The Beauty of a Plain Day
Winter's end is near-the signs are unmistakeable. Crust has formed on ski and bike trails and every square inch of snow in the forest-burned and melded by the high March sun-regardless of temperature. It can be one of my favorite times of year, tho my heart belongs to fall-it's just that the re-birth of the year is starting and it's something to look forward to.
A less than impressive half inch of snow covered the singletrack I headed out on, what a few days ago had been boilplate hard and fast. My hope was to get an easy spin on the fatbike before that ever strengthening sun finally wins the day this month. Shady portions of the trail were solid, but breaking out into the open forest left me floudering in a softer base. The gloomy overcast day didn't help my frustration as I pushed the big bike toward a firmer ski trail. I figured the skiers had abandoned the season now and the wide trail may provide some pedaling relief. It did, and it offered another perspective of the surrounding woods. Riding singletrack, ones attention is focused mostly on keeping the wheels on the ribbon of trail and not biffing into a snowbank. Now I could pedal easy and scope the forest on either side watching for wildlife or noticing subtle landforms I'd missed before.
The ski trail stretched out ahead-totally unblemished, a thin blanket of undisturbed snow. A surface I love to explore- revealing any tracks, and all sign that animals had been out and about this day. But none, save for a squirrel bounding across the path here and there in search of their final stash of food. Disappointing, but okay-keep moving onward, keep the cranks turning. Ahead maybe evidence of deer, wolf, fisher, or maybe an awakening bear in search of anything to quell it's hunger. Nope. It was virgin snow at every bend in the trail.
Moving forward, further from the trailhead, it began to sink in that even with the darkening thick cloud cover and haziness enveloping the trees nearby, there was a beauty here. This carefree riding afforded me a chance to ”stop and smell the roses” as they say and I did. My previous ride a few days ago had been crunchy and clear, very cold and crisp-the opposite of this silent plain day. There was something here to appreciate. After spending every day with not-so-quiet elementary aged kids, the stillness surrounding me, that muffled sound of tires on snow, was so welcome.
I didn't yet have a plan for how I'd return to the chalet-my starting point. The usual loop would be too soft to ride and I didn't relish the idea of tackling the huge hills ahead on the black diamond ski trail. I could jump on a logging road perhaps and take the long way around. Even on the timber trail, that veneer of snow continued pristine ahead revealing little activity and dampening all noise except my breathing. The next road was impassible so option B was to hop on the deserted hard pack sno-mo trail. A wise choice it turned out, for the wind was at my back the grade easy and the miles could be covered as quickly as I wanted to pedal.
The final home stretch was a softening muddy town road and my bike searched out the shoulders where snow had yet to melt and she could remain a bit cleaner. The beauty of this unremarkable day and ride began to fade as the realization that many miles lie ahead and cars and trucks had churned the road into spring slop-my very least favorite riding surface. But the fat tires help, floating for the most part on top and making the effort doable even with tired legs. Like winter, the worst was behind and after dumping a few gears cresting the final climb, I realized I'd make it, this unplanned route taking me to new places and revealing a new aesthetic on a plain day.