I think I must have scared April with my back-to-back rideblog rants, because today was somewhat tolerable, both in temperature and sunlight. But watch out, April. To quote the immortal Mr. Darcy (we just finished Pride and Prejudice in my senior class): April is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me. Keep working at it, you wishy-washy, cloud-covered, “Look, warm! No, not warm! Yes, warm again!” season of indecision.
Mr. Darcy didn’t say that last part.
The Seattle Times recently published a short article on fun rides in the Pacific Northwest, and I decided to try out one of their recommendations: the Soos Creek Trail. This pretty little trail is just six miles long from start to finish. As I only had an hour between my latest appointment with my neurologist and fun and games with my tax preparer (that’s a whole other rant), I needed a short ride. When I looked it up on a map this morning, I was startled to discover that the trail began just a few miles from my house. Not a ridable distance, unfortunately, as the hills between myself and Soos Creek are enormous, but close enough for a quick jaunt this afternoon.
I’m still on my Raleigh kick, so off we went. The trail begins quite promisingly, with a dedicated parking lot, a clear sign and a port-a-potty! With my bladder reassured, I set off on the raised pavement boardwalk portion through the marsh.
Though pretty, it’s really just a pathway for the giant electrical towers. Of course, I live just a few blocks from these things (zap! twitch! No, they aren’t affecting my brain… zap! Why?), so I don’t notice them as much as I used to. Familiarity breeds yada yada.
We wound around through a recently built neighborhood, up quite a short, steep hill, and emerged to this sign:
Use Caution! Your bike may plunge off the edge of the world!
The Raleigh survived the downhill grade (with the rear brake hitting the dents in the old steel rim with a regular “thump, thump”), but just the thought of the uphill return was a bit overwhelming. Was the whole trail going to be like this? I remembered the Seattle Times article calling the trail flat, but upon a quick fact check here at home, I’ve discovered that it actually says this about all the trails in the article: “Since it’s still winter, we can’t do anything about your trail exploration being chilly, but for the most part these trails aren’t hilly.”
Maybe it was that clever rhyme that stuck in my head.
At any rate, the trail then leveled out. The area became increasingly rural. The Soos Creek trail is definitely “multi-use,” including obvious frequent passage by hooved beasts; The Raleigh and I became quickly adept at dodging horse poop, which is slippery when one rides through it.
I like the barely visible sign in this picture, which reads: “Temporary Horse Trail.” I kept thinking: “What if it’s a permanent horse?”
The clouds cleared. Boggy patches beside the trail were enlivened by the bright yellow blooms of skunk cabbages, and the heady scent of enormous-rodent-in-distress filled the spring air.
In the reed-filled meadows beside the trail, I spotted the vivid purple-and-white flashes of violet-green swallows swooping after insects, while close by, marsh wrens sang from perches atop the cattails. The Raleigh and I were entranced by the avian soundtrack to our ride.
We paused briefly to listen, mostly because one of the bugs the swallows had missed had managed to collide with my left eye. I thought about making a brief recording of the throaty chorus around us, but then an elementary school somewhere beyond the trees let out for recess and the only sounds I could hear were the primal screams of small children attacking one another on the playground.
The Soos Creek trail has benches placed at conveniently un-scenic spots along the way. The Raleigh and I used this one, placed right next to the bollards separating the trail from one of the only roadways we encountered, as an opportunity to try self-portraiture.
Somehow, the Nutcase helmet always makes me look like I’m wearing my mother’s old chemo hat. You know, the one with the fake hair sewn in around the edges. I swear I am not bald under that helmet. I don’t even have an unusually high hairline. Really.
I thought The Raleigh looked particularly fetching among the dark brown reeds at the marsh’s edge. Marshes always make me think of Dickens’ novels now, which is one of the downfalls of teaching English for nearly ten years: everything has the potential to make one think of Dickens’ novels. I’m particularly remembering the beginning of Great Expectations, where Pip resides in the midst of a malarial swamp outside of pre-industrial London. But I digress…
After briefly losing the trail when it crossed a road and started again about 200 feet south (just follow the horse poop, I realized, and was saved), we emerged into a beautiful valley. On one side were a few scattered residences and a collapsing old barn, on the other side were trees and more marsh… it was really quite lovely, with the meandering trail twisting through the middle. It reminded me of the lake country in England, where I toured last summer with my students, or a bit further north, toward Scotland. I lived in that area for two years during my university career, and have a fondness for the wild, heathered fens of northern Britain. The only thing spoiling the picture was… the fact that we were still riding under the electrical towers.
At the 3.5 mile mark (literally, at the 2.5 mile mark, as the trail is marked from the other end), I turned around and headed back. I had spent half an hour riding that far, taking many pictures. To tell you how many, it took me a mere 17 minutes to ride the same distance back to my car. Another day, when I have more time, I definitely want to ride the whole of the trail, as it was one of the prettiest places I’ve ridden in this area.
At last, The Raleigh and I reached the hill we had come down earlier. There were no signs showing a bike unable to go up the same grade. Though, as you all know, The Raleigh is exceptionally brave and sturdy, we gave up half-way up and walked. I figure that pushing a 40lb bicycle up a hill is actually nearly the same amount of exercise as riding it up would be, and considerably less hard on the cranks. Actually, I’m pretty sure it would be against the laws of physics to ride this bike up that hill. With The Panasonic, it would just be the result of my wimpy legs, but with The Raleigh, there’s an air of literal impossibility.
Soon, new lowered gears, better braking and a lighter bike will make all sorts of things seem possible. But this hill will probably never be one of them. Still, Soos Creek trail… we like you! We like you a lot! Despite the skunk cabbages (did I mention that this makes me think of My Father’s Dragon?).