The places I love the most are the places where I feel lost in the vastness of the world, where there are no people to break the silence and there’s nothing around me but wildness and space. The new and unknown.
With a rare Tuesday day off in hand this week, I set out with a loose plan to ride the 9 Mile/Ring Creek Rip route. After unknowingly taking a wrong turn straight out of the parking lot, I found myself on an incredibly steep, incredibly sustained climb that took me behind Habrich and Sky Pilot and out into some of the most wild, beautiful territory I’ve ridden on a bike.
I saw a few ATVs and dirt bikers early on the trail, but as I rode further out the road became more and more desolate until I passed a few hunters in camouflage gear and then, no-one. For a while Habrich towered to my right, then Sky Pilot, and then they fell away behind me as the distant blue mountains of Indian Arm appeared ahead.
At some point the nagging feeling that I was on the wrong road became a certainty. Still I kept onward, more interested in the unknown territory ahead than where I maybe should have been. At one washed out corner a creek tumbled across the road, and I splashed through it and then plunged steeply downwards through more small water crossings, down a rollercoaster of a rock garden, and finally to a bridge where I paused and realised that the sun was starting to sink ominously close to the distant peaks and the air was growing colder.
I hammered back up as fast as I could, suddenly very aware that I had less than an hour of daylight left and had no idea – literally none at all – where I was. Nor did anyone else. As I paused for breath at the top of the climb I saw the first person for miles, a mineral prospector who asked if he could take my picture because “I’ve never seen a woman out here on a mountain bike before” and told me neat stories about the geologic history of the valley.
And then, an absolute screamer of a descent back down all those vertical metres of endless, lung-searing climbing. Concerns about the fading daylight disappeared; I was back at the car twenty minutes later, the kilometres vanishing beneath my tires. Rocketing down the bone-shaking sections of loose rock, the bike skidding and leaping beneath me and yet somehow arriving upright on the other side.
This was not at all the ride that I intended, but it’s exactly the kind of day I had in mind when I bought this bike.