Getting out into a more natural, undeveloped, place on a regular basis is paramount to my personal well being. My ideal life-place scenario looks like this: I awaken in the morning and walk out my door into a paradise of cultivated ecology, clean water ways, and wild zone 4 and 5 lands. I hold that frequency a lot. In the present moment, I live in a bedroom community of New Haven, CT in a town called Branford along Long Island Sound. While different from my ideal outlined above, this location does afford me the opportunity to find natural beauty rather easily due to the glaciated landscape, the many parks, and pockets of forest that still exist within a short drive from my home. Better yet there is a nice preserve around a network of ponds within an easy bike ride of my house. The ponds formerly supplied ice to the residents of Branford. Earlier this year I purchased a mountain bike from a local bike shop with a view of riding it on these trails thus increasing my time observing and interacting with nature. I’ve been getting in mountain biking shape since.
I took my longest ride today from home to the Supply Ponds to ride more of the trails there. In addition to a good cardio workout, my goal today was solitude in the forest and I found it on a hitherto unexplored trail. I spent some time off my bike roaming around, exploring tree-fall bridges and photographing fungal blooms after the latest rains. A bit later, I found a rough hewn log bench along the trail and stopped for a while to just listen to the wind through the leaves, the jack-hammer like probing of an unseen wood pecker looking for lunch, and to watch some butterflies darting to and fro in the dappled sunlight. It was perfect, no one else happened by and the sounds were almost entirely from the natural world. I wrote a short poem, snapped some photos, ate a snack and then got back on the bike refreshed.
This trail was very challenging, with lots of big rocks, loose sandy gravel, roots galore, and hills coming and going! It was definitely the most challenging ride from a technical stand point that I’ve done so far. I rode a loop in the trail and then decided to take a side trail instead of returning the way I came despite the lack of a blaze painted on any trees, figuring it was chance to explore. What I found was a suburban neighborhood when I very suddenly came off the trail and onto a residential street. I promptly got turned around for a while riding those McMansion filled streets with their unnatural mono-cropped lawns. After 10 minutes or so of riding around trying to found a way out of Purgatory, I turned around went back to the trail…and it was awesome. Going this direction the trail had a long downhill portion over the aforementioned tough terrain, replete with blind corners, thorns lashing my arms and my skid marks as I tried to stay upright while gravity took its course and I careened downhill. Literally just as I was thinking to myself, “Wow, I’m doing a really good job of staying upright on this trail”, I found that time started to slow as my bike and the trail disagreed with my handling of the situation and soon I was picking my self up off of the ground and checking for obvious damage.
My guardian spirit was definitely on the case at this moment. The spot I wrecked was a downhill portion with a steep drop off to my right hand side. The disk brakes on my bike stood me in good stead slowing my momentum just as I started to go ass over tea kettle over the handle bars. My momentum stopped and inertia kicked in just before I would have rolled down the steep cliff and into a rock strewn stream below. Adrenaline is a wonderful thing at a time like this and mine kicked in allowing me to finish the trail portion of the ride and then pedal on home the couple of miles through town. I’ll be sore tomorrow, as much from the distance as the graceful roll over my handlebars. The solitude and inspiration were well worth the scratches and soreness.