As often as each of us use riding as a momentary escape from the responsibilities of modern society, there are often subtle little reminders to the fact that most of the trails we enjoy did not in fact just sort of happen. Be these reminders the positioning of stones to ensure proper drainage, the smooth wooden plank bridge over a marsh or, in my case, a loop interrupted by eight fallen trees.
A member of the "it has to be a really big inconvenience for me to take action" club, I should tell you that of these eight trail obstructions, two of them were there last year before winter struck but getting off to hike-a-bike twice during a 3-mile loop was deemed acceptable to me.
However this all changed when on Wednesday I took my first official ride of the season only two discover the pair of downed trees was joined by six fresh falls (and by fresh I mean sometime over the course of the winter). Now I don't know about you but for me having to come to a stop, get completely off the bike then duck below or climb atop a massive wooden cylinder with the bike across your back eight times is getting a bit too close to a whole new sport. I imagine it becoming fashionable to buy an expensive bike that's wheels will never touch the ground, strapping it to your back and then being set off to race on foot across a plethora of obstacles like some sort of masochistic boot camp situation. Brand it something like "Tough Nutter" and you'd have people lining up to sign over their paychecks for the chance to get bruised up.
I completed my loop but concluded that the flow of a good ride was simply too interrupted and had a decision to make. I could wait for the overworked and under-appreciated trail volunteers to clear the obstructions (there would be a dedicated trail work day approaching that next Sunday), I could do nothing about it and just ride a different trail or I could step up and give something back to the singletrack I so often enjoy.
The next morning the decision was clear as I neglected the dozens of domestic obligations vying for my attention in my own yard and loaded up the ol Homelight 14"chainsaw into the SUV. 45-minutes later I was hiking (for the first time I should add) the trails I've ridden countless times with a saw and a plan of attack. I would take out seven of the eight horizontal trees. The eighth would require more equipment and manpower than I could offer but that was no big deal considering riders seemed already to have created a pretty decent trail around the tree.
The whole event was pretty smooth going- except when I got to this one section of woods straight out of Lord of the Rings. Jam packed with big dead pines of the multiple protruding sharp stick persuasion, it was only natural one of these brutes were to fall across the singletrack at precisely chest level. Too high to climb over, too low to duck under. As bad as trying to get around it was, cutting it proved even trickier. When it dropped, several of said protruding sticks managed to snag me on the way down, the worst of which managed to poke a hole in my side, which, now scabbed, is rather reminiscent of a third nipple connected to a nice bruise and scrape right around to the back. The impact sent me to the ground, sunglasses flying into the foliage. I managed to finish the job with only minor cussing moments later.
In all the whole affair lasted only a few hours and, while I'm in no danger of giving up mountain biking in favor of becoming a lumber jack, there are certainly worse ways to spend a warm early summer afternoon. Some other perks of the experience included a chance encounter with about the biggest garden snail I've ever witnessed, a stubbed big toe thanks to complete inadequate protection offered by a pair of Crocs (camo, of course) and a new found appreciation for how different a trail can be when viewed for the first time after years of enjoyment out of the saddle.
As much as I'd like to convince you that I'm relaying this tale for respect and admiration, the fact of the matter is it feels good just to know I was able to contribute to the network's newly restored flow. All the thanks I need will come from being able to complete the loop without having to hop logs every few feet. However, I am willing to put them all back if you're interested in paying big bucks to sign up for the next Tough Nutter event.