More often than not, we learn about rides that are “so epic” and “so amazing” that eventually we start to believe that every ride that gets documented, through photos or in writing, is really that way. Truth be told, not all begin with an espresso and a pastry and finish with a dreamy descent. Some rides shake you up and to the point where you’re asking yourself, “Are you sure you want to do this?“. We’ve all been on one of those rides where you depart the “zones of radness” and head toward the “zones of just finish”.
I’m not trying to be over-dramatic about this ride but wanted to express a perspective that we all can relate to – when you need to push through. Everyone can have a different experience on this trail each day of the week, but just know that the ride that the six of us did on June 8th, 2015, required an extra dose of focus and fortitude.
The morning began with a bit of miscommunication, giving us a later start than planned. We knew it was going to be a hot day, as at 10:00 am we were already at a 76 degree reading in the car.
We arrived at the West Fork Teanaway Road and geared up, topping off our CamelBak’s and checking to make sure our bikes and supplies were adequate. Once that was completed, we made our way out on a trail, which went fairly smooth, although hitting a couple dead ends while waiting for the Garmin map to correct its positioning. As the temperatures begin to creep higher and higher, so did our elevation, with each turn producing another steep incline. The trail went from a dry crackling underbrush to beach sand and just like biking on a beach, the traction was minimal. Your front wheel might loose the main rut, and as it did, would suddenly spin out your front tire, causing your bike to fishtail and lose speed and most importantly, momentum. Regardless, we successfully reached the slick rocks – something we were all really excited to see. The views of the valley were stunning. High winds felt like air conditioning as we had a snack and relaxed for a few minutes. By this point we were almost 10 miles in and everyone was still in high spirits.
After our bite to eat and goofing around on the rocks, we continued on. We eventually found ourselves on the back side of one of the slick rocks that required us to pull each other over the top, with large branches, in order to get back on course. Meanwhile, the temperature keeps climbing and the trail never improved.
Caution: Whiner Alert Ahead – When you are in these types of temperatures, the use of energy to get yourself over a hill makes descending just as difficult as your body continually becomes weaker. By the time we hit 11 miles of riding, including some hike-a-bike activity, I asked the question, “How many miles is this ride?”. Terry tells me, “About 26”. I instantly had an internal panic. “Would I have enough water“, was the first question I asked myself. “Would I have enough energy“, was the second question. By the time I was trying to think of the 3rd question, the pack was moving ahead and it was time to move on. Although, on the inside I’m sure we collectively thought, “It will get better. It has to.”
It didn’t, until, we came across Sandstone creek. A total oasis in the middle of the ride. I went in fully clothed and submersed myself into the creek and came out feeling completely refreshed. The miles of breathing dust off the back of the group seemed like something from yesterday. When it was time to go, I felt like one of those kids who was being told to get out of the pool with the feeling of, “do I have to???“. But, we still had some ground to cover, so we were back on the bikes and feeling good. Plus, we only had 6 more miles to go so it didn’t seem as impossible at that point. We carried on, winding our way through the brush, away from most of the sandy trails as well, with no shortage of climbs.
We kept a good pace moving through the trails. Although, when riding in the wild, it’s very easy to get turned around and often felt like we’re riding further and further from our destination. As the stronger riders move ahead, it’s easy to get dispatched off the back from the others, but everyone did their best to keep everyone moving in the right direction. Although exhausted from the day, we used our last bit of energy to speed back to the car where cold beverages awaited.
Once we got back, we talked about the day, the up’s the down’s and everything in between. Would we go back? The consensus was, “not anytime soon”. However, it was a great experience and that’s what it’s all about.
Words by Mark Longman | Photos by Zac Daab