...indulge me. I wish I had the words to capture the magic of last night...
It's April 6 and I in Anchorage it's snowing. Alternating between big fluffy flakes and sandy pellets. I look out my window and wish I were outside. But instead I'm stuck in my office trying to get work caught up.
I figure the snow'll stop by mid-day and then I can maybe get out and ride a bit. So I take a brief break from my work, clean my chain and replace a tube on my front wheel, the stem pulled out on the ride home Friday, and switch from Nate to Larry on the front. Not sure why, just for the heck of it, I guess. Prepping for summer, I guess.
I head back to my work for a few more hours and, as things so often go when one has a family, I was pulled into a number of errand running jaunts around town. And it's still snowing. Still alternating textures. We've gotten at least six inches so far. The weather report predicts up to 14 inches. I'm itching to get out there.
Instead, when we complete our errands, I cooked a late dinner. We sat down and enjoyed a good conversation with some good food. By 8 dinner was done and I decided I just had to get out there and test the snow.
I convince the wife, though she doesn't need too much convincing, get myself ready to go and make my way out the door. It's nearly 9 and the sun is still out. It's still lightly snowing, but the sun has broken through a gap in the clouds and the Chugach mountains glow pink.
I figure the ride will be a short one - I'll get to the trails and there'll be too much snow to enjoy riding. But the streets ride well, being packed down by traffic throughout the day.
I'm lucky. I have only a half mile of road to ride from my house to the connection to the Multi-use trail. From this connection I can head north and west to my office or continue down the trail to the coast and eventually to Kinkaid park and the awesome single track there. Or I can, as I do this evening, head south into Far North Bicentennial park. This is my playground. It's still hard for me to get my head around the fact that less that two miles from my house is this 4000 acre woodland connected to some BLM land, chock full of trails to explore. This is my back yard.
I hit the Multi-use and the snow is deep. At least nine inches. But powdery and light. I could feel the resistance of the snow as I threw it in the air, but it wasn't the brutal, punishing peddling of some days with big, wet dumps.
Feeling good and with the sun still shining, I make my way to the park, figuring I'll just head to the science center and use that as my turn around. The single tracks wouldn't have been ridden in, I figure. But as I approach Blue Dot, I see that there has been at least one other cyclist out in this snowy world who has ridden through and punched the snow down.
So I change my plan, flip on my headlight as the shadows are now long enough that it it getting a bit hard to make out the details. Normally I try to take this trail as fast as I can, but tonight is different. Instead of going ball's to the wall, I'm taking it slow, enjoying the feeling of snow collecting in my beard and eyelashes and the feeling of the tires squeaking over the fresh snow.
It continues to get darker and the trail remains beautiful for riding. I can feel my smile growing bigger and bigger as I drop down to the creek bed, daub just a touch as my front wheel washes out on the tight turn at the bottom of the hill just before the new bridge that crosses Campbell Creek.
I continue down the trail in the growing darkness, making it to the Smokejumper trailhead. I stop and give my wife a call to let her know I'm going to be a bit later than planned. Normally I don't like to stop when riding. I don't take pictures, I don't stop for snacks, I don't stop when I need to remove or add layers. When I ride, I ride. So stopping to call gave me an opportunity to look around and actually notice how beautiful the world is, especially this night.
The cloud cover had come back in and the sky glowed orange from the city lights reflecting. It was bright enough out that I was able to turn off my headlight and ride through the night guided by the reflected, man-made star light.
I'd been out nearly and hour already and still hadn't seen another soul. I cut across Lynx trail and then up to Birch trail before hopping back on the tour trail to make my way back towards home. The night was perfect. So silent. Normally I ride with a headphone in, listening to music or podcasts, but I just had to turn it off and absorb the woods at night.
When it was all said and done I got back home around 10:45. I'd ridden for nearly two hours, only clocked ten miles. But as I was rounding the final corner to my house I realized just how lucky I was to be out there at that moment. How often do we get riding conditions like that - fresh snow that floats away from the tires like down, temps in the mid 20's, and perfect solitude? How often do we get a huge woodland in the middle of the state's largest city completely to ourselves? No other bikers, no skiers, walkers, or dogs? How often do we get something that is so close to perfection?
Not enough. Which is, I guess, what makes them so amazing when they do happen.
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