When the icy winds blow across the flat suburban landscape, and gray clouds mass overhead like lumpy oatmeal, this is the time to see nature at its rawest and at its rarest.
Few people go out on the Salt Creek Bicycle Trail in the wintertime. Why? Well, it’s just too cold, and sometimes there’s that darn snow to worry about. Better to stay at home and keep warm. But who says you have to? Why not take on the challenge of the season, and see what the world is like, outside of plowed streets and slushy sidewalks?
Yes, you can walk or ride the bike trail in winter. It has been done. People have survived the experience. Think of it as an adventure. When was the last time you went out on an adventure?
You’re probably asking, “Why on earth would anybody want to go out on the bike trail and face the freezing cold, when they don’t have to? What is there to see?”
A fair enough question. During winter, the bike trail takes on a whole new look, especially after a light snow falls. Have you ever experienced the awesome thrill of walking or riding the trail a little after dusk, the trail’s closing time, when the full moon is casting mystic, frozen shadows between the stark, black outlines of leafless trees, onto a wide, never-ending blanket of pure white snow? The reflecting moon shines down an almost unearthly brightness, both soft and yet dazzling.
The best way to start off on this adventure is, if you’re riding, to use an old “beater” type of bike, not one so new and shiny that you’ll shudder at a little snow or mud getting on it. An older one, with decently-treaded tires, would be much better, especially for riding on an inch of snow or less.
The best kind of a bike to use is a mountain bike, as its special tires are able to grip even the slipperiest surfaces more firmly than regular tires. In any case, make sure the tread’s adequate.
A dry trail surface is always best, but this can be the exception rather than the rule in the winter. If the trail turns out to be too icy, cancel your trip until some warm days melt the ice. Don’t take chances with ice.
Sure, as usual, oil your bike up, no problem. Check those brakes, and pump up those tires. Take a thermos bottle full of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate. Remember, you’re going out onto a deserted trail where, if something happens, you can keep yourself warm until help arrives. Take a cellphone along, if you like.
If you’re setting off from the parking lots at the groves, be warned that they are not always plowed. You may be on your own when looking for a streetside parking space.
Although dusktime traveling does have its charms, daytime traveling is best. You can scan the trail ahead of you, and see much that you might easily miss at night, such as animal tracks. Day or night, you may spot herds of deer foraging for food and crossing the trail right in front of you. Don’t disturb them. After all, you wouldn’t want to be bothered while you were hungry and looking for food, would you?
If you crave natural quiet, the trail in winter is just the thing for you. You may seem to have the whole trail all to yourself at during the day and at dusk.
Ah, at night, the trail becomes a whole different world. As you travel, you can hear in the distance strange, unfamiliar animal noises; sounds of fight and fury, perhaps over food and shelter. Do not approach the area where these sounds come from, and do not linger. You are now in the wildness of the wilderness, although, not so very far away, modern civilization still exists.
Once you have finished your winter travels on the bike trail, you can captivate and enthrall your friends and family with all your many adventures. You are now one of the few, brave, stout-hearted souls who have dared to see a part of the world in all its rare, natural glory.