Faceplanting, Bonking, and Getting Ill with the Best
Some days go according to plan and some do not--if you're more than three days old you already know this. However, so many mountain bike rides go so dreamily well, it can be a surprise when small troubles compound and leave one a bit unprepared for even a short ride.
The Yawp Company went to Gunnison in May, and a few things did not go according to plan. In fact, we'd planned to go to Durango but the trails we wanted to ride were still snowy. So we went to Salida and Gunnison, where we wrecked, bonked, and got ill (not in the urban dictionary way). Also, I forgot to take photographs, so nearly everything you see below is the work of other photographers to whom--for the use of their material--I am grateful.
We stopped en route to say hello to some friends at Oveja Negra Threadworks and to ride a few trails in Salida's Arkansas Hills trail system. (If you have yet to make your way down to Cañon City, the trails there are quite similar to the 'S Mountain' trails in that they have similar sandy soils, similar pointy rocks, and run through similar geography. One thing Salida has that Cañon City does not is a jeep road that has sinister plans for you. You have to ride it to access some of the S Mountain trails.)
We left the jeep road and descended Sand Dune. There is, toward the bottom, a short sandy section that I suppose could be considered a dune in the way a dalmatian in a red helmet could be considered a firefighter. Most of the trail, however, is moderately rocky and technical. The area is surely a habitat for rattlesnakes that I suppose could be considered dangerous in the way that a bear with sharks for arms might be considered dangerous. We didn't see any (snakes or bearsharks), but we were in mild danger from bad puns such as 'Been There, Dune That,' 'Get 'er Dune,' and many more that I shan't recount here (you're welcome).
Rebecca smooched a rock garden but came through it smiling. (Kneepads, we later found out, would've been a huge help here, as by Sunday one of her knees was too swollen to ride.)
We finished our ride on Burnpile. It's been redone fairly recently, and one can see why some riders spend their entire day doing laps on this trail. Jumps, berms, jumps into berms--you'll blow your grin out trying to ride it more than three times.
We headed on to our campsite near Gunnison, and it was as ugly as they come:
On Saturday we went to Hartman Rocks to stand around and look good.
This is Dan and Cullen, making our hearts go on (and on and on):
If you haven't ridden Hartman Rocks, it is the Almond Joy to Buffalo Creek's Mounds. It is smooth and flowy but also relentlessly rocky and technical. A full day of riding there can feel similar to The Ball Thing in I Heart Huckabees where Albert and Tommy hit themselves in the face with a giant rubber ball until the pain makes them numb.
In a place like this, it's easy to wear yourself out in a hurry. One of us bonked and then felt pretty bad about it. Feeling bad about bonking is unnecessary, but as Tommy and Albert say, there's no escaping human drama.
Anyone who rides both trail bikes and road bikes knows that the former can exert you in ways that the latter do not. Technical features on singletrack require that you use fast-twitch muscles and small bursts of energy, and rocky terrain quickly wears you out. Many folks liken this to having a book of matches at the beginning of a ride, and each of these short efforts burns one match. Once you're out, it becomes very difficult to continue the ride. For those who are new to the sport and haven't built up strength in those fast-twitch muscles, that matchbook gets empty in a hurry. However, life is complicated and you can't plan for every variable. Most riders sometimes bonk or have off-days. Everyone has pushed their bike back to the car. Water bladders can spring leaks and leave you dehydrated. Squirrels can run off with your snacks. The food you thought you put in your bag might still be on the counter at home. It happens to everyone, but when you are new to this very difficult and demanding sport, it's easy to feel like no one else is bonking and you are the only person who's ever bonked and you're lame and you mom has always hated you and people can barely tolerate your taste in music and you have ugly knees (the ugliest).
I've given up mountain biking more times that I can count in moments like these, and I've cried while eating some strawberry gummies that a passing stranger was kind enough to give to me. It happens and it's no cause for shame. If you have a good bonking story and feel like leaving it in the comments section, that'd be rad.
Mostly, though, we rode bikes over rocks and had a great day. Then we drank some great Clintonian Pale Ale that Call to Arms kindly sent along with us and had a campfire. Hard to beat.
Our band was much diminished on Sunday due to sickness, injury, and prior commitments. A few hearty folks returned to Salida for one final Cottonwood descent. It was probably awful, and things likely went wrong, and small trouble doubtlessly compounded. Nobody really seemed to mind.