Monday, October 08, 2007

A day trip out to Upper Stone Ridge

My friend Ron suggested that we suck it up and hit the trails for real this past weekend. The plan was to see if we could locate his old campsite of a few years ago -- something he'd set up beside a bonafide old hobo fire-pit, from the days when the trails were still lined with railroad tracks.

At first, the thought of taking my trusty city bike KevinSpacey out for a 90+ km round-trip spin in bear country sounded a little unappealing. My bike's been cursed with two flats already in the six or so months I've had it, and each time a tire's been changed, the poor thing's ended up having a sleepover in the bike shop to have its spokes trued. Add to this that the only semblance of shock absorption I get riding it comes from the padding-that-is-known-as-my-arse, and the idea just sounded a little out there. And at that point, I hadn't even been thinking of the possibility of running into bears.

So Saturday morning, I found myself heaping kibble into the cats' bowls and making sure they had clean boxes and plenty of water. I packed my bike tools, a few slices of leftover frozen pizza that would thaw along the way, a sweater, spare inner tube, a roll of toilet paper and a plastic bag for garbage to bring back. On my way to rendezvous with Ron at the coffee shop, I stopped off to buy a gigantic bottle of water and some trail mix. After greasing my chain a little and reviewing our travel plan, we were off.

A month earlier, we had cycled out to Keswick Ridge -- maybe a 20-22 km jaunt. I don't know if it ws the knowing that we had so much further to go, or if it was that my strength and endurance have really improved over the last few weeks, but it seemed that we arrived at the Keswick Ridge pee break spot a lot sooner this second time around. Our morning was off to a bad start, unfortunately, as the gas station's incredibly grumpy owner informed Ron that the restroom -- uh -- facilities were "out of service". I'd really hoped to check to see how its gruesome bathroom fly trap was holding out (the pic on the right is from the aforementioned Keswick Ridge biking trip). Alas! It wasn't meant to be, so we amscrayed to what Ron referred to as the Keswick Ridge Mall -- a collection of small buildings with similar siding -- to use the public restroom there.

It was a bright morning, and the breeze was just cool enough to be comfortable and its chill barely noticeable as we pedaled in the warm sun. I wished a few times that I'd brought a thermos of hot coffee, then realized that between its dehydrating effects and its diuretic effects that the cons would have soon outweighed any pros. I've gotta say, though, that one can never have too much water along when you're out in the middle of nowhere far away, even, from the handful of farmhouses that occasionally dot the sides of the trail out in bear country. And even then, those farmhouses usually have bear-sized barking dogs outside of them. And while we're on the topic of being grateful for small pleasures... I never dreamed that I'd feel such joy as I did when I looked over my shoulder and then down near the back of my rear wheel to see that two dogs that did end up chasing after us when we passed one of those farmhouses looked like furry barrels. Yay for canine obesity on the trails!

We paused for lunch where it seemed the autumn colours were brightest. It was decent timing, more or less. The gurgling Nashwaak, the obscenely vibrant autumn reds and yellows, the twittering of hundreds of birds (and even the distant buzzing of the damned ATVs that had made a good portion of our covered terrain so bumpy my head hurt) -- it all made for better eating than jostling elbows with fellow restaurant patrons, while listening to adult contemporary music being piped in via satellite over the sugary voice of the waitress trying to rush you on so that she can turn a table.

We never did manage to find the old campsite, but we definitely got a sweet amount of fresh air, got to spend the majority of an entire day on our bikes without having to dodge traffic (woot!) and burned about a zillion calories. I think that the worst part of the day for me, was in the knowing that almost a third of the way into October, chances to zip out past the poor pastured cows and partridges again will be scarce over the next several months. I'll (hopefully) be able to cram in a few more trips over the next few weeks.


Anonymous said...

What an awesome weekend! :o)

M said...

It was, indeed! I swear that I'm still amazed that my legs didn't feel like strands of lo mein noodles by the time it was all over.