Monday, February 27, 2012
Silk's ANF Adventure
I am cold. I am wet. I am tired. I am happy!
Silk kept saying, "It may rain, but it should just be misty. Nothing heavy scheduled.".
My head needed the ride, badly, so I drank the Kool-Aid, and I drank it deep. Apparently I wasn't the only one, because StorminNorman, his son, B, and Big Jim Slade, all reported to the line.
We rolled out under cloudy gray skies, at a balmy 52*. I was still caught up in a storm inside my head. Family issues. As soon as we turned of the well worn trails of Munson Hills proper, my attitude saw sparkles of light at the end of the tunnel.
As we climbed a sandy incline, towards a powerline, I saw this 3' tall bird getting down to his feeding. My first thought was that it was a buzzard, but as it heard our approach, it sat up, and I saw the bright white head and neck. We see eagles on occasion, but usually they are high in the sky. He took flight as we came too close for his comfort. He hauled his dinner with him. I've seen hawks carrying snakes and mice, but to witness a full sized bald eagle, carrying an adult opossum, was definitely a first!
We ventured forth on old jeep and horse trail, and various dirt roads. Silk is plotting and planning a big ride on the Apalachicola National Forest, so today was about more scouting. An hour in, and the rains came. StorminNorman, just kept declaring, "I don't think the hard stuff is gonna come down for a while.". I was having so much fun on the trails, I just kept my foot in the gas. Work is warmth.
We finally hit the forest roads of Wakulla County, and went on scout mode. I'm still not sure if we ever saw the road that Silk was seeking, but the cold, rainy slog we were on, was taking all of my focus. BJS and I broke up the monotony of just turning the pedals, by sprinting for all of the yellow reflectors, on each bridge or culvert we crossed. Some things just don't change.
We reached a decision point, at the intersection of Stokley Road, and FS 313. Do we backtrack, or do we continue south, and look for anther way back. I was fine either way, until Silk implied that we may come up short, if we simply backtracked. Not wanting to be the first to blink, I just rolled out south. They'll follow.
Once on the supposed northbound route, the road had turned to a soft, wet sand mess, that made our previous slog, seem like a super highway. We found a road that promised to cut us back to a preferred road. We negotiated a couple of mud holes, but eventually were stymied by the mother of all mud bogs. No way around without getting more soaked than the rains had already offered. The temperature was not rising, so this didn't seem smart. You could see the spirits deflating, as we realized that we had a 45 minute backtrack ahead of us.
Big Jim Slade and I went to work, trading pulls in the north wind. Getting a break from the headwind outweighed having to eat the sandy, mud, wheelspray of the rider in front. Unfortunately, we realized that we'd left our companions, and decided to sit up, and share the workload as a full sized group.
After 3 hours, we finally reach a place to refill water bottles. Everyone kills the last of their food, dons whatever dry clothing they have available, and we begin the job of finding our way home. StorminNorman is chomping at the bit to ride every last bit of old singletrack, that he can remember. But B is tired, and running out of gas, so we're tempering his enthusiasm, with our own grumbling. The jokes are getting more and more dumb, as our bodies and minds get more numb, but everyone howls at their perceived hilarity. All except maybe B, who I'm sure is wishing he'd never agreed to ride with all of these "old guys".
I set up a system, to keep B on BJS's wheel, tucked in that energy saving draft. I watched with admiration, as he fought to stay right where I put him. He was tired, and struggling a bit, but the kid is tough, and never gave up.
It was StorminNorman's birthday, and he had brought a plate of his birthday donuts, to the ride. They were left in the truck, for after. We spent the last hour, talking of donuts, and any other food that sounded remotely delightful. Honestly, saltines would have been a Godsend at that point. The cold, and the wet, and the sand had taken its toll.
We had to be a sight, standing in that parking lot, 4 old dudes, and a 1 tough kid, shivering and soggy, with powdered sugar and donut crumbs, hanging from blue lips.
Like I said, I was cold. I was wet. I was tired. And, I was happy.