Upon further reflection I have to say that my last post sucked. Another rehash of the same old stuff. If I can't do better than that I should just stop.
This blog started out as a journal, morphed into a photo blog, then changed into a mountain biking blog. And what I think it really should be is an exercise for me to try to learn to write a little bit better. So with that in mind I'm going to try to relate something that happened to me last night.
After work I got the unexpected opportunity to head out for a mountain bike trail ride at a nearby state park. With the sunset coming earlier as the summer passes I had to move quickly to get things ready and head out to the park. I got there a little more than an hour before sunset, geared up and rode in to the singletrack.
The sun was already heading towards the horizon as I started, giving the woods a soft, dim appearance that would soon begin to darken. Usually on my solo rides I keep to a fairly slow speed, not really even bothering to think about the pace I'm keeping. But I knew that dusk was coming and I really wanted to make at least a full lap around the lakeside trails, so I put a little bit of extra effort into the climbs and tried to keep off the brakes somewhat on the descents. Looking back at my previous quick time on this loop of 59 minutes I knew that I should be able to finish up way before the light failed, but things sometimes go wrong at the most unexpected moments - so I kept on riding at my quick pace.
The lakeside trail follows the inlets on the edge of the reservoir, so you climb uphill away from the water, turn round the top of the inlet and descend back towards the lake, only to turn and climb up the next inlet. I had just made a quick descent, curved to parallel the lake shore and was now turning back into the woods beside the next inlet, which was a short climb with a bridge partway up that then turned back towards the lake.
As I turned back into the woods, the sun at my back was aligned with an opening in the trees and shone a burst of coppery light onto the trail just ahead of me. And standing in that blaze of light was a white tail doe, frozen on the trail looking at me as I made the turn and approached at speed. The sunlight reflected from her coat almost as if it was a mirror, creating a bright aura that was highlighted by the contrast with the dim forest surrounding us. The light was so bright that it was difficult to see any details - it just looked like a piece of the sun was in the forest ahead of me. She remained motionless for a second as I pedaled toward her, looking like a deer phoenix, before bounding away out of the patch of sunlight and disappearing into the cool green of the woods. I crashed over the roots where she had been standing, turning my head to try to follow her shape, a shadow among shadows, as she bolted between trees. It only took a second to lose her, then I was turning onto the bridge and moving back parallel to the lake shore.
As I turned another movement caught my eye - a white tail fawn still showing it's spots cautiously skittered away from me and up the hillside. And as I completed the turn I saw another fawn on the other side of the trail turn and gallop through the forest towards the rest of its family.
The whole experience took perhaps five seconds. I stood on the pedals and turned up another hill, pushing to keep my pace up as I finished the loop.
When I made it back to the car I checked the time - 58 minutes, one minute faster than my previous quick time. That was a pleasant surprise, but it wasn't what I'd keep from this particular ride. The image of that deer, made of sunlight in the dim green of the forest, will probably stay with me forever. Those unexpected situations are why I love to spend time in the woods.