So now we're fully entrenched in summer, despite the calendar insisting that it's still 3 weeks away. We've had some days in the 90's, though mostly the days high temps fall a little short of that mark. The trees are in full leaf, and the early flowers have made their show, and now patiently wait for spring to roll around again.
With the change of seasons, which is always so dramatic in the Great Lakes region, people have a chance to change their routines. Getting away from the lazy winter hibernation and pushing into the endless opportunities that nice weather presents can be difficult - something about a body at rest tending to remain at rest... Personally I can only let so many beautiful days go by while I sit and enjoy looking at them. Once the trend is for warm temperatures my mind goes into overdrive, and I can come up with a dozen plans for any available free time. And so after a long dreary winter, and then a cold and reluctant spring, I'm finally back into the kind of routine that I enjoy.
I've been spending a good amount of time riding the bike on the rail trail. My home town has a nice straight, flat paved trail leading north, almost all the way to Lake Erie, and I've been heading out that way when my available recreation time is less than two hours. That gives me time to get out there, ride for a smidge less than an hour and a half, and get home. Since I ride my mountain bike I'm not setting any speed records, but an hour and twenty minutes of rail trail riding will get me about 16 to 18 miles, depending on the wind and how energetic I feel.
These trips are easy to fit in, and easy to do. The trail is so straight and flat that the only thing that I have to keep conscious of is my cadence. I much prefer the much more mentally demanding experience of riding a bike on singletrack, but these rail trail miles have their purpose. After squeezing in rail trail rides whenever I could this spring, I was gratified to find that when I got back on the dirt that I was riding at (for me) top form. So in an effort to keep that fitness level up - and burn off as many extra calories as possible - I keep returning to the paved trail.
Once or twice a week I, weather permitting, I can usually get the bike on the trails. Unfortunately my time is almost always limited, so that I ride to fill the time available, not till I'm ready to quit. But I'm finding that even at 50 year of age that I'm still improving as a rider. I'm not much faster or a better climber, but my rock riding technique continues to improve. Several times this spring I've surprised myself by successfully making tough moves that I wouldn't have even tried two years ago. And while my breathing still is terrible, at least it seems that it hasn't gotten any worse, and I'm still able to enjoy the ride.
I've also been trying to get a little more balance in how I spend my free time. After a couple of years where I hardly even paddled my kayaks, now I'm putting more effort into finding ways to get on the water. I had a couple of great whitewater runs when spring was just starting to happen, including a fun run on a creek that I'd never managed to paddle before. Plus last weekend I got out on some flat water with a buddy who had just bought his first kayak. We paddled 8 miles on a quiet, slow river on a warm and breezy afternoon, enjoying the scenery of one of Pennsylvania's newest Water Trails, the upper Shenango River. The new paddler had a great time, enjoying the small riffles and the long slow sweep of the river between. It was great to get out on a quiet waterway, and rediscover the local wildlife that lives just off the beaten path. We saw a wide range of birds while out, including an encounter with a huge bald eagle who let us get within 50 feet before flying off.
I've discovered two 'new' creeks in the area as well. Both seem to offer whitewater in the class II-III range, but neither is listed in any guidebook or website that I can find. So I'm watching the weather and waiting for the next big rain for my chance to do some 'exploring' in the middle of this area that's been settled for 300 years. And we're planning a vacation for later on this month, that will involve a visit to Gettysburg for my son, some biking for me, and some relaxing in the woods for all of us.
I hope that everyone else out there is getting back into their summer routines as well. Have fun and ride hard!