Saturday, December 4, 2021

My Excellent Basecamp Bicycling Day

Starting the day with french toast
My bicycling day began by waking to rain in the early, pre-dawn hours of darkness, a light rain, soft and gentle. I listened to the musical sound of rain falling on the roof of my Airstream Basecamp, then drifted back to sleep. When I woke again, it was light out, but the sun had not yet risen above the horizon. With little wind and the temperature above freezing, I washed my face outside from a bucket of water I had drawn the night before, the water now cold from the late-autumn chill. The air was clean and pure, washed free of any dust by the light rain, and the earthy smell of wet leaves scented the air. 

Today was the day to ride the Lake Trail around Lake Geode, about seven miles, and I planned to make a day of it, leaving around eleven o'clock with a lunch and an easy schedule. I wanted to enjoy the entire day, so starting the morning with a breakfast of french toast was a good beginning. I'm still getting used to having a kitchen inside my camper. With refrigerator and propane stove inside, breakfast was fast and easy. Following breakfast was preparation for my day ride, the first step being cooking a one-pot Instant Pot stew for a Thermos lunch. While, the stew was cooking, I prepped my Montague Allston, my folding bicycle that I had put together the day before. I added the Topeak rear bag and filled it with lunch (stew, apple, bread and cheese, chocolate milk, and an energy bar) and then packed a few emergency supplies. I'm always careful and go prepared when bicycling alone, especially during the quiet off season.

On the early part of the trail
Having scouted out a bit of the trail the day before, I knew that circling the lake would involve both riding and pushing the bike. Prepared for this at the start, I was still surprised by the lake trail. Although designated as a multi-purpose trail, I still found that my initial estimate that the ride/push split would be 50/50 percent. The light rain the night before, the density of the leaf fall, and the roughness of the trail necessitated a conservative approach. I'm sure the trail was slicker and hazards more hidden than during the summer. A particular hazard were tree roots that were partially covered, especially those that grew across the trail at a diagonal angle. The combination of moisture, leaves, and slick bark would cause the front tire to slide out if crossed at too narrow an angle. The route around the lake was no rails-to-trails route, but I soon learned to pay close attention to the area immediately before the front tire and to dismount the bike when the trail grew too rough with root and stone, or too steep with either ascent or descent--or both rough and steep, which was often the case. 

I enjoy both bicycling and hiking, so the alternation of pedaling and pushing wasn't a bother. I actually found that on the steep, leafy ascents and descents that the bike acted as a sort of hiking pole (or walker!) for stability. Because I wasn't bicycle camping, the bike was still light for pushing, too. Perhaps this is a good spot to emphasize that I'm aware that this seven-mile ride would be a short one for most regular day ride enthusiasts. However, the novelty of a new trail allowed me to feel comfortable with the quality of the route, rather than focusing too much on the distance.

One of the longer riding spots on the trail
Fording a tiny stream, then a long push up the hill opposite
The backside of the lake from the campground had more level ground that followed the lake, keeping to one altitude, more or less. Ironically, though, the opposite side of the lake from the campground also had the steepest ground and also the crossing of a tiny creek. The circuit of the lake took an hour and a half. Including lunch and time for photo stops, two hours and ten minutes.

A nice look at Cedar Creek as it enters the lake
Cedar Creek upstream
I'm not certain of the distance around the lake. The park brochure states it's 6.2 miles; however, the park ranger said it's 7.4. Also, some parts of the trail are marked as being a new trail. The estimated time for traveling the lake trail, according to the brochure, is 3-3.5 hours, so my hour and a half by bicycle was good time. Another oddity is that the brochure says the trail is for hiking, cross country skiing, and snowmobiling. It doesn't mention bicycles, although the ranger said biking was okay, "just don't try it with a 10-speed." I think bicycling would be easier than cross-country skiing or snowmobiling, but maybe that's because I was willing to get off and push. Still, though, parts of the trail were narrow and steep. Also, I think bicycling when the trail was wet would be bad for the trail. That was my first concern with the early-morning rain. I was glad when I saw that the rain was light enough to not matter. Parts of the trail would be best bicycled with 3.5-inch tires, but my 1.50-inch tires (38 mm) were fine with the dry trail and with my willingness to hop off and push. 

Lunch on the trail . . . what a treat!
I ate lunch having completed about eighty percent of the ride, then finished with some easy riding and pushing. I find when riding, my enjoyment of nature is really the enjoyment of the workout, the working of my body. That's nature, too, inner nature! When hiking, there is also the enjoyment of the exercise, but more attention can be placed on the surrounding environment because there's less chance of crashing and burning from a fall. Having the trail completely covered with leaves does provide a challenge, though, whether hiking or bicycling. That beautiful, smooth carpet of leaves may cover bumpy ground, just waiting to slide a wheel or turn an ankle. I always take it slow and careful when traveling alone. 

I prefer my exploits to be an inspiration rather than a cautionary tale. This ride was an inspiration to keep myself active, which sometimes can be a challenge since I love to read and write so much! Nature is always an inspiration, the greatest evidence in my life that harmony is not a human concept; rather, it is an essential aspect of existence. Earth abides, and finding kinship with the greater world is a great joy.

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