Saturday, August 22, 2009

Nude Mountain Biking

Finally broke down and got myself a mountain bike. Why?

Well, some of my favorite hiking spots are now inaccessible by vehicle because of storm damage of recent years or gated because of a few idiots who ruin things for everyone else:
  • The upper loop of the Index-Galena Road . . . road washed out at 6.4, gated to private in-holdings at Jack Pass; thirteen miles of perfectly good paved road, no vehicles and few people (if any); six additional miles to the Silver Creek trailhead, nine miles to Troublesome and San Juan campgrounds . . . both unused now.

  • The trailheads on FS 63 . . . blown out culverts; four miles additional to Quartz Creek, Cady Ridge, North Fork Skykomish and Pass Creek Trails.

  • FS 62 through the Proctor Creek Drainage . . . gated to vehicles because of illegal shooting and fireworks; hundreds of miles of remote and unused logging roads.

  • Mt Persis trailhead (accessed via FS 62) . . . gated as above; eight miles additional.

  • The Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Road and Goldmyer Hot Springs . . . road washouts; eleven miles additional hiking.

At the beginning of the washout of the Index-Galena Road

What were once nice day hikes are now overnighters with the majority of the time spent simply reaching the trailhead. Of course, the added advantage to washed out roads is that few even bother to visit anymore leaving me with the trail to myself . . . which suits me fine . . . if I can find the time and energy to wander far down a forest service road with grand thoughts of continuing a hike once there.

The portage trail around the Index-Galena Road Washout.
The difficult part is getting the bike pulled, pushed
and carried up this steep and rough section.

Good mountain bikes ain't cheap . . . and I know next to nothing about buying one. I always wanted one . . . just wasn't willing to pay $500 to a thousand bucks. So I watched the offerings in pawn shops and last week spotted a Raleigh 21-speed Hardtail Mountain Bike (Hardtail referring to the shocks on the front only). The pawn shop was advertising 50% off that day . . . the sticker said $150. Hmmm . . . $75 was doable. Talk to the guy inside since he was knowledgeable about bikes the last time I was in that store.

You think hiking nude is exhilarating? Now imagine the rush
of invigorating air spoiling all over your body
as you coast without a care in the world

They say you never forget how to ride a bike. That isn't true. It has been years (never mind how many) since my rear-end has been on a bicycle seat. The knobby tires of a mountain bike are not optimized for roads so they tend to be quirky at really slow speeds. I spent a better part of an hour just re-learning to steer and turn without getting myself in trouble.

And I had to learn the gearing (21-speeds? My last bike had three!), when and how to use them . . . and which lever was the dreaded front brake that could send me flying over the handlebars. Eventually I felt confident that I wasn't going to prematurely kill myself. I did buy a helmet . . . I didn't bring my helmet. Does a floppy blue hat count?

Five miles in what . . . minutes? No cars, no people,
two deer transfixed by my approach.
Now we're getting somewhere ...

Riding naked down a well-paved county road is somewhat weird because you keep expecting a car to come roaring down the road at any time . . . or a county sheriff to pull you over and . . . um . . . ask a few questions like, "Where's your helmet?" But there is no one.

I have a cover-up (out of consideration and decorum) but that is serving as additional padding for my sore butt. Who designs these bicycle seats anyway? The road is deserted (except for two startled deer) . . . all but abandoned until the county can figure out a repair and find the money. I don't expect anyone and I ride with that expectation in mind . . . carefree.

Howard Creek Campgrounds just before the
South Bridge by Galena (Silver Creek)

My goal for the first ride was the campground below the South Bridge over the North Fork . . . five miles in from the road breech and washout. I reached it in no time at at . . . a major time slice if I'd had to hike it on foot. One delicious discovery . . . horse flies are not interested in trying to keep up with me on my bike . . . unlike the torturous fiasco of trying to run the gauntlet of murderous gnats and horse flies on foot and naked the previous week. They simply cannot fly as fast as I can pedal.

The return trip goes even faster as it's all a downhill coast . . . until I have to huff and puff and carry the bike up and over the narrow portage trail on foot. More 'bangedup shins'. Why can't they make removable pedals for situations like a bike falling back upon you on a steep, soft dirt slope? Next purchase . . . a seat that is . . . well, comfortable. And . . . maybe a shin-guard ...

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