Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Camping trip in Hoosier National Forest: Part II

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

Note: this is Part II of a three-part series. Read Part I here. Part III will be forthcoming.

When we left off in Part I, we had just prepared for the second ride of the day, this one at night. It was completely dark when we started, but we brought plenty of lights. Of course, that means I don’t have any photos of this ride. However, here is a map.


View 2009-11-07 HNF MTB Camping Trip 2 18-20-19 in a larger map

As we left our campsite, we heard owls hooting some more. We pedaled down the gravel road briefly, and all was quiet except the crunch of the gravel beneath our tires and the whooshing sound of the wind blowing through the pines. We turned onto trail 18, but not the same portion we rode earlier in the day. This section, we had ridden a few times in the past.

On the trail, the surface was gravel, briefly, before changing to dirt. As before, everything was covered in several inches of leaves. Once the gravel ended, the trail conditions varied, with some smooth, dry sections, and some muddy ones.

This trail normally features a blistering descent, but between the mud and the leaves and the fact that it was dark outside, it was slow going, and required a lot more effort than usual just to keep moving — even when going downhill. It was still fun, and we really appreciated the few places we were able to coast. Did I mention it was dark? The moon hadn’t come out yet, unlike some night rides/hikes of the past couple of weeks.

After we reached the bottom of the long hill, we rode through creek bottoms for a while, where trail conditions were better than we expected. We had to push our bikes up part of the long, steep, eroded climb up to the intersection with trail 20.

Normally, the descent on trail 18 is the highlight of this ride. But this time around, trail 20 was the star of the show; it was in better shape, and its twists and turns were a lot of fun in the dark. I led for a while, and was doing well until I missed a turn and suddenly, the trail just ended. I had to slam on my brakes in order to avoid riding into some trees. We laughed it off and backtracked to the proper trail.

This ride was very different from our earlier one. We were more focused on riding, and there was less conversation. This also allowed us to really take in the sounds of the forest: once again, the pines … more owls … a few unidentified noises. But mostly just leaves rustling in the wind and being trampled by our tires. The moon never really did come out while we were riding, but the stars were fantastic, and a planet (venus, I think) looked quite bright. Not bright enough to light our way, but it was a very bright dot in the night sky.

Trail 20 spit us out on another gravel road. We did some climbing on the road and then turned onto trail 19. The last five miles back to our campsite were mostly uphill, alternating gradual climbs with steep ones. This was the hardest part of the ride. We were tired and hungry, and this was our second ride of the day. The mud and leaves made climbing very difficult. We made it, eventually, but it was rather grueling.

We returned to our campsite. Dave had a solid fire going in about 10 minutes, without even striking a match. We made dinner — Dave made steaks, and I cooked beans and pasta. All while drinking some very tasty beer. We weren’t exactly roughing it …

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Eventually, the moon rose. But we didn’t see it for very long — we were too tired to stay up.

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Dave went to his tent first. I stayed by the fire to watch the stars for a few minutes. But not long. I was worn out, and we had a hike planned for the next day.

To be continued …

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