My most recent ride found me in peak “search and get destroyed” mode. After several weeks of sniffing around for reasonable routes, I’ve begun to feather out into new territory like a slime mold searching for a new food source.
I headed for my new ol’ faithful, Lake Youngs, east of South Seattle’s suburbia. This loop is pretty neat. There’s even a sweet little bump on the north end with a 17% grade. At about 100m long it’s a slog up, but it’s a documented segment so of course I had to hit it hard. I redlined into the puke zone, spinning the next leg out trying to recover before I hopped on a new fork in the route.
What came next was new and terrific. A quick segue on tarmac was followed by a jog over to a gravel service road. It featured no traffic save a few folks out walking dogs. This went for a while until another brief segue on tarmac before hopping onto a converted rail trail, a smooth gravel throughway that carried on for a stretch.
The further out I got, the narrower and more technical the trail became. There were even fewer people. You couldn’t hear any motor traffic. And being in the heart of a pine forest the whole thing smelt like a dead Christmas tree. Muy bueno.
I had a rough map of a route to follow, but as the trail drove deeper into the woods I finally hit a fork. To the right, a roundabout connection to the road. To the left I saw a sign, “Toy Trail”. I pulled up my map and as the crow flies the left seemed the shorter connection. I took a gamble and up the Toy Trail I clambered.
What should have been a shortcut to save me 20 minutes turned into a maddening labyrinth. I had stumbled onto a tightly knit network of cross-country mountain bike trails. I dove headlong into the mess thinking what the hell. 20 minutes later I was cursing myself.
The trail snaked back and forth. I would ride a stretch and five minutes later find myself heading in the opposite direction, uncertain if I was riding the same stretch of trail. I looked for the the tread marks of my tires like Hansel looking for breadcrumbs. I had the tail of the python wrapped around me, and nervous I would forever cycle the same square acre of uniform woods, I got mad.
As a cyclist, this works in my favor sometimes. Anger adds a little adrenaline boost. The next thing you know I was getting extra grippy in corners and up steep inclines that originally I fretted my bike’s ability to handle. My road crank’s oversized big ring viciously sliced through log barriers like a well-honed ginsu knife. I was hitting my stride when I came to a crossing. To my left, the way out. To my right, the trailhead a.k.a. the nexus of my descent into pandemonium. It seemed about right.
I pedaled out and decided to scrap the back half of my day’s trail hunt. It was a 35km limp home and my adrenaline fueled power had once more worked loose my SRAM BB30 bearing preload adjuster. I’d need to take the mallet to her after all this mess, which takes a little extra juice after a ride like this. Thank god I packed a sandwich.