Bike Ramp


I was kidnaped the other day.

Okay so “kidnapped” is a little strong. Perhaps a better description would be that I was hijacked while working on a task.  Revelry suddenly swooped in and tugged playfully at my responsibility of tending to toilsome home improvement efforts. IMG_0447

I had been working at tearing out a rotting deck section that serves as the entry area to our lower door. As I piled up short sections of salvaged 2 x 6 boards that were still sound, I realized I had a place for them.

Across the river from us, on Native Settlement Land, is an old trail that runs atop the river bluff. It’s a sinuous footpath that runs for at least two miles. In the winter the path becomes a ski trail that requires snowshoeing to pack it down before you can get a decent stride that becomes a cross country ski trail in the winter. During snow-free months it has become a favorite single-track mountain bike trail. The trail is known by a few people and the only time I have ever seen anyone was a neighbor skiing there in the winter.

Two years ago, wildlife researchers, studying riparian wildlife movements along the river placed a game trail camera along the trail.The camera’s shutter is activated by a motion detector so as critters pass they unknowingly shoot self-portraits of themselves. Not only did the biologists get photos of us hiking by but they had images of bear, moose, fox, a lynx and porcupine. In the winter, we have seen caribou here as well. Obviously it’s a popular trail.

For three consecutive days last week I hopped on my silver bush pony, my Trek “twenty-niner” (29 inch wheels) and headed for the bluff trail. My daypack held a water bottle, a folding saw, a shears and bear spray. Every year trail maintenance is required as there is always a dead pine or spruce across the trail.Each day, I cut brush or sawed through prostrate tree trunks if their girth was not too great for my little saw. For bigger tree trunks, I cut small sections and stack them in a sloping manner up and over the tree creating a ramp. In mountain biking parlance these are known as “features.”

Some demanding mountain bike trails have features that are narrow, almost rickety bridges crossing creeks, ravines or through boulder fields. Sometimes features are literally ramps that launch the cyclist up and over obstacles. I stay clear of trails that feature  jumps that propel my bush pony airborne.

Two days ago I turned 63 years old and bike jumps, boulder hopping and so on are no longer part of my repertoire. I’m hoping for at least another 20 years of mountain biking.

I digress. But the idea of features is important because to get to the river bluff trail requires us to ride just over a mile on gravel roads. If I followed an old game trail along the river, I could cut more than three quarters of a mile while providing some fun trail riding right next to the river. But to do so would require building a couple of features.

So with a pile of scrap 2 x 6s strewn in the grass, an idea was hatched. In minutes, the deck project was forgotten and I was grabbing a saw, hammer and nails.

The primary feature was a ramp that angled from our elevated yard down to the riverside trail. It required two sections to complete the ramp of about sixteen feet. As I built it, I began to wonder if I would actually dare, or that matter, actually attempt to descent the ramp on my bike. And how about pedaling up the ramp? Would that be easier?

For an hour I cut, hammered, fit and adjusted the new scrappy highway.Tentatively, I shuffled onto the ramp and taking baby steps, eased down it. There was a noticeable sag in the span, so I added some structural rounds of firewood beneath the ramp to firm it up. It worked.

With the sun shining today, it would be a perfect day to christen the ramp with a bike ride but in the two days since the completion of the project, we have had lots of rain. And rain accelerates the snowmelt from the high country. And all that water funnels via  freshets and creeks into the Watson River as it passes our Outpost.

The Watson has risen higher than I have ever seen it. It is moving past at a scary clip. Every so often Nancy and I watch nervously as a tree or stump floats by. Our river deck is completely submerged and I don’t know if it can withstand this kind of constant pounding.

There is no longer any bike trail visible along the river and the surging water level is approaching my lumber scrap ramp. I will likely have to try and pull the two sections out before they become floating features.

In the meantime, my face bears worried features of concern as I impatiently await the passing of the river’s crest. Only then will I be able to contemplate getting back to work on resurrecting the bike trail and the ramp that stole me from chores.

Hmmmm. You know with a little adjustment, the ramp could turn into a kayak slide.

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