The single track disappeared into the trees, fading into the night like a trail that Hansel and Gretel might have followed and regretted. The sun had long since slipped behind the mountain behind me, and even in the open grasses light was fading. This was the point I’d promised myself I would turn around and go home. Just a quick out and back before dark.
But I had never ridden this trail before, and so far it snaked its way gently up the mountain where it looked like it might connect with a trail that I did know. I wanted to see where the two met up. And the air was cool but not sharp; it felt good to be outside, breathing hard.
I unwound the headlamp I’d wrapped around my wrist when I left the house and slipped it over my bike helmet. The thin, feeble light cast a pale glow into the trees–just enough light to see that the trail dipped down and then back up. I could do that, even in the dark.
The higher I climbed, the darker it got. I could see only a few feet in front of me, but instead of getting harder to ride, it got easier. When I stood up on my pedals to crest the top of a hill, the bike felt light like a feather. When I eased down the other side, the bike followed the trail with ease.
There was nothing but the sound of my breath and the wind through the trees, my bike tires scattering the leaves on the trail. In clearings, the sillouettes of mountains framed the sky, and a half-moon shined through wispy clouds.
I slipped through the trees, wove along the bends and slipped down drops in the trail. Not once was I afraid. Not once did I think about the next obstacle or how long a hill was, I just did whatever I needed to do to get through the trail right in front of me.
With the dark went my vision, but with my vision went my censor–that little voice that tells me a hill is too long or a drop in the trail too steep. The one that makes me stop before a jumble of rocks, or a root in the middle of a long downhill.
I rode fast and I rode smooth. It felt good to get out of my own way. It felt good to feel so free.