I've been running away to Canaan Valley nearly every weekend since January. First it was ski patrol that kept me there; I had an obligation. But now? Now I flee there for a reprieve from the work week; a reprieve from the world.
I find myself more wrapped up in outdoor adventure than ever as I spend time up there. My weekends consist of watching sunrises and sunsets from porches as I sip my tea in the morning and my beer/wine/cocktail in the evening. Long lazy walks occur as well as faster paced hikes through beautiful terrain. Sometimes I trail run, but most times when I'm traversing trails with speed, I'm on a mountain bike.
I'm falling head over heels (not literally...yet...it is inevitable, I fear) for mountain biking. Tucker County has some of the best trails in the country for the sport along with some truly outstanding athletes. I never ever expected I would enjoy mountain biking as much as I am. It's a rush. It's insane. The trail consumes my thoughts wholly and I'm able to completely lose myself in each precise moment as I traverse the trail, my worries about the rest of the world completely absent for the while.
Over the past holiday weekend, I traded back and forth between horse and bike. I trailered Q up for the weekend to ride with friends in the valley. Over three rides, we covered around 28 miles with over 2800' climbing. The middle ride was short with nearly no tricky terrain, but the other two involved 1000' climbs.
|About to drop off the edge of the 1000' descent; we'd climbed it previously
Riding in and around that area is so stunningly beautiful. The greenery is outstanding right now, so crisp and vibrant. I discovered that my little mare has gained more confidence than ever of late. She adored the single track trails and the pipeline right-of-way. During the weekend we only had one spook event that sticks in my mind - this is amazing when I think back to this time last year where I was lucky to get through a ride with fewer than 3 events!
The high elevation valley air is as good for Q as it is for me it seems. Her forward, confident nature - especially on the single track - blew me out of the water. All I could do was giggle as she nearly pulled my arms out of socket in her eagerness to blast down the single track when we finally arrived to it. If the behavior continues, it will certainly become more of a handful and something worth curbing, but for the 3 rides over the weekend it was absolutely wonderful to experience such behavior exhibited from a previously fearful and timid mare.
|If you "embiggen", you can see vague outlines of ski slopes on two different peaks in distance. The left one is Timberline and on the right is Canaan - both resorts I work in the winter.
To mix things up, I helped sweep a mountain bike race course on Saturday. Much like an endurance event, there were multiple loops and multiple distance echelons which competitors chose to race. The trails are marked similar to an endurance event. I helped sweep the "long" loop with the gnarliest terrain. I was "hike-a-bike"-ing most of the loop as I couldn't handle actually riding it. This was perfect as I needed to remove markers frequently along the path.
I spent my time both amazed by the beauty of the area and flabbergasted that people were actually riding bikes - at speed! - on what proved to be one of the hands down gnarliest trails I have ever traveled. To my endurance riding friends, we ain't got nothin' on this shit! These guys take the trophy for most insane trails traversed. I will never complain about a gnarly horseback riding trail again unless I've found myself on some of this mountain biking single track.
The trail afforded me with some beautiful vistas I'd never laid eyes on before. It was so rewarding to travel across terrain I'd never seen.
By the weekend's close, the statistics were something like this:
- 28 miles on the horse
- 11 miles on the bike
- 5 miles hiked
- many miles traveled on new-to-me roads and trails
- one new swimming hole
It was certainly a weekend for the books.
The company kept throughout all of the activities was rich and wonderful. Capping off my days sitting outside eating and drinking with friends new and old as beautiful vistas surround us keeps me humbled and happy.
As the delicately sweet scent of black locust blooms wafted through the air each evening finding it's way to my nose, I breathed deep, taking in the sight of the first fireflies blinking in the distance, listening to the crickets sing during the breaks in what tended to become quiet conversation with the falling darkness.
I am beyond fortunate.