Date: April 16
April mileage: 196
Temperature upon departure: 27
On the iPod: "Back to the Earth" ~ Rusted Root
When Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen "discovered" Easter Island in 1722, he Christened it with a name that evokes images of a springtime oasis with chirping birds and flowers. Then he wrote in his log:
April 5, 1722 (Easter Sunday) "We originally, from a further distance, have considered the said Easter Island as sandy; the reason for that is this, that we counted as sand the withered grass, hay or other scorched and burnt vegetation, because its wasted appearance could give no other impression than of a singular poverty and barrenness."
April 16, 2006 (Easter Sunday)
9:20 a.m. "The goal"
So the plan is to take advantage of the crust snow to find a trail through the wilds of Crossman Ridge to the oasis of Bridge Creek. All of the kiddies and their snowmobile-riding parents are down in town combing the muddy fields for half-frozen eggs and those individually wrapped marshmallow things that taste like glue. There should be no disturbances. I anticipate smooth riding.
~9:35 a.m. "No Water"
Still five miles from the trailhead, I realize in the midst of my first climb that I forgot my water bottle. Shoot.
~10:20 a.m. "Hit snow"
Long climb to the trailhead only to discover several hundred yards of thick mud before I can climb on top of the snowmobile trail. I find it to be glassy and as solid as concrete, if a snowmobile had torn through the wet cement prior to its hardening. It's a technical mess of ruts and divots, but it's fast. So, so fast.
~10:35 a.m. "So Fast"
Despite several snow drifts that stop me altogether, it only takes about 15 minutes to whittle away all the elevation I gained in an hour. I am bouncing and turning, rolling on top of ruts and dropping back in. I am unstoppable.
~10:50 a.m. "Hmmmm"
The snowmobile trail I was following has mysteriously petered out into the woods. I don't see any opening through the trees, so I'll have to turn back and find a different trail.
~11:20 a.m. "Hmmmmmmmmmm"
I've found remnants of a summer trail - an interpretive wooden marker. But no sign of a main trail. Just snowmobile tracks heading in every direction.
~11:30 a.m. "I forge my own trail"
I have an idea of the general direction of Bridge Creek, and the crust snow allows me to ride atop it through the woods. I weave in and out of trees but the woods become too thick. I'm off the bike and walking, tripping over stumps and the emerging skeletons of bushes until I arrive at an impassable ravine.
~11:45 a.m. "Climbing back"
I follow my own trail back to the snowmobile tracks I originally left, only to realize that they seem to go in all the wrong directions.
~11:55 a.m. "I pick the wrong trail"
Still hoping to find the magic route through the woods, I follow a single snowmobile track downhill, again flying, bouncing, having a great time ... until the trail dead ends.
~12:10 p.m. "I'm thirsty"
It's hard work walking back up these trails. They're steep and what little traction they provide make it nearly impossible to ride, so I get off the trail and mash my way through the breaking crust as I pedal uphill.
~12:20 p.m. "Snowmobile maze"
I begin to wish I didn't use the trails at all. My tracks are indistinguishable from the ruts and divots of the snowmobiles. I have no idea which trail is mine. I have no idea where to go.
~12:25 p.m. "I'm lost"
I begin think I'm not on my original trail. I'm veering way too far north. I think I may be dropping into another valley all together.
~12:40 p.m. "Definitely on the wrong trail"
Now I'm practically to creek elevation, in the wrong canyon. I thought the downhill would be a shortcut back to the reservoir but I was so, so wrong. Time to climb again.
~12:45 p.m. "I'm thirsty"
Need ... water.
~12:50 p.m. "I eat snow"
It tastes like dirt.
~1:00 p.m. "These woods are a wasteland"
I never really noticed how many of these spruce trees are dead, or how many skeletal branches clog up the woods. And what's underneath all this snow? Probably a bunch of dry grass that's going to ignite into massive wildfires come summer. But would it really be so bad for someone to build a cabin down here?
~1:05 p.m. "I begin to regain my sense of direction"
I'm pretty sure I'm heading due south, so if I can just push through these woods, I should come to the trail just above the reservoir. Just walk in a straight line.
~1:10 p.m. "I hit drifts"
Beneath the trees, the crust hasn't set up as much. I think the sharp ice shards are cutting holes in my pants; doesn't help that I'm sinking up to my thighs.
~1:15 p.m. "I find the Homestead trail"
~1:25 p.m. "I make it back to the reservoir."
I pedal as hard as I can while mud splatters everywhere.
~1:45 p.m. "I make it home."
And drink about a gallon of water and weak Gatorade.