Saturday, May 5, 2012

Cold steel

The beginning of mountain biking has finally arrived.  The trails of the Matanuska Greenbelt, which I've written about from time to time here, get less snow than Los Anchorage or the Kenai, and are underlain by well-mixed glacial till that drains the run off quickly.  Indeed, many of the trails were dusty on Friday when Mike, Dan, and I rode them.  Today, Saturday, some very light overnight showers had damped most them back down.  A few sections of connector double-track trails that were groomed for XC over the winter still have a patch or two of snow and mudholes, though all those areas are avoidable and at worst require 20-30 of pushing in but a few places.  Learned from my trip yesterday, Brian and I rode the system today and missed all but one mud spot.  Exceptional, if not un-imaginable: mudless riding at the very beginnings of the season.
But the mountain biking in the Mat-Valley system is short, an hour and a half of hard hammering with maybe 1,000 feet of cumulative climbing.  Yesterday by myself, and this morning with Brian, I/we skate skied up Powerline Pass in Chugach State Park on some of the best crust conditions of the year.  There, the wind-hardened snow, which in places has a glacial blue hue to it, is drifted 10 feet or more deep.

There is something powerful about single track riding.  Perhaps it was just getting short-shrifted out of April's powder glory by a warm spring, but in my semi-reduced state this afternoon, I hit the spot where my state of mind met my body in a way that is only achieved with speed, with miles, with elevation, and terrain.  Every hill felt draining, and yet my legs hammered upward and my bike steered forward.  At every little peak a wash ran over me to tell me I was drained, and yet still  had the energy to go on for hours more, snapping this way and that, up and over and back down there. It's a beautiful thing. Call it hokey if you want, but I live for that sensation.

Plenty of snow left at the Glen Alps Trail Head at around 2,200 feet above sea level in Anchorage on May 5.

Rachel gets used to the feel of two wheels instead of two planks on rolling double track trails in the Valley on Sunday.

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