So I’m cruising through the forum of my local mountain bike club, NTMBA and I run across this thread that my friend John Piper has started up. I don’t really understand it at first because he’s talking about everyone writing an essay remembering what it was like to ride singletrack, the winner receives a 6 pack of his or her choice. Huh? Remember what it was like? I don’t understand I mutter to myself