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 no less(!) a few summers ago.
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.
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). Honestly? 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.
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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Updated from October 7, 2009.