With each passing ride, I discover why I’m loving this bike so much…it takes me places I normally couldn’t explore. The lack of snow this “winter” has been a blessing and curse in many ways. I am a cross country skier and if a snow-less December had happened in previous years (it has) I’d be skulking around, depressed from a lack of kick’n and stick’n. I realized the other day, it hasn’t bothered me so much-kind of surprised me, but because the fat-bike is now in the stable, I just suit up and head out the door for the next adventure.
I frequently ride past a small made made flowage just a mile from my home. Snyder Lake (and park) is part of the Clark County Forest and sits on the banks of Wedges Creek, which eventually empties into the Black River. I ride the 29er on ATV trails and logging roads nearby during the warm months, a convenient change from riding singletrack at Levis Mound all the time. Because we’ve had plenty of cold days, and no insulating snow, ice formed early on the water and even bridged the small rapids upstream from the lake. Rain a week or so ago made parts of the big water unrideable slick ice, but where a skim of snow remained, it was perfect. I found pedaling on the ice almost effortless-the flat hard surface making just a slight rumble-crunch under the big tires. The ice allowed me to explore side creeks, although thick tag alders soon blocked my progress and shell ice finally gave way under me.
As I traveled upstream, I’d have to jump off the Mukluk from time to time as I hit a patch of bare ice…no problem, I just scootered across until the next patch of snow. Water levels on the creek had been higher earlier this winter, so when I ventured deeper upstream and more rapids, I also ran into pushed up ice jams-slabs of ice cantilevered upwards- jumbled in tight high-banked corners of the stream. These spots were criss crossed with tracks of otters, who could scoot under the ice into open patches of water gurgling beneath my wheels. Fisher, coyote and fox tracks also zig zagged back and forth here along with an infrequent tom turkey crossing the now frozen slush. I love tracking, so I spent as much time as I wanted reading the stories they tell before hopping back on the bike. The pressure of the moving water finally created a jam and enough open water to prevent travelling any further upstream…I so wanted to keep going for the creek winds on for many miles north. I found an ice bridge to tip toe across and then up a high bank to a nearby skidder trail and back on dry oak leaves and dirt for the long ride back home. The fat-bike and the ice I’d just ridden left me wanting more, so in the days ahead, instead of rolling down familiar singletrack, I’ll search out ice, snow and sand that can take me deeper to places I’ve yet to explore.