Monday, April 21, 2008

Ride of the year (so far)

Since not everyone can be Cohutta-cool, complete with brushes with greatness and all, Daniel, Chris, Ali, and I headed out to New Light on Sunday to get in a quick lap before the rains descended on the Triangle. While there was a chance of thunderstorms in the area, the radar looked good when we left the house, so we figured we'd get in a couple of miles before the skies opened up.

We were about fifteen (very fast) minutes into the ride when we hit a portion of the forest that had been burned in the previous day or two. The scene was amazing: blackened ground, smoking clumps of vegetation, a few still-burning tree stumps, all with a pristine strip of brown trail running through the middle. I'd been lucky enough to ride after a controlled burn last year and the experience was amazing. I knew that we were in for a treat.

Indeed, the juxtaposition of the budding canopy, the smoldering understory, the charred ground all lit by the foreboding pre-thunderstorm sky made for the kind of ride where you're glad you brought along a camera. I'm not sure that the pics capture just how remarkable the scenery was, but hopefully they'll give an approximation.

Not that he's ever not smiling, but Daniel had more than enough to pull the corners of his mouth up on this ride.

Chris workin' it on a new section of the ever-evolving New Light trail.

Daniel chasing Ali down the brown ribbon and into the trees.

Three in motion...

... and at rest.

Ali's covershot.

Playing around on the hefty new bridge, with Chris posing as our friendly neighborhood troll.

We were having so much fun on the trail that we didn't notice just how quickly the storm was rolling in. When we wound our way down along the lake we could feel the wind picking up, though, and decided that maybe it was time to make some fast tracks back to the parking lot. The drops were few and infrequent at first, and for a minute I thought the storm was going to blow itself on over our ride. Then, almost as if as an afterthought, the clouds opened up and we found ourselves in a classic spring thunderstorm, complete with lightning, thunder, and some decent-sized hail.

The above pics were taken just as the clouds settled in, and as the few rain drops collected themselves for a full-fledged assault on our lycra-clad selves. We didn't bother taking any pics in the rain, as we were more intent on getting back to the trucks. Oh, and I hear that water and electronics don't mix.

We were muddy at the end, something I rarely find myself after mountain biking (surprising though that may be). We certainly don't have the epic stories -- or the podium finishes -- of the Cohutta gladiators, but it was still a ride worth remembering.

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