An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
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Monday, March 5, 2018

Changing course

As some readers may know, I put on two multi-surface bike rides each year (or three, as the second one is a two-day affair). They are now in their fifth and fourth iteration in 2018, respectively.

But, being the nature of out-in-the-real-boonies service roads (in some cases that's being generous), I find it necessary to recon the route before event day, in case there are last-minute changes needed due to washouts, major construction, or in some cases paths that have disappeared entirely.

Such was the case for the second leg of the Lucky Mashochist's Gravel Deuce, 2017. I ventured out two weeks prior to roll-out day to make sure the roads were clear enough to ride. I wasn't concerned with the first day route so much, since it's all on forest service roads in Capital Forest -- roads that get quite a bit of traffic most of the year from recreationalists of all types. But the second day route takes in logging areas and real back-woods. Each year the first off-pavement sector had been varying degrees of overgrown on the southern exit, and fairly recent logging meant that the northern entrance might be impassable. But this past summer the first sector was fine, it was the second sector that caused the problem. The last descent had caused wash-out ruts across the road, but was still passable (even though I took it on foot). This time around, as I made the descent, I noticed that the path was increasingly encroached-upon by small trees and such. And when I got to the bottom, I came to a screeching halt. What had been a wide trench, though dry, in 2016, had become a deep ravine, some 20 feet wide and a good 6 feet deep to the water, with a bottomless layer of silty mud underneath.

The impassable object.

I tested the depth with a couple rocks, and watched them disappear into the murky abyss. I looked around for any potential to build a quick bridge across the chasm, but since I had not thought to bring a chainsaw, aside from the fact that the resulting noise would have brought some unwanted attention, I ended up turning back the way I'd come. Which was about 6 of the 7 miles of that section. I looked for another branch off that road that might punch through, but alas, everything else just petered out to dead ends or vanished into impassable overgrowth.


Fortunately, there was a paved option that offered a nearly identical distance, so I remapped the route and vowed to look for another off-pavement option for 2018.

Sure, there are some options, which will have to be scouted out to make sure they (1) actually connect through, and (2) don't cross hostile private property. Yes, I will always ask permission on any private access, but sometimes the answer is clearly "no" before the question is even asked.

So I may be making a sojourn back to that muddy river to build a bridge some time this spring/early summer. But I'll come at it from the other end.

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