By the road to the contagious hospital
under the surge of the blue
mottled clouds driven from the
northeast—a cold wind. Beyond, the
waste of broad, muddy fields
brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen
patches of standing water
the scattering of tall trees
All along the road the reddish
purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy
stuff of bushes and small trees
with dead, brown leaves under them
Lifeless in appearance, sluggish
dazed spring approaches—
They enter the new world naked,
cold, uncertain of all
save that they enter. All about them
the cold, familiar wind—
Now the grass, tomorrow
the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf
One by one objects are defined—
It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf
But now the stark dignity of
entrance—Still, the profound change
has come upon them: rooted they
grip down and begin to awaken
Spring and All – William Carlos Williams
I came across this poem just the other day, and I was thankful for it. I’d been considering how Mother Nature around these parts had been lifting her long white winter dress and we were being seduced by the hopefulness of spring.
Deep winter in parts of Canada can feel like a curse for those of a bicycling disposition – singletrack hidden under a blanket of the Devil’s Dandruff for months at a time – but as the trails slowly unfurl themselves from the grasp of winter’s chokehold, slowly revealing themselves one by one, we learn to appreciate each one again.
In Whistler, much like many areas of BC, we have four seasons, three of which are great for biking. The current season, spring, is a magical time because the trails sprout up from the forest floor like the buds of spring flowers. And much like the flora of our region (and the fauna too) every trail has its own season. It’s a steady opening, and rather than being bombarded by the entire network exposed again we are drip fed singletrack again. Different trails bloom at different times, giving a long season of Firsts. First, there is a rumor of a particular trail ready to ride (as long as you are willing to hike through a little snow to access it), then another and another. New (this season) trails are ready to go every few days and the excitement of riding one for the first time again is like being reunited with an old friend every ride.
Each spring I fall in love with the low elevation trails all over again. The season for riding most trails are short, generally speaking, but I savor each one as much as I can. I know that come high summer when the alpine cracks wide-open and the bigger days on bikes can be had, I won’t be looking around the lower trails. But at this time of year their character provides a challenge which is equal to the condition of my biking fitness and skill, making it feel like each year the trails take me on a preordained program of betterment. The rides at this time of the year are generally shorter so it’s time well-spent to put a little bit of love back into the trails. There’s no excuse no to give a little back and fix up, tidy up and cut back the thicket from the trails.
Like bears working up and down the mountainsides in search of the good berry crop, mountain bikers scour the landscape in search of the good harvest, starting low then migrating to the highest peaks by mid-summer. Trails like Lost Lake and Cut Your Bars are first on the list, maybe Kill Me Thrill Me makes an early appearance, then parts of the Southside trail network become rideable, or perhaps parts of the Westside network (low down at first). As the skunk cabbage pops out of the wet ground and the sweet stink fills the air you start to know that perhaps it’s time to explore higher. Each day I ask of friends what their explorations have found or I make tentative recces into higher and higher zones. It’s best to look to the sun struck slopes first, where the snow is likely to melt out sooner. Each mission met by a success of sorts: either a clear trail or a character-building trudge through snow that lets you know the state of play. The higher the snow lifts and the longer the sun shines the more the fragrance of pine sap lifts my spirits.
The curse of winter actually provides an opportunity for trails to get a refresh and our appreciation of them a reset. I’d still love it to be spring, summer and fall all year, but the opportunity I am given to be reacquainted with all the trails again is something I cherish.
What’s trails have you fallen in love with again this spring?