The Muggy Trail (Day Thirty-Nine)
Maybe it was the trail itself – the fact that it is set in the woods and that there is no motorized traffic or storefronts. Maybe it’s that the trail, because of these things, imposes solitude on its riders, and with it, an appreciation for simplicity. Whatever the reason, it led me to some ponderings on Day Thirty-Nine. Here’s what I came up with: I am certain that the best things in life are simple things, if they’re things at all. They are moments of appreciation of sunshine, time spent with loved ones, the sound of rushing water and a public park bench that’s worn and has seen seasons and with it the triumph of the human condition. I wondered on Day Thirty-Nine how and why it seems that sometimes I’ve worked so hard to make my life as complicated as possible. Again, maybe it’s just this trail! Thanks for indulging another episode of ‘Deep Thoughts with Matt Sauri’.
It’s amazing what a day of rest can do for the human body. The only remaining evidence of my accident is a deep bruise on my thigh; my neck and the rest of me is back to fightin’ shape. Even the thigh is back to being functional without nagging pain. It’ll just look funny if we ever get a chance to don our ‘Turbo-Speedos’. Kevin is doing better as well, though I’m pretty sure that Kevin’s shoulder is still sore. But that’s because, as he put it, “Matty flew further in his wreck, but I went down harder’. That’s true on both counts; he took a huge digger and landed all of his weight on the one shoulder. Plus, he’s sort of a soft.
So, with a heat index of 112 degrees (100 degrees but 77% humidity) and both of us feeling relatively rested, we set out for the Katy Trail. The trail is a roughly 250-mile stretch of crushed Limestone trail on what was, at one time, a section of railway. The tracks had been lifted in 1991, and the trail is maintained for pedestrians, cyclists and equestrian riders. The trail goes through some open stretches, but most of what we saw on Thirty-Nine was a wide track that went through a forest that was very, very alive and vibrant. The layout is that the path is raised above the landscape on both sides, as would be typical for a train-track. Deep ravines and small inlets collect light that filters through the trees, and the views couldn’t be in greater contrast to the plains and prairies we’d crossed just days ago. While it’s true that many stretches of the trail look similar to other stretches, they’re all unique due to the wildlife that inhabits them and the lives that their trees lead. At many points there was a canopy-like effect, and there weren’t as many trunks as vines. It was very rich with life always, as the sounds of birds and critters were everywhere.
The trail was good to us; it was solid and there were no wipeouts, though I got a flat at around mile 75, with only four miles left to go. It can be a little mentally draining, though, as there are lots of crabapples, sticks, rocks and other debris in the road, which makes for a great variety of obstacles. It would be easy to meet with a giant wipeout back there, and I almost ran over a turtle which would have spelled disaster. On top of that (literally) it’s a pretty rough ride when you consider all of these things put together. Hopefully we’re too banged up after the fourth day in a row of riding the Katy Trail.
We saw some amazing wildlife; snakes, turtles and lizards were representing the reptilian continent. Birds were everywhere, flying in and out of small perches, ducking down into creeks for insects and hanging out right on the trail, unflinching as we rode past. Two notable bird sightings were 1) we saw a huge turkey take flight, causing a stir through the thick foliage. It reminded me of a time when three of us – Tim and Stew were who I was with – were called Turkeys at The Puyallup State Fair. But, that’s a different story. 2) The other notable sighting happened as we were cruising along and a gi-normous bird of prey took off from a branch around 50 yards ahead of us. She headed our way, right over our heads and Kevin was the first to see her. It’s been great to notice Kevin looking for these things more and more, and appreciating them when he sees them. I gotta believe that it’s good for him to do this. And…this bird was something to appreciate, let me tell you. This beauty is now solely in first place as far as the biggest bird we’ve seen. The shadow of this thing was bigger than our bikes. I haven’t had time to look up what kind of bird she was, but I’ll never forget her markings and will get to it soon enough.
It’s a toss up as to which land mammal was more amazing, though Kevin would probably answer that the porcupine race was more exciting. Yes, a prickly little fella tried to cross the track while Kevin was going around 20MPH (that’s very fast for a trail like this, BTW) and they had to dodge each other. Thing is, the ‘Pine, instead of cutting behind Kevin or just going back the way he came, chose to beat Kevin to a spot further down the trail and cut in front of him. He did, and I had no idea that they could scoot that fast! The flying squirrel was amazing as well.
So, a reflective day for sure. We took 79 miles of crushed limestone and crushed it some more. This whole week will be on the Katy, and we’ll be doing plenty of preparation for the opportunities that await us in St. Louis. Once there, we have work to do, and things much more complex, and less simple, than outrunning porcupines.
For the Families of the Fallen…To the Limit.
Care Creates Community,