Two-Wheeled Descent

Mammothsign

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One of my more vivid childhood memories involves my pre-teen self catapulting over the handlebars of my dad’s bike onto a gravel-specked downhill curve the afternoon before my first day at a new school. Nice, huh? Nevertheless, a friend talked me into mountain biking down an actual mountain a few summers ago.

shuttle

We were in the right spot. Mammoth Lakes, California is a year-round destination for outdoor enthusiasts of every variety. The Eastern Sierra mountains cradle the quaint ski resort which is bordered by both the Ansel Adams and the John Muir National Wilderness areas. The snow-covered uppermost trails were still inaccessible, but a shuttle took us to the halfway point and the start of our descent.

trailhead

I kept a firm hand on the brake as we hit the Downtown trail. Boulders, tree roots and tight sandy turns kept me balanced to the back with every available reflex at alert (I’m missing a couple of key agility components).

trail

Confession: I was terrified. But, the beauty of the forest and distant mountains against the bluest sky and the enthusiasm of my friend were encouragement enough to stretch myself just a little more.

trail surface

Once I’d conquered a couple of sandy turns without plunging over the side, I felt brave enough to roll over the obstacles. Not all of them. Not yet… I inched around a couple heart-thumpers thinking “next time.”

The ride was a terrific work-out. When we finally bounced back onto the road into town some two hours later, completely exhilarated, my whole being did a slow exhale. I’d rolled over my fears and been blessed with an intense sensory experience to forever mark the moment.
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14 Comments to Two-Wheeled Descent

  1. Great Story with a nice ending. Mammoth Lakes has really grown up. I think the addition of the villiage and a few other properties has really given the area some needed charm. It’s a nicely kept secret for skiing. Not a bad drive from LA. It’s nice to hear that the summer activities are gaining popularity as well. Did you feed the bears? I hope not – 🙂 I usually stop on the way home to buy a jar of honey and jerkey. It always makes me think of Yogi the Bear.

  2. Jane v. hudnell

    You are such a good writer. I also, love the outdoors.
    Quite a lot of your travels, I also experienced.
    One of my favortie places, is Inverness, CA. And, Pt. Reyes Station which is close by.
    There is another place that is unique, called Grant Park.
    Just up in the mountains,above San Jose. There is lots to do, I go for the wild life. Wild pigs!!!!!
    And, certain times of the year, there is a Star Gazing Party. I just happedned to be camping, when a car drove by and asked me to join them that night.
    Being so close to Hollywood, as my home. I thought , the kind of “Star”, they were talking about, was a bunch of actors, putting on a show. I found out, at night-fall they meant galaxies and the planets. I learned so much from all the Star Gazers. I witnessed first hand. Home made telescopes,computer attached directories, and another galaxy, that was beyond ours. Very Cool. I cried when I saw the Gates Of Heaven. And, had the best time with these amazing star gazers. Enjoy reading your adventures!! Jane

  3. Such a nice experience. When I see the bikers dashing downhill on my hiking trail, I feel so excited, but is dangerous as well.

  4. I had the same reaction as the others. It’s one thing to say “I was really scared”, but much more work is involved in making the reader feel the experience.

  5. The first memory I have of time seeming to slow down was when I went over the handlebars on my bike. I was about 10 and as I went through the air I thought, “I’m going to make the yard.”

    I didn’t, and left a bit of knee skin on the sidewalk.

  6. That’s deservedly the experience which anybody can never forget. That’s a part of the fortune of the life too. 😛

  7. What an inspiring bike ride! I love riding through gorgeous settings. It makes me want to get my bike out now, only its freezing in Chicago!

  8. Bring Back Pluto

    I’m getting nervous just reading this. Not sure if I’m up for extreme mountain biking, but it does sound pretty cool.

    Anything involving going over a cliff loses its appeal pretty quickly. 🙂

  9. Adelightful journey, Heather. One has to be fit to ride them.

    900th post on my Journal.

  10. I love mountain biking, always wanted to ride around Mammoth in my youth. I should fish my bike out from the cobwebs and see if it still runs. Thanks for the inspiration (well the idea at least).

  11. Thanks Intrepid! Mammoth Lakes was certainly quieter in a summer month, but that was kind of nice. We still found live music outdoors one night. And “yes” on the jerky; kind of goes with hiking and the outdoors, doesn’t it?
     
    Many thanks Jane! Your Hollywood experience is a great memory. ~Love the wild pigs (javelinas?), but the natives generally don’t, I’ve found. They can be a little destructive, I guess.
     
    Rainfield: I didn’t exactly “dash”, but it was a lot of fun. ~Sounds like you have to be ready to jump out of the way!
     
    Thanks Doug. With all that adrenaline, the details sunk in pretty well.
     

  12. Delmer: ~Especially hard after you got your hopes up! I had that “time standing still” thing when bucked off a horse once. It’s not so good to have all that time to anticipate your landing.
     
    iWalk: Indeed, it is. I think I’ll always remember the “rush” (and hopefully, do it again!).
     
    Fly Girl: Chicago in the winter is not for the faint of heart, is it?
     
    Bring Back Pluto: This would be an entirely different story had I not made those turns! I expect I’ll be a little more confident next time, though.
     
    Jean-Luc: It worked out the whole body -you need most every muscle to stay balanced (especially me!).
     
    Cate: You should! The intensity is like nothing else I’ve experienced.

  13. @ExploreEsplorar

    Thank you for sharing. My muscles tense feeling every bump, twist and turn as I read about your amazing bike ride.

  14. Thanks @ExploreEsplorar! I think we all need those mental/physical stretches to keep everything moving forward in life. I generally run faster up a hill than down, so that downhill ride was quite the test for me!

    I was pleased to see some common travel interests in your Twitter timeline! I’m following you now ; )

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