Sunday, August 07, 2005

An Occurrence at Braley Pond

Beneline is pure mountain biker who probably owns a road bike only because she lives in Hampton Roads where there are limited off road opportunities. We have raced against each other lots and been on 24-hour teams together back in the days we could handle sleep deprivation. Her dream as long as I have known her is to live in the mountains. All the usual props stand in the way, but I have no doubt she and Donald will do the whole house and land thing out there eventually.

We drove to Braley Pond out past Staunton, VA for a day trip last week. We planned to ride a portion of the Shenandoah 100, a very difficult 100-mile mountain bike race she is doing Labor Day weekend. She heard Braley Pond trails connect with some trails further west so our goal was to figure out the loop. We first climbed up a road mountain pass on Rt. 250 as warm up. It had that Continental Divide feel at the top and sure enough the map indicates that we were straddling 2 counties. I read something about Stonewall Jackson up there but don’t remember what it said. The trick was to find the correct trails up there that linked to the Braley trails down below. We spent time trying out different trails, backtracking, etc. The map showed the several options, but avoiding the junky ones and avoiding trailblazing was the key. Enjoyable just getting to know the region.

It was hot hot. At one point I stuck my head in the river as Beneline took pictures. I hate to bring up Deliverance but how can you be near a river and not think of it? Especially during those times we trudged along the creek bed trail, knocking away brush with our guts just saying we were on the wrong path. It is times like those the woods feel evil, when the hot sun pours in exposing the terrain’s imperfections and encroaching poison ivy. We finally reasoned that the low trails were not feeling right, so we climbed back up to find higher, cooler, better crafted ridge trails that traveled in the same direction. These turned out to be the correct connecting trails we sought. When it’s wrong you can reason that it’s right but when it’s right the reason to reason is gone.

Funny that the flies were awful when we were off course but on the correct trails they were not bad. Speaking of insects we were just riding along and Beneline stopped abruptly shaking her head like crazy and pretty much flipping out. She hollered a bee was in her ear. I looked and saw no bee and realized she meant IN her ear. It was lodged inside turning flips against her eardrum. She beat her head sideways, blond ponytail in an uproar.

I thought about suction options in the woods and assessed there were none, so I grabbed a water bottle to squirt water inside to at least make me feel useful. She stopped me and screamed, “I think he’s coming out” and for 5 silent seconds we froze. We were up high, so there was none of the lower sounds of creek side birds or tree frogs. I studied her white ear and out crawled a brown bug about the size of a lightning bug. We died laughing. It was the best drive home story for everyone we called. Apparently we now need to rewatch Wrath of Khan for a more sinister account of insects in ears.

Whenever Beneline was up front on the downhills, she constantly shouted into the air to ward off bears. Seems the local talk is that some guy Mike hit a black bear as he was screaming down the Braley Pond downhill on his bike just last month. I inquired how hurt was Mike, what did the bear do, how was the bike, but these details were not known. I was suspect of the story and filed it under folklore even though Beneline’s 3rd hand source was very reliable. She was caught up in the theory that this bear (certainly a mama bear protecting cubs) was mad about the hit and was lingering around the same trail just waiting for a mountain biker to come back through. She has been reading Between a Rock and a Hard Place which explains a lot.

I figured the odds were so incredibly slim of such an event happening twice that I secretly welcomed it. She made me vow to “stay together” if we encountered a bear but I argued that if we separated it would be better since the bear could only follow one of us. She was quiet after that which made me realize this very experienced mt biker was honestly concerned. “Yeah, we stay together B-line,” I promised and then I went on still kinda hoping to see one.


Anonymous said...

OK Liz, that was too funny.

Anonymous said...

My sister's great isn't she???