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Friday, October 21, 2016

The Ankle and The Knobstone Trail

"Patience is a virtue, but there comes a moment
when you must stop being patient and take the day
by the throat and shake it.  If it fights back; fine.  I'd
rather end up bloody at the end of the day, then unhurt
with no progress made; no knowledge gained.  I'd rather
have a no than a nothing.  I'd forgotten that about myself."
Laurell Hamilton

My friend, Diana, and I are planning on hiking the entire Knobstone Trail.  We are still deciding if we want to hike a section each day and have her husband pick us up so that we can sleep in our own beds and have hot showers or whether we want to camp along the trail until it is completed.  I lean one way, she the other; but I am not above compromise. I enjoy her company and really am not strongly bound to either.  But that decision can wait.  We have decided to hike one section of the trail today just to give us an idea of what kind of shape we are in and how long it will take us.  Diana has a map.  I have a compass on my Christmas wish list as well as a book on how to use it, but as of yet I have neither.

While I spent the majority of my childhood in the woods, I have not really hiked much as an adult and never got much of a chance to camp. My knowledge is extremely limited, and I know that it is limited and I have not yet had a chance to read up on it much.  I do not have the proper equipment, and I do know enough to know that, but it does not deter me from forging ahead.  After all, how many people have completed a triathlon on a touring bike?  Sometimes you do things and if you like them, then you begin to spend money.  If you don't like them, you haven't lost much except time.

We decide to leave early in the  morning.  It is supposed to be colder than it has been recently, but that is not a problem for me.  Since I bicycle in the winter, I have all sorts of cold weather clothing.  The problem is my shoes.  Looking backwards, perhaps this was the decision that might have changed the day, but then it might not have.  Not being omniscient, I will never know.  I have a pair of boots that I bought at Target that were on sale at the end of the season and quite a bit too large, but perfectly fine for shoveling snowy driveways, and I have an old pair of running shoes.  I pick the running shoes.  Would the boots have made a difference?  In the end, it does not matter.  Things happen and you just have to deal with them.  In the scheme of things, any accident you can walk away from is a good accident.

Jim and Diana pick me up and we drive to Elk Creek to hike through to Leota.  Diana is clad in boots and has her back pack.  She is also wise enough to have a walking stick.   I decide against the back pack and just have a waist pack, and while I have put walking sticks on my wish list until I work enough overtime to purchase them, I have not yet gotten them. Both of us are dressed in layers. Jim drives off and we trudge off into the woods.  It doesn't take me long to realize that Diana is much better at spotting trail markers than I am.  Despite what we have heard, the trail is well marked, it is just that even in company I tend to drift off into my own thoughts at times.   I suspect that the West would never have been won by people like me. 

The trees have not yet begun to show their fall colors, but dry leaves do litter the ground.   I see two clusters of mushrooms:  one dead but somehow beautiful.  The other alive and unaware of the seaon change. The farther we stray from the trail-head, the more the path is covered in places.  The birds are still singing, not the bright calls of spring when their exuberance can almost be called raucousness, but not the drear, dead silence of winter when thoughts of survival rule.  It is windy and the trees whisper as if they were talking of us and our passing. Diana and I chat easily, as old friends have a wont to do.  I am grateful for her friendship and I hope she knows this.  I am not and never will be an "easy" person.  I feel too strongly and don't have a tight enough rein on my tongue. My expectations are high.  I have rather weird interests. Even with all the love he had for me, my husband told me not long before he died that his nephew was right when he said I was strange.  With old age, I have accepted this about myself.  But evidently Diana is okay with this weirdness because it will take us a few days of being together for a number of hours when we hike this whole trail. 

The trail is rough and I trip repeatedly despite trying to be careful.  Unfortunately, about two to three miles from the end, I trip and I feel my ankle twist and pain shoot up my leg.  Diana asks if I am okay, and I lie and say I am once I establish that, while it is painful, I can stand.  There is no reason for her to worry and there is nothing to be done about it.  And I will get out of here on my own even if I have to grit my teeth and crawl. I almost brought an ankle bandage, but I did not so swelling will definitely be an issue.  I stumble onward knowing that for a bit endorphins will kick in and  minimize what I will feel later when I stop.  And each time we pause, I feel it stiffen and it is harder to fight the pain and start up again. 

Still, I am not miserable. We reach the end and sit down to wait for Jim to pick us up.  Diana was right about how long it would take us, and now we have an idea of our pace and how far we can expect to get most days.  Diana tells me that the people she spoke to said this was the hardest section of the entire trail, so I am even more confident.  Now if I can just learn to walk without tripping over myself and falling down.  I also found that while my GPS for the bike will not tell me distance, I assume due to our slow pace, it does show the trail so that if we would miss a marker, we should be able to find our way back. 

