Thursday, October 26, 2006

Herbert Glacier Trail

Date: Oct. 26
Total mileage: 13.2
October mileage: 332.3
Temperature upon departure: 39

Here is one trail that I would just love to give myself most of a day sometime to ride repeatedly, again and again, five or 10 times. Geoff thinks I'm crazy in this regard - why ride the same trail even twice, let alone over and over in the same day? (and it's not even a 24-hour race) But the Herbert Glacier Trail is one of those rare trails that I could lose myself entirely in. It's flat and fast, protected from the bog by a fine layer of gravel and sand. But upon this narrow strip of civilization I can move freely through the dense forest, skimming virtual walls of sky-blocking trees at 10, 15 - even 20 mph, if I felt so motivated. The flow becomes so natural that it's easy to forget I'm destination-bound, until, after about 4.5 miles, I arrive at a stunning dead end.


The trail may be on the easy side - but it's not mindless. There's a few quick rock jumps, some mud holes, some stream crossings, some tight edges. Geoff mulled this tight spot for about five minutes before deciding that the margin of error was too small, and the consequences of error too high.


I had decided long before that I wasn't about to risk a five-foot dive into a fast-flowing glacial river while air temperatures struggled to hit 40 degrees (and the water was most definitely a bit colder.) But the time spent off the bike was short, and was quickly reimbursed by four miles of flight, tearing through deep, winding canyons of trees as the Herbert River gurgled alongside.

As we pounded out the last mile, the sky broke open into a fierce hailstorm. Chunks of ice trickled down my collar, hit my nose, landed in my eyelids. I held my eyes wide open against the sharp edges, waiting for the hailstones to melt rather than brush them away. I didn't want to take my hands off the handlebars and risk a disruption. I was moving, flowing, a river.

We tried another nearby trail - made, mostly, of wood planks and muddy roots - and both took a beating. I went down hard on a wet wooden bridge and developed a throbbing goose-egg the size of a softball on my left arm. Geoff's water resistant coat soaked through and he was fastly approaching hypothermia. But I still felt tempted to do another run up to Herbert Glacier. I didn't tell Geoff that.

Maybe someday I will go back and do it again. And again and again. To see what it's like. To feel the hard effort of a good endurance ride. To feel the soft rain filtered through thousands of evergreen branches. To feel the smooth flow of the forest in silence.

To feel like a river.