This year, though, I have probably ridden fewer miles than I have since I started riding my bike seriously in 1974. I had a big artistic project I wanted to get finished this summer, so that was my first priority. Furthermore, many of the summer weekends were wet, which discouraged me from riding. In any case, with winter looming (we had our first killing frost on Saturday morning, November 7), I decided to make the best of a nice, warm Indian Summer afternoon yesterday (Monday, November 9). I took the last two hours off work and went for a 16-mile ride in the county and city park downstream of my usual natural area.
In the county park, the county recently took possession of a portion of an abandoned rail line and converted it to a hiking/biking/equestrian trail. I've walked and enjoyed the trail a few times since it opened in June. The rail line crosses several ravines that drain from the uplands, under the railbed, and into the major creek on the other side that parallels the rail corridor. During the summer, the ravines were largely hidden from view, but with the fall of the leaves, I got a new perspective on the gems hidden in these glens. One of the gems was this nameless rill coursing over the gneissic bedrock. I think that this watercourse is intermittent, but the rainy autumn we've experienced lately has filled the drainage and produced this elfen-scale waterfall through the oak and beech woods.
Further downstream in the county park, Harper's Run, a perennial tributary of the main creek, flows from a largely suburbanized watershed. Fortunately, its last half-mile courses within the park and is exquisite.
From the county park, I followed the bike path downstream to the city park. The bike path there parallels the main creek down to its mouth; I followed the path for eight miles. At the two-mile mark, the path ascends a 60-foot hill (the floodplain is too narrow to accommodate the path). The view from the top, while partially obscured by the forest, is my favorite vista of the creek anywhere in the entire valley.
Near the seven mile mark, I noticed this wary Great Blue Heron fishing in the creek shallows. This scene is within one of the major East Coast cities. The image is not great--dusk was coming on and the bird was perhaps 100 feet from the bike path. However, I didn't want to spook it by getting closer.
At the end of the 8-mile ride--the turnaround or half-way point--dusk was truly coming on. Suddenly, I had the realization that I had parked my vehicle in the county park's parking lot, and that the county lot is locked at dark. Despite my fatigue, I rode like the wind to get back to the parking lot. Mine was one of only three cars in the lot, and the park ranger was waiting for us all. I explained to the ranger that I'd realized almost too late that I was parked in the lot that was locked at dark. He replied, "It's a good thing you rode as fast as you did!"
__*__That bike ride really did me in. I'm either getting old, out of shape, or worn out (or all three). Over the weekend, I raked leaves and carried at least 10 trash-can loads of packed leaves to the compost pile. I was sore on Monday morning, and then I compounded the problem by pushing myself hard on my bike. I'd better do more to try to stay in some sort of shape.