Downieville 8/10

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Sunrise has long passed, but we stand astride our bikes at the Sunrise trailhead atop Packer Saddle in the high Sierra. 

We are more 7000 feet above sea level, and our destination, the mountain-bike infested town of Downieville, lies just below 3000.

Has everyone got their food?  Sandwich, chips, apple?  Water? Check your tire pressure before we get on our way, and be wary of pinch flats.  Be careful, this one has a tendency to make taco shells out of wheels and mincemeat of limbs.

We are about to drop a little bit less than one mile in altitude over the course of 15 miles of singletrack.  The trail is just wide enough for one rider—passing is virtually impossible, but luckily, uphill riders are few and far between. 

The coming hours and minutes will offer plenty of rock gardens, cold creek crossings, short but grueling climbs, long sections of fast, smooth downhill, and uncountable gulps, yelps, hoots, and hollers.  Some will be caused by fear, surprise, and doubt, but many more will be the products of intense thrill, joy, and sheer fun.

Though the trail challenges mountain bikers—even those at the highest tiers of athleticism and skill—everyone rides into town with a smile from ear to ear. 

They may be too tired to go for a jog or hop up a few steps, but they will already be asking about the next ride:  “is it more fun? Longer? Steeper? Rockier?”  They hunger for the challenge, as they do hunger for dinner.  It’ll taste better for them than for any other campers, and rightfully so— they deserve it.

They’ll go to bed tired but satisfied with their accomplishments for the day.  Tomorrow is their day off.  They’ll sign up for the King Swing, PFT (pool fun times), volleyball, arts and crafts, or perhaps another bike ride. Many of the riders struggle to feed the addiction that is mountain biking, and many succeed. 

One of the best things about mountain biking is that no amount of riding can build a tolerance: no matter how many times I ride a trail, I still enjoy it as much as I did the first time.  Perhaps I’ll enjoy it even more once I learn the ins and outs of a trail — I might ride it faster, smoother, stronger; some days I might ride it with less style, speed, and efficiency. 

Though I may not know how exactly I will ride a trail before I drop in, I will know one thing: that I will ride it.