silent and listened to them for several minutes.
The trail got rougher and more rutted, but the leaves made it impossible to tell where the muddiest spots and other obstacles were. The harder it got, the more speed I picked up. It seems counterintuitive, but going fast was just easier than going slow.
We turned onto another trail, this one in much worse shape than the first. The trail had been heavily damaged by horse traffic. In places, our pedaling got us nowhere — our tires just spun in the thick mud. I got off my bike to walk and my whole foot sank into the mud. It was difficult to keep moving. At some point the rain stopped and the cloud cover thinned slightly, enough that we could see the moon glowing through the clouds.
But the trail turned steeply downward and this made it easier to ride. But we were still slipping around a lot. Once again, picking up speed helped; at times, I was practically floating across the top of the mud.
Suddenly, we reached the bottom of the hill and the trail spit us out onto a dam. One odd thing about riding in the dark is that you have no frame of reference for where you are. You can’t see more than about 10-15 feet ahead of you, and you have no peripheral vision. So when we reached the lake it felt very abrupt.
We stopped and turned our lights off. The lake looked breathtakingly beautiful. The sky was still cloudy, but the moonlight dispersed through the clouds, and the sky looked surprisingly bright. We could see the silhouettes of hills looming over the lake, the fast-moving clouds, and the calm water reflected the scene. We lingered for a while.
We switched our lights back on and rode on some gravel roads through the forest. We could see a bit better briefly, as the tree cover let up. But soon, the trees covered the road and we had tunnel vision once again. During this stretch, we saw the first car of our ride. We could hear a creek gushing alongside the road. We climbed for what seemed like a very long time. We were riding up a familiar hill, but once again, with no point of reference, we couldn’t tell when we were nearing the top.
Eventually, we did reach the top, and we turned onto another road. After a few rolling hills, we were done. We did see another car along the way, increasing the total number of cars spotted to 2.
This ride was fantastic in so many ways. It was a great combination of fun, insanity, challenges, and scenic beauty. Night rides are always a bit crazy, but this one was especially so, with the rain and mud. I think I was muddier after this ride than I have ever been.