Friday, July 26, 2013

A Weekend on the Sacandaga: Double Rainbows

Hypoxia awaits.
Out of the people that ever were, almost all of them are dead. There are way more dead people, and you're all gonna die and then you're gonna be dead for way longer than you're alive. Like that's mostly what you're ever gonna be. You're just dead people that didn't die yet.  [Louis C.K.: Hilarious, 2011]

Although a bit overly morbid, Louis C.K., has a point.  We're all doing to be dead one day- and for a long time.  So what makes it have any meaning?  [In my best double-rainbow voice] What does it mean?

Don't worry, I'm not about to tell you a parable about footsteps in the sand, or break out baby photos or start crying uncontrollably while you awkwardly check Facebook on your smartphone.

Instead, let me tell just you about a weekend I had earlier this summer.

There were crystal blue skies for as far as the eye could see as I headed west on the Mass Pike toward Albany.  I had that feeling in my stomach that only a weekend full of possibility and adventure can bring.

It was the eleventh annual trip I had taken to see my childhood buddy, Brian.  In grade school we were inseparable,tackling our 80's school-kid rites of passage together...even the awkward Breakin' II: Electric Boogaloo phase.  When we weren't clad in camouflage fighting imaginary invaders Red Dawn style in the forested mountains of Vermont, we were listening to the Empire Strikes Back on record while staging livingroom battles between GI Joe and Zartan.  Those were fun times. And those times were especially good because they were shared with someone with equal zeal for being twelve years old.
My heros were GI Joe and this guy.

Eventually we went to separate high schools and onto separate lives.  At one point we lost touch completely.  Then a little over ten years ago, I moved back to New England and we made it a point to get together at least once a year during the summer.

On our yearly reunion we spend a lot of time as mosquito bait, just sitting around a campfire drinking beer.  But we also play wiffle ball, listen to music, eat junk food, and ride our bikes:  i.e we pretend that we're twelve year olds again.  The wives joined us one year, but strangely they never asked to be invited back.

The area around Lake Sacandaga in New York has been the site of our annual reunion as it sits roughly half-way between our homes.  Surrounded by the Adirondack Park, opportunities for adventure abound.  Although we have done some epic road biking in the area, we had somehow managed to avoid doing any serious mountain biking on the trails around Sacandaga. That all changed this year.

A few months before our trip I started investigating the mountain biking possibilities online.  At first glance, there was little available.  Most of the resources indicated that the closest options were near Saratoga and Albany.  Then a local biking group directed me to Oak Mountain in Speculator.

Originally ecstatic, I soon discovered Oak Mountain wasn't scheduled to open until a couple weeks after our trip.  Just when I had given up all hope, I got a private message on one of the mountain biker's boards.  A local by the name of Mike  told me that he had some private trails that he would love to show us.  As the weekend approached I gave him a call to let him know when Brian and I would be arriving.  He told me that he injured himself in a recent off-road race but that his wife would be more than happy to show us around.
I call this trail, "IT PUTS THE LOTION IN THE BASKET!"

When Brian and I pulled into their driveway, I wasn't quite sure what to expect.  Part of me wondered if we would become a cautionary tale about meeting strangers from the internet, but as soon as I saw the hearty smiles from our guides I knew we were in good hands.

Jody, a five foot nothin' spark-plug of energy, enthusiastically led us out onto the trails.  We started in a small section next to the house that wriggled its way through the well spaced trees.  Colored paint on the trees and an occasional rock marked the way, although the trails were well worn and easy to follow.  As Jody, Brian and I wound our way through the woods Mike would appear periodically to describe an interesting section or give us the background on the building or naming of a trail.

The map.
Everything that we rode was well thought out and well marked.  They even provided Brian and me with a map to navigate our way around the trails.  The first trail that we rode, Rio's Ramble, was named after a family dog that loved to wander around the woods and hide his toys- sometimes hundreds of yards from the house.  Mike explained that a marauding band of local singlespeeders liked to haunt his trails.   Their presence was particularly apparent on one called Hypoxia that slowly wound its way up to the highest reaches of the mountain above. The turns were banked and  the climb was punctuated by slight descents and traverses.  Although he had built it as a climbing trail, Mike admitted that his singlespeeding friends all favored it for descents.  "You should really try a 'Reverse Hypoxia'," he offered.  There was also Krebs, ATP and even a Freaky Spiderman- complete with Spiderman mask.  But my absolute favorites were Newt and Porch, which when combined, were a trance inducing combination of speed and cornering taking you on a white knuckle journey from the top of the mountain all the way to the bottom.

All of the trails were bowling alley buff and perfectly balanced for speed.  I found myself using the word "awesome" so many times to describe the trails that Mike must have begun wondering if I knew any other adjective.

Like a proud papa, Mike gave us the story of his creation  Although I would describe him as mellow and understated, Mike simply overflowed with enthusiasm for biking and building trails.  As we listened to him, I couldn't help but feed off his enthusiasm.

Despite taking a nasty header early on, Jody charged along the trails with us, smiling from ear to ear and also bubbling over with her love for mountain biking.

When we ran out of daylight and rolled back up to the house they invited us in for some chocolate milk and even a beer. Mike poured over the local maps with us pointing out other local trails to explore during our weekend.

As Brian and I headed off to our campsite that night, I couldn't help but feel overwhelmed by our new friends' hospitality and unbridled enthusiasm.  

It got me to thinking about how there are moments in your life when you see a glimpse of unbridled passion.  We should all be so lucky to find something that brings that out of us.  Mike had clearly found his source.  He was beaming with a love and enthusiasm for biking that you could almost see in the air, and it was infectious.  While I was bouyed by the experience it was clear Brian had been similarly affected.  Owner of a good sized chunk of land, Brian was already contemplating how he could turn his logging trails into bike trails.  He had seen the possibilities, felt the enthusiasm, and there was no turning back.

I don't pretend to know the meaning of life, but I'd like to think that sparking and sharing that light in the people you meet in this life must be close to the core of what it is all about.  I can't think of a better feeling than seeing that spark passed to Brian, or feeling the glow from our hosts' enthusiasm as they shared their trails and love of biking with us.

Maybe that's what makes all the nothingness mean something.

Then again, we might just all be mosquito bait.

1 comment:

  1. It's hard to describe how much I would love to ride these trails. We've owned a house near the lake for three years but have been making do with the snowmobile trails and the trails near Saratoga. If the trails still exist, I would love to know about it!