A rush of static pours from the radio, nonsensical weather reports and warnings. You catch a syllable out of the jumble—snow. The word draws up a deep chill inside of you. Please, no. It's not that late in the season yet. The grass is still green, the trees clutching their last few leaves. A month ago the trails snaked through the woods with confidence, ribbons of dusty hardpack. Now they have completed their annual transformation into faint suggestions twisting between trees, carpeted in hues of gold and scarlet.
You greet the morning air with a sharp inhalation; a pall of woodsmoke hangs over the valley. Time to ride. Cold muscles resist the first attempts to pedal, but soon the rhythm quickens your blood. The riding is slow, hindered by the newly-ethereal nature of the trail, but that innocent ecstasy you haven't felt since your first time out in the spring abruptly returns. Swooping descents induce a heightened buzz as your tires slide across rustling golden carpet and past the edge of control, then grab again at the last possible moment.
Fall riding has it's own sort of soul, naked and raw and pure, stripped of pretext like the surrounding maples. It's easy to slip into melancholic self-reflection. You stop by a stream for a drink, and the stillness cuts your thoughts free. The stress of college midterms melts from your shoulders, along with it a torrent of other small worries you weren't even fully conscious of. Suddenly, none of it to matter so much. You're content to stare off through the trees, wondering what it would have looked like to the first people to ever venture there. A twig snaps, and you look up. Just like that, the reverie is broken. A single white flake drifts down through the branches, tiny, yet unmistakable.
|A twig snaps, and you look up. Just like that, the reverie is broken. A single white flake drifts down through the branches, tiny, yet unmistakable.
Not snow, you think. It can rain. Maybe that will stave off the impending winter for another precious week. On the other hand—maybe it's time to settle in for a while, and warm your soul with a cup of hot cocoa and that book that's been laying untouched by your bed for so long. Hell, it might even be fun to try out those snowshoes, the ones that your parents got you years ago, just for the change of pace. Come to think of it—let it snow!
Eric rides for the Copper Country Cycling Club, a recreational club and USA Cycling Collegiate Program race team at Michigan Technological University. You can follow his adventures on his blog, wanderthewoods.com, or on Instagram.