Out of Retirement

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September 27, 2017

Our motorcycles maybe thought we’d retired but no, the hiatus is over. My neighbor Tony and I pull out the bikes to spend a day riding narrow trails through evergreen Idaho mountains.

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Did he say this was his first ride of the year? At the end of September?! For shame.

Truth be told, my riding year has been much the same — anemic. We’ve blown off the dust, wiped away the cobwebs and hauled ourselves to Idaho City for a romp around the mountains.

Encroached
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Encroached
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Glittering autumn leaves crowd the narrow forest trails we follow away from the parking lot. It’s beautiful out today, though that doesn’t stop us from commiserating over batteries both dead from disuse. We get a day of kickstarting.

Here is a pro tip: in preparing to ride today, I finally figured out why my bike had started stuttering at the end of the last ride with my brothers. It acted like low fuel but I could see a couple inches of gas in the tank. It didn’t make sense. It turns out using halogen headlights with a low battery interrupts the fuel pump. Today I’ll keep the headlights off.

Duck
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Duck
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We wind around small hills on a tight network of criss-crossing trails. I’m surprised Tony remembers them all. Although I have a good sense of direction, I’d be hard pressed to retrace our tracks.

Needle bed
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Needle bed
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I grew up among evergreen forests in north Idaho. It feels like home among the trees — their smell, the sound of the breeze in their boughs, the way the sun filters through ...

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Strike a pose
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Strike a pose
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“This hill can be kind of rough,” Tony warns. “If we don’t make it then …” His voice seems to trail off, or maybe I just don’t care to hear the “don’t make it” part.

When Tony and I first rode, Jessica made him agree to get some pictures of me. Now I know what’s expected. I hand him the camera and try to strike a this-hill-won’t-stop-us pose.

Puffy
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Puffy
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The hill wasn’t bad — certainly not the hardest thing we’ve done today. Ridgetop trails afford beautiful views across forested hillocks to snow capped mountains where my brothers and I were riding, overheated, only weeks ago.

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Marked
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Marked
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“This is one of my favorite trails,” Tony says as we begin snaking down the side of a ridge into a draw. I quickly see why. Forest is thicker here; the soil richer, more tractable. The narrow trail weaves around trees, left, right, left. It’s too fun to stop for pictures.

Catching some breath
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Catching some breath
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What goes down must come up. From the bottom of the forest slalom run, we connect ATV trails to another bit of singletrack to climb back up. It’s a challenging run — steep with prominent tree roots in the most inconvenient places.

No sweat
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No sweat
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Once in the clear, we stop a few minutes to rest our arms. I don’t know about Tony but my forearms feel close to cramps.

Bog
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Bog
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Short Creek trailhead
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Short Creek trailhead
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Tony connects us across more ATV and forest roads to Short Creek Trail. I don’t know if this was his original plan. We talked earlier today about Short Creek being the last trail my brothers and I rode a few weeks ago when we camped along the North Fork of the Boise. I thought then we would continue on that trail but it had a long hill climb that looked infeasible with camping luggage and low gas.

“You guys were just over there,” Tony points. It looks like we’re going at it from the other side today.

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Instead of following Short Creek down to that hill climb along the North Fork, Tony leads us back the other way along more beautiful, ridge top trails.

Ridgeline
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Ridgeline
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This trail, this day … they make me want to hit the brakes every twenty yards for a photo, to step off and capture details in the leaves and bark. But Tony is already out of sight so I make do with a few quick snaps.

Distant mountains
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Distant mountains
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Among friends
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Among friends
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After several hours, we are both feeling our … lack of exercise. We agree we’re ready to loop back but we’re going to stick to tougher trails — preserve some of our pride.

Idaho City
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Idaho City
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The last trail Tony chooses is like getting back to the airport by jumping out of the airplane. It’s a long, steep drop straight back toward Idaho City.

Ren and Stimpy
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Ren and Stimpy
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Thanks for leading us on the sweet ride, Tony. It was a great mix of scenery and challenging and exhilarating bits. Now I need to rest.