Tuesday, March 19, 2013


It is really amazing how very simple things in like can be so gratifying, bringing one a great deal of satisfaction. I was reminded yesterday how the simple act of draining a water puddle in the woods by clearing the debris choking the downstream flow, is just such an event.

I suspect this is some inherent, primal urge that humans share with beavers, the incessant need to control and modify nature. For the beaver of course, that all consuming urge to hold back the water and create a landscape that suits their needs serves an important purpose. They are creating a habitat for themselves and their little beaver families. Humans share this urge to modify nature and build a habitat that suits their ever growing desire for, more. Nature says go forth and propagate and spread your species. Nature also says find harmony or I will find it for you. Like the beaver, if left unchecked they will utterly decimate the landscape paying no heed to the future. It was man's want and need for fur that checked the native beaver population and in turn, took much of the northern frontier from the watery realm of the beaver. There is always a stronger guy out there.

Anyhow, back to puddles. Yesterday I was out in search of dirt on my new Cannondale Scalpel 1 29er full suspension MTB of doom. Though I have had the bike since Christmas, I had not had a chance to actually ride it on dirt yet. Knowing that the latest in a long string of Snowmageddon storms was on it's way, I decided to make haste for the woods. I'd noted that the railroad bed was mostly clear from what I could see in passing so had hopes of finding some respectable trail. I was delighted to find the railroad bed almost completely clear and fairly dry save for the normal sections of swamp. That said, when I hit those sections I had no taste for mud and thus, turned back. It was also way colder than I'd though so I booted home for more clothes and a couple of quick adjustments to the bike. More air in the rear shock and raise the saddle a bit.

I then made tracks for the PR, out though the cemetery. The last time we tried riding there was a couple of weeks back. Conditions were virtually impassible with way too much mashed-potato snow in the woods. This made for an absolutely miserable ride, especially given that we were on the SS MTB's which were way over geared for that type of stuff. The conditions behind the cemetery were pretty good in general so a made a nice slow loop through heading for the PR.

At the trail-head I could see snow but it didn't look all that bad. I was soon greeted by leaves and dirt and fairly dry ground. The conditions remained mostly dry as I rode around save a few short patches of remaining snow and the standard muddy spring runoff in a few choice locations. All in all, a great ride. I spent a couple of hours in the woods just easily looping around and enjoying the time that I had. Cathy even joined me later on for a quick loop before dark set in and we got hit by the impending storm. One more seat adjustment was needed as the post was slipping a bit and air was required for the front tire. The post just needs some carbon paste but the tire is annoying. The brand new Schwalbe Racing Ralph's seem to have QC problems with the casings if run tubeless. The problem is that the sidewalls leak, which happened on both the front and rear when I set them up tubeless. I thought I had it plugged with sealant by laying the wheel on the side so the sealant puddles but had another issue yesterday. I hope the darn things hold.

During the ride I came up to one section of trail that perpetually has standing water. The problem is that the section is fairly flat and the runoff for the section is a fairly shallow grade. It also chokes with maple leaves and other debris. The fix for this is easy and brings great satisfaction at least to me if not everyone.

I recall the old days of trail work in the Fells, literally 20 years ago. Back then the relationship between us cyclists as NEMBA vs. the MDC was, strained. Actually, I guess that hasn't really changed though the MDC was consolidated and is now the MA DOC. Basically all that they would let us do was to clear blow-downs, close braids and drain puddles. We would often start the Saturday AM work day by draining puddles on various trails. Good fun. I look fondly back on those days and the good folks I met like CH, Phillip S., Wick, Rich, Miller, Bob and Bob, Mason, Bugbee, Anita and Scott, Tom and Reenie and tons of others. Unfortunately many of those puddles drained and we lost contact with, as lives cascaded forward. I do still see a few now and then though.

So yesterday's work was simple, take a stick to use as a rake and clear the debris from the outflow, letting the big puddle drain naturally down-slope to the brook. I'd done it many times before on that very puddle. It was quick and easy and brought a smile to my face as I watched the water surge forward from the puddle and out away. I was temporarily transported back to the numerous times where I'd done this very same thing as a kid. Dam it up or let it out, it was all about control of hydraulic dynamics.

I suspect that it is good to take the time for these small things, the things that evoke fond memories. We don't seem to have enough of that these days. If nothing else, were folks to take the time to drain the puddles on the trails, the trails would be a whole lot drier, upstream anyhow if not down.

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