I haven't been riding off road in over a month, courtesy of a should injury in July. I had been thinking in the last week though, that it's about time to get back to it. I started considering the options, there's Sourdough (easy enough that I see people pushing baby strollers there), South Cottonwood (easy, but actually a dirt trail), and a few others. Mostly I'm procrastinating, cuz I'm scared like that.
Yesterday morning, while checking my email, I see a proposal by a friend of mine to do a little night ride. To be clear, this person is an absolute badass, and no ride that she would engage in would be exactly easy (more like intensely arduous), and the trail she's proposing to ride is technical, parts of it are nothing but loose rock fields, and it's getting late in the season to go up above 9000 feet, and she wants to do it as a night ride...my initial reaction went something like this 'huh, ...nope'.
Then I started thinking 'I'll just throw my gear and my bike on the Xtracycle and take everything to work with me...just in case'. Now the true vacillation begins. 'I'm not doing this'. I haven't ridden in well over a month, so I've got my gear spread out all over the place, both of my trail bikes are in pieces, the bike I had to settle on would be a single speed, 'I'm not doing this'. But eventually I arrived at work, Single Speed in tow, one freeloader bulging with the requisite clothing and lights for a chilly night ride. I send my friend an email. Where does she want to meet?
We get to the Hyalite creek trailhead, elevation ~7000 ft, at about 7:00pm (this time of year, dark thirty is about 8:45 and we've got a tough climb to Hyalite lake, which is around 9000 ft). Everyone gears up, everyone I'm with is an experienced rider, and I'm more than a little nervous about how this is going to go, but I'm also back in my element, it felt great. People who have done this ride will tell you that it isn't exactly a tune-up type ride. It's gnarly, full of rock gardens, creek crossings, and at times it's steep, and we were going to do half the climb and all of the decent in the dark. I was right to be nervous. We headed up the trail at a moderate pace. Within a quarter mile the trail gets rough, full of rocky little ascents and roots. Everyone spins out a bit on the roots, because it had rained pretty heavily earlier in the day. Everything is greasy with fresh mud. Then it starts to sprinkle...