Thursday, May 1, 2014

Carry On

Sure enough, it DID snow after my last post.  We had actual accumulation of snow on one day, plus some stray snowflakes a couple of days later.  But now that we're in May, I feel it may be safe to declare that winter is actually gone for a couple of months, and we can get back to the business of spring.

Good thing too.  Seems like people around here were getting slightly squirrely from over-exposure to winter conditions.  Lots of people kind of had a wild look in their eyes, like they were pretty close to either doing something crazy or heading south in search of a more hospitable climate.  After being lulled into complacency by several years of mild winters with comforting mid-winter thaws, this year was like being slowly crushed to death by an indifferent glacier.

And so I've really been enjoying getting out.  The weather has been warm enough that its mostly been enjoyable to get out and ride.  That means getting used to not packing extra layers of clothes to bring along - just in case.  And it also means that I've ridden a couple of times with in shorts and t-shirt, which feels amazingly free after wearing three layers for the last five months.  But we have had enough rain coming at regular intervals to keep the mountain bike trails pretty soft for the most part.

I did get to head out to Quail Hollow State Park, near Hartville, Ohio, for a ride a couple of weeks ago.  My brother Matt and I have been getting out on the weekends and we took a trip hoping that the trail would be dry enough to ride.  We found out that much of the trail was in good condition, but there were some new wet areas that had been damaged by too much traffic while wet.  One major surprise was that the boardwalk across the meadow is now a boardwalk across a marsh.  This area had always been susceptible to moisture, and had turned to mud under use - which was why the boardwalk was installed in the first place.  But after the wet weather it looks like it might be morphing into a small wetland area.

Matt on the boardwalk at Quail Hollow.
So the trail wasn't in perfect shape, but at this point in the season we were happy just to be able to ride on dirt singletrack.  A couple of laps were enough of an early season ride to leave us smiling for the drive home.  And it's a good thing that we did get out and ride then, because the timing of the rain since then has kept the trails too soft for riding.

The paved trails have been fine though - they're like that as long as they're not covered in snow! I got in another night ride out on the Little Beaver Creek Greenway, which is quickly becoming my favorite paved trail.  I got to the trail a little while before sunset, so I quickly got on the trail without mounting the lights.

The Leetonia trailhead.
The weather was warm enough for a pleasant ride as the sun started to set.  As I passed through the Franklin Square area the evening light turned copper colored, giving the trailside scenery a warm tone.

The route 558 trailhead at Franklin Square.
By the time I'd passed the Teegarden Covered bridge sunset was over and dusk began to dim my surroundings.  It was beautiful riding alongside the creek and hearing the soft sound of moving water.  By now I had the trail pretty much to myself, and I took a short break to relax and enjoy the dusk at one of the trailside benches.  It was still early enough in the season that I wasn't being attacked by mosquitoes, so it was a nice opportunity to rest and listen to the spring peepers.

Dusk by the creek.
By the time I made it to the outskirts of Lisbon and made my turn around it was starting to get really dark.  Since my night vision seems to work pretty well and there was no one else on the trail I continued on for a while.  Eventually I stopped at a trailside bench and hooked up my lights.  For this trip I used two lights, more than I really needed.  It only took a few minutes to get everything hooked up, despite the fact that I had to jury rig one of the battery pack mountings with an emergency bandana.

Lights ready to go!
Once I got back on the trail it was easy going for the last couple of miles.  My lights provided a huge amount of illumination that picked out everything ahead of me - even the woozy opossum that wandered onto the trail as I approached and raced ahead of me for a short spell.

Plenty of light!
Besides riding at Little Beaver Creek Greenway there were several rides on my local trail, the Western Reserve Greenway.  Besides riding the local section I made a couple of trips onto the Ashtabula County section, up around Orwell.  The trail is just as nice up there, though it doesn't seem to get as many people using it. 

Approaching Orwell, with the trailhead by the blue building.

Once you get north of Orwell the trail gets pretty quiet, and it's easy to spin out the miles in peace.  Along the way I saw that someone with property along the trail had set up a maple sap collection system for making maple syrup.  Clear tubing tapped into each tree and ran downhill, collecting sap from other trees as it made its way to a plastic barrel.  I also saw a new kind of rule breaker (to me) on the trail.

Horses are only allowed on the grass verge of the trail, not the pavement.

 After riding over 200 miles last month I thought I'd try to beat the total for this month, but it didn't happen.  So on the last day of the month I looked at my monthly mileage and saw that I was less than five miles below the 200 mile mark.  It seemed like a shame to not at least try to get to that milestone.  Despite the rain I gathered my gear and headed out to the Western Reserve Greenway to put in some miles.

This time there were no other cars at the trailhead - apparently no one else was eager to get out in the driving rain for a nice bracing ride.  After putting on my rain shell I headed north into the wind and rain.  At first I was more or less miserable, but as my metabolism warmed up I started to enjoy the ride, and once the rain began to lessen I was glad to be out.

The trail was empty of people as I headed up towards Bristolville.  Motion in the trees to my right caught my attention and I watched as a sopping wet Barred Owl flew out of the woods and crossed the trail only 25 feet in front of me.  It was so close that I could see the wet feathers stuck to his hooked beak.  Then just another hundred yards down the trail a rabbit darted across the trail.  Of course rabbits run around the trail area all the time, especially in the evenings, but this one caught my attention.  It looked like it was carrying something in its mouth, and I kind of doubted that it was food, so I quickly braked and u-turned to where it had darted under a bush.  After a moment I could see it in the brush, sitting stock still to avoid detection.  And in its mouth was a tiny baby bunny, all curled up smaller than a ping pong ball.  Mama rabbit held her ground for just a moment, then bounded further into the woods, vanishing into the shadows beneath some tree roots.

That kind of made my day.  It's always nice to see nature carrying on the way its supposed to.  And I finished the month with 205 miles.

Morning sunlight on spring fields.


  1. Hey Steve great ride reports. You described perfectly that feeling of dred when you force yourself to get out and get a ride going. Whenever that happens to me I don't think there was ever a time when I regretted pushing myself. The ride takes care of the bad feeling when starting. Nice adjustment with the bandana repair. Enjoy these days as we creep to summer!!

  2. Jim,
    After years of whitewater kayaking through rain, wind and snow I've become pretty tolerant of foul weather (decent gear makes it a lot easier). But getting started can certainly be tough, with the gritting of the teeth, squinting of the eyes and wondering what the hell I was thinking.

    Still, beats sitting on the couch watching 'reality' tv.

    Steve Z