I wouldn't want to give people the impression that I give up on riding entirely once the mercury dips below the freezing mark. There are some notable exceptions. My skiing season is interspersed with occasional cross-county desert and dune riding. A few mid-winter rides in the Mattiwa and Vantage areas have become expected. I was even coaxed into riding in a blinding snow storm last year. That was a trip!
One ride that persists in my memory occurred just over a year ago in November. It was the last trail ride of the season with the temperature hovering right around the freezing mark. My friend Bob and I trailered our bikes to the Sand Creek campground, just off of the Mission Creek road. Fall had firmly set upon the forest and the ground was covered with broad leaves and a sprinkling of pine needles. We had recently received our usual fall rains, turning the soil just a bit muddy. Snow blanketed the higher elevations so we thought we would sneak in one more ride on the Red Devil trail. This trail runs from Sand Creek to very near the Devil's Gulch trailhead. Rather than climbing up and over the mountain as The Red Hill trail does, it stays relatively low, traversing the face of the hills near Mission Creek. Trail riding requires just enough body english to generate a little extra heat, coupled with lower speeds and less wind chill. The crisp fall air was invigorating and altogether quite pleasant. Red Devil is not a difficult trail but one must pay attention. The focus is on the terrain ahead with an occasional glance to the side to enjoy the surroundings. The trail itself was beautiful that day. The mud had stiffened in the cold and little rain puddles had frozen over. The thin ice cracked under our tires and our knobbies bit into the rich, brown earth. Traction was abundant, with just enough squirm to communicate the interplay between lateral forces and soil cohesion back to the rider. Shaded areas were coated with pure white crystalline frost. We could hear our tires on the trail even over the putt of our motors. I couldn't help but think that my fiends who commute to Arizona at the first of November had left too soon. This day was as lovely as any in the simmering warmth of summer. When we arrived back at Sand Creek I told Bob that this had been one of the five best rides of my entire life. Surely it was so as it lingers in memory so sweetly now.