Playing Chicken With the Local Wildlife

What was supposed to be a clear, dry, night tonight turned into a rainy, cold evening in a matter of minutes this afternoon. I was getting my gear ready to ride the 14 miles of trail to the meeting spot for tonight's group ride when I thought I better check to make sure it wasn't canceled. I had checked the website just 15 minutes prior to see who was coming, but in the time I spent filling my Camelbak and putting my iPod into a ziploc bag, Erik decided to pull the plug on tonight's ride.

What to do now?

I was already dressed to ride. I thought about changing my clothes and just riding the trainer instead -- I did just wash my mountain bike, after all. Nah! I'll just stay local. The rain made choosing which jacket and shoes to put on an easy decision and by ten minutes past five, I was out the door in the pissing rain ready to ride. I didn't know where I was going to go nor how long I would ride for. I just figured I would go until I felt like stopping and hope that I wasn't too far from home when that decision was made.

I hopped over to the Silent Creek trail and rode that to the Business Park trail and, from there, onto the wood-chip double-track leading downhill toward Snoqualmie Falls. I thought about hopping onto the SVT and riding over to Tokul West, but why would I do that? The singletrack will be a mud-bog. Hmmm... Well, there is that rocky singletrack near the falls, why not do some exploring? So that's what I did. I hopped onto the singletrack at the upper falls parking lot and tried to find a way over to the Snoqualmie Valley Trail. I know one exists, I just have to find it. Before I began riding though, I recalled Erik's email comment about momma bears and cubs and my memory flashed to an email I read recently about a cougar sighting in this area. Time to turn off the iPod -- I at least want to hear if something higher on the food-chain is coming after me!

I made a few left-hand turns hoping to avoid circling back to the brown gate near Tokul Road that mocked me on an earlier attempt at navigating this corner of woods. I emerged from the singletrack near an old BBQ pit on an abandoned forest road. "If I go left here, I should make my way over to the SVT. After all, I didn't ride in a circle." I rolled up on the brown gate two minutes later. What the...? Screw this. I turned the iPod back on and pedaled back up the three trails I rode earlier.

As I neared the end of Silent Creek, I felt my ride coming to a close but I didn't want it to end. I don't know if it's because I know that I'm going to be attempting to solo my first 24-hour race exactly 2 months from today, or maybe it's just that it doesn't seem worth it to ride for less than two hours anymore, but I wanted more. And I definitely wanted more climbing. So I decided to drop into the Deep Creek trail, ride down the Preston-Snoqualmie trail to the switchbacks and get some climbing in.

The Deep Creek trail is a bit scary. It drops off the backside of our development into a beautifully lush forest home to a number of wildlife that likely used to live where my house is now. I envision these animals as angry. And I just know that one of these days there's going to be a cougar "incident" with a jogger or biker. One friend I have in the neighborhood refuses to ride this trail alone. And he's from South Dakota, a red state! And he drives a huge truck! Guys in big trucks from the Dakotas aren't afraid of anything. If he says not to go down there, there ought to be a reason, right? I've ridden this trail a dozen or so times now and never had any problems, but it was dusk. Would I be OK returning in the dark? I have my lights with me, but that will only help me see the whites of the maneater's eyes as he chomps down on my jugular.

These were the thoughts running through my head as I descended into the no-go zone. I was trying to sing along with The Beastie Boys as "Time to Get Ill" blared through my headphones, but my mind kept drifting back to large felines. And protective bear parents.

Just as I was braking for the first really tight left-hand switchback, a large female deer came walking around the blind-corner toward me. She wasn't more than 10 feet from me, well within Sergio Garcia's spitting range, when I first spotted her. The instant I saw the beige coat, I immediately thought... Well, you can probably guess what my thought was. Fortunately, at that range there is no mistaking a deer for a cougar and the urge to piss myself only lasted 1/10 of a second. A funny thing about this deer though; she wouldn't back away. She just stood there staring at me. She looked over her shoulder, looked at me, and then gave me a look that said, "Are you going to get out of my way, or what?"

I eased off the brakes and slowly rolled toward her and finally, when about 5 feet from her, she turned around and walked ever so slowly down the trail with me literally on her tail. This annoyed her and she took a big hop into the hillside and turned around to stare at me. Actually, correct that, she glared at me. How dare I make her get off the trail! I stopped my bike and stared back. I was almost close enough to hand feed her a Cliff Blok, but thought better of it. After all, I still may need to bribe a cougar with them later on. I finally got tired of playing Don't Blink with the local wildlife after a lengthy thirty-second stare-down and continued on my way. By now the rain was coming down pretty hard and Pete Townshend's "Let My Love Open the Door" began playing on the iPod. Great song. I bombed down the rest of the trail, did an out and back on the very slick switchbacks near Raging River -- cleaned every one of them and the exit trail without dabbing, thank you very much -- and worked my way back up Deep Creek to home.

Tonight's ride may have been canceled on account of the weather, but I didn't let that stop me. I got to ride 20 miles of trail, climb 1500 feet, and meet one very precocious deer, all without really leaving my neighborhood. I finally realize why they call this place a "master planned community". I'm not leaving.


Maarten said...

Say, uhm, don't you have a GPS on your bike? Or do you leave that home when it rains? :)

Doug Walsh said...

I have it on my bike, but it's not a mapping GPS. It only tells you where you've been, not where you're trying to go.