Diana and I hiked on Monday.  On Tuesday, I wonder if I will be able to captain the century I have scheduled for Saturday.  When I post so that people can plan, Tony volunteers to captain the ride if I am unable.  But of course, despite the fact my ankle is the size of a grapefruit and there is bruising around the entire outside of my foot, I decide to give it a try.  As I later tell them, this is not the smartest thing I have ever done.  I urge them to feel free to ride ahead, but they decide to keep me company and we set a leisurely pace.

During the ride, I can't clip out and walking on uneven ground when I am off the bike is treacherous and painful.  Climbing likewise.  Still, I only walk one hill.  I will pay for my lack of patience.  By the end of the ride and the next day my ankle worsens.  But I remain glad that I "took the day by the throat" and shook it.  I got a chance to chat with Mark a bit for the first 25 miles until he veered off for home.  The other riders opted to say with me and I enjoyed the beautiful fall day and the company. Lunch, as always at the Mennonite store, was exceptionally delicious.  And I will heal.  Had I been patient, I would have healed more quickly.  I would have had less pain.  But I would have missed the last of the unseasonably warm weather and the company and the countryside.  And I do so grow tired of just sitting with my leg propped up.

Winter will come, heavy handedly sweeping leaves from the trees and leaving the world a monotone of browns and grays.  The birds will silence and the world will seem still except for the wuthering of the winter wind, ghost-like and mournful.  But I will remember hiking with my friend and riding with friends and I will long for the birth of spring, and I will be grateful for the time I had with them and glad that I made the choice to do both, even if I ended up bloody at the end of the day.  I hope I don't forget that about myself. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Off To Bethlehem

"Learn from the river the
art of moving on without
letting go."
Panana Reed

Other than an wasted week-end, I have been busy this week taking care of those fall chores that need to be done so that you can feel cozy and snug and prepared for the colder weather.  No, I did not get them all done, but I got done some of the ones I like the least:  cleaning the sump pump well and cleaning the culvert.  (I must admit I did enjoy using my new culvert cleaning tool).  The weather for this much needed vacation week is incredible:  warmer than normal, but not so hot that it is a struggle.  After thinking about where I would like to ride and not having planned out a new route, I decide to go to Bethlehem. I will make a few changes from the original route so that I can leave from my home.

As I ride, I can see that fall is gently nudging  summer, telling him that his turn is over and asking him politely to yield. Summer is a male month, demanding and hot.  When he refuses, immune to her wheedling, she will exert the full force of her power and inevitably she will win.  But for now, he stands his ground.  It is warm with a hint of the wind that awaits and makes riding so much more difficult.  There are clouds that come and go throughout the day.  The corn and soy beans retain no hint of green:  they are brown and dusty.  In a few places, farmers are beginning the harvest, jeans covered with dust, sweat dotting their brows that are furrowed with concentration and determination.  Wooly worms scatter the road like confetti and as always I wonder about their journey.  Where are they going?  They seem to be crossing the road from one corn field or soy bean field to another.  Is there some difference in fields that I can't see?  They aren't all going in the same direction, say north.  I smile to myself thinking, "Why did the chicken cross the road?"  Some things we humans are not privy to.  The only think I know is that it  happens every year and is a portent of the coming cold.

As I near Bethlehem, it becomes evident that it has rained here despite the zero percent rain chance predicted.  It is not yet so chilly that I have to worry about this.  While I may not be comfy if it rains on me, it is not dangerous.  I make a mental note to pack the garbage bag that I normally begin carrying this time of year for when I don't want to tote a rain jacket. I think of Joe Camp on this ride when it rained so, and the hardware store yellow rain jacket that he wore like a tutu. I also watch my speed on the descent with all its twists and turns.  Leaves, walnut, persimmons, and acorns litter the ground.  I think of how I used to harvest the black walnuts for my husband as he preferred them to the English walnuts.  I miss him so.  And I remember that this was the last century that I rode before he returned home to heaven.  And yet again, there are tears of sadness and gratefulness, an odd mix. I realize that rightly or wrongly I have moved on, but like the river, I have not and will not ever let go.  There will be new experiences for me, some pleasant and some not.  I may or may not fall in love again.  People will enter and leave my life, some for the better and some for the worse.  Despite my reluctance, I am moving forward.  And there is, for the most part, a smile on my face, and a bicycle that needs to go for a ride.