I was in TN visiting family during the rollover from the 13th to the 14th B’ak’tun and thus am only now getting around to a ride. This day, which is also the final day of 2012, began with snow in Olympia which coated my neighborhood with a fine, wet layer of snow. By the time sufficient coffee and the like had been ingested this snow was mostly gone and I was itching to get out. I layered up to fight off the cold and set off in the grey afternoon light.
I was interested in the remaining snow and if there were spots that received more then we had. I wanted to be in the woods as well and to search for some photographic opportunities amidst the bleak winter landscapes. The trail system around Olympia I felt was the place to go in order to avoid any snow bound traffic but also to be able to bicycle in the woods and find those photo ops. It turns out that as soon as I descended the modest hill upon which I reside the any traces snow pretty much disappeared.
The trails were pretty much abandoned this NYE and while wet and oft strewn with leaves there was only faint traces of snow. There was many targets of opportunity for the photog though and as I rode along I’d stop to take advantage. But a mile or two up the Woodland Trail I passed a gravel path that I’d ridden by several times but had yet to explore. And just like that this ramble for photos and snow transformed into bombing around.
What is bombing around you ask? In my youth those days for which I could give no clear accounting of how I’d spent the entire day out doors my mother would say I spent it “just bombing around”. In a bicycle context for me bombing around means riding without a goal following ones curiosity. It differs from a ramble as a ramble is an aimless perambulation around a set destination. You ramble around town you bomb around the countryside. These are the rides where you ride down a dead end road because you suspect there might be a trail or foot path at the end. Where you ride down path into the woods that ends in a bramble, or a meadow or an impassable thicket. Or you just turn down a gravel road next to a wetland that disappears into the treeline.
The gravel path continued apace, rounded a small hillock and then became almost singletrack as it entered a stand of young white birch. This wound around through the trees a bit and then climbed up to exit in a cul-de-sac in a new housing developing which was being worked on on this New Years Eve. I wandered these streets for a bit eventually hitting a road I knew returned to cross over the Woodland Trail. At that overpass I took a nice trail that switchbacked it’s way back down to the Woodland Trail about half a mile south of where I’d left on this little jaunt. As I re-rode this section of trail I noted a pair of gentlemen out doing some landscaping work along the trail. One of these guys had ridden out to do this work and had panniers full of landscaping tools.
As the Woodland Trail skirts the edge city of Lacey it intersects with the Chehalis Western Trail which I impulsively turned onto. I’ve ridden chunks of this trail a number of times since returning to Olympia and of course the bulk of it returning from Mount Rainier on my 2011 tour. It is mostly wooded after it passes though the suburbs and exurbs and golf courses outside of Lacey. There a number of small lakes along the trail and I figured lots of opportunities for more mixed terrain riding.
This opportunities indeed did arise and all along the perhaps ten miles I rode on the trail I would jump off to ride little trails down to lakes or meadows or tracks that paralleled the main route route. I ended up in a few sketchy situations – a hallmark of bombing around – where the trail would be deep mud, blocked by trees or a descent to steep for my confidence. But a good time was had by all.
There were a few more people out on this trail, mostly dog walkers but I saw a couple other people riding. The afternoon was wearing away and while I had no set agenda I began to think of turning around. At this point I saw a meadow off the the trail with a track running into it and I immediately pulled off and rode down to it. This minimal track rode into the woods where there was a course of sorts set up. Much of it blocked by branches, I kept dead ending. I ended up pushing my bicycle up a steep hillock of dirt to find a too steep (for me) descent on the other side. So back down the way I came and I rode around the wooded bit on a grassy near-trail paralleling a road. Then back into the woods on a trail that led back to the Chehalis Western. A fun little jaunt that brought to mind the woods around the house where I grew up that were so clearly heavily used by all of us that lived around them. And yet, again like today, you almost never encountered anyone else there.
Back on the paved rail trail my thoughts again turned to retracing my steps. I never really like to do there and back again type rides, always preferring to do a loop of some sort. Was this a warm summer day I would have have just set out on roads more or less in the direction home trusting that I could find my way back eventually and not really caring how long it would take. But that is the downside of winter riding – the light ends fast and the already cold day would become a quite cold night. Of course I’m well prepared for that as well – generator lights and rain gear which can be put on for added warmth. But that kind of wayfinding can be tough in the dark in winter in relatively unfamiliar territory. As I was mulling this over I crossed a street and then found the trail ahead blocked:
Looking through the barrier the trail looked fine for as far as I could see. Hopefully it will open soon. But this seemed as good a place to turn around as any. And so I did. I did drop off onto frontage roads as I saw them, to vary it a bit and again I headed off-road on some trails I hadn’t hit on the way out. On of these began with deep mud, steeply climbed up next to railroad tracks and then petered off into the trees that followed the tracks. The sky was clearing a bit and while hazy, there was patches of blue sky. Of course on a winter day this just chilled things further but it was nice to see some sun and blue sky.
After this last little excursion off the Chehalis Western I steadily rode back to the intersection with the Woodland Trail. Again I backtracked riding south again passes those landscapers, now packing up to head home. I planned to end my ride with a stop at a grocery store to pick up some dinner supplies and I needed to cut over to the I-5 trail which parallels the Woodland Trail at this juncture. Once again I took to the trails, riding this great section, as narrow as singletrack, but on pretty flat ground that wended around the trees. Eventually it hit a more conventional connection between the two trail and I was on the I-5 trail. Here it was much darker and the trail clearly little used as it was liberally strewn with trees. It wasn’t long until I made it to an intersection where I turned off into East Olympia where I did my shopping. It was fully dark after I finished and I rode through Olympia neighborhoods and a bit more on the I-5 trail until I was back home.
Not an epic day by any stretch; all in all I rode around 28.6 miles, but on this, the last day of 2012 that began with snow and ended clear and cold, it was a great day of bombing around. I took many more pictures on this day all of which can be found on Flickr in my Last Ride 2012 set.