Having observed that the trail was in fact plowed, I decided yesterday to see just how much had been plowed. it was cold and windy, with peek-a-boo sun, but i had to go. There was still a ten foot distance for the bike to be walked at the end of the right-of-way, where there was still snow, and then a 18″ ridge of soft snow chunks thrown off by the plow to portage the bike over. On the trail, however, the reluctantly above-freezing air and solar radiation through clouds had actually melted the stuff, and the asphalt was clear and dry. My skepticism began to melt too, as I saw that the uphill rise to the west of Cedar Lane was plowed after all. And soon it became clear that everything had been plowed!
I felt like letting loose a primal scream: Yyeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh. My feeling was like a realization that after being imprisoned I had been liberated, had come up from the tunnel beyond the prison perimeters, had gotten through the sewage pipe and into the river, had succeeded in running off chained to a few other members of the chain gang, or whatever movie experience of this kind that you can relate to.
Riding the W&OD was like coming home after a long time away–things were the same yet different. Some places along the way–many, in fact–looked like they had been melted clear for days. Hardly a snowbank in sight. In other places big limbs had been sawed and moved off the trail. Halfway up Hunter Station Road (a killer climb after a few weeks inside) there was a house that had been severely damaged by a big tree. Half of it was encased in sheathing and covered by a huge blue tarp. The price one pays for living in the woods. In just a couple of places the plow blade was not completely down, but I barely had to swerve to avoid the snow islands. The crossing signals at Maple Avenue, Vienna, no longer beeped as a signal to the sight-deprived when the light changed. Nobody was on the trail; I passed literally one other rider, and saw only a handful coming the other way. There were more walkers and dog-walkers than anything else (what would an alien culture make of people walking around leashed to their animals, stopping and starting at the animals’ whims, and reverently scooping up their poop to carry around for the rest of the outing?).
No horses about; the bridle trail is still blocked in a few places by fallen timber. But for us cyclists, the plow has saved the day. In all my years of riding the trail, they’ve never plowed it before. I’d like to think that they knew that six weeks without exercise or recreation is a difficult proposition for the dedicated exercising athlete. This is probably the end of Trail Tales for now; the Trail just is again, a given in the world of recreational cycling. The trail story is dead; long live the trail!
©Arnold J. Bradford, 2010.