I went on a rare solo mountain bike ride yesterday. Well, I guess I go on solo rides with some frequency, but they are usually on the local trails I can access from my home directly. I rarely ride "real trails" on my own. Yesterday I wondered, why not? Why not go ride a "real trail" on my own? So I did.
I went to Heil Ranch to ride my SS. Like most Front Range trails, Heil starts out going up. It has a loop at the top and then you get to turn around and descend back to the trail head. The whole thing is about 8 miles, so pretty short. It's a very rocky trail with loose toddler heads (bigger than baby heads) that make for a challenging and punishing ride, especially on the hard tail SS.
I went at about 3:00 pm, so there were very few people there; just two guys starting out on geared bikes. By their looks, I knew they would not catch me to disrupt my solitude. I took off up the trail. The weather was perfect. It has cooled down here in Colorado in a way that you can sense autumn on its way. The angled lighting become more and more golden as the day progressed. I stopped to take pictures at an old stone structure along the trail. There must be a story about this structure; I wonder what it is.
I passed no one on the way up, riding through the pine forest in quiet solitude. Just my breath and my voice singing whatever song came into my head (Green Day, Snow Patrol, ELO). I passed a park employee working on a new trail, but otherwise arrived at the overlook at the end of the loop without seeing another person. I hung out and wished I had thought to bring a beer.
After I had my fill of the beautiful views, I headed down the loop back to the main trail, finally passing other riders on their way up. The rocky downhill back to the trail head went too fast (is that possible?). Being alone, you notice things you might whiz by in a group. Toward the bottom, I saw a bench in a meadow off to the side of the trail. I have never noticed this bench before, although I'm sure it's been there. It faced a spectacular view of the mountains to the southwest.
The bench was dedicated with this beautiful memorial:
The stillness in the air bade me notice
the distant hills that seemed to move,
as if to gently embrace her spirit,
now that her earthly form is gone.
I would not have noticed that moving remembrance if I hadn't gone out to ride solo. I think I will ride by myself more often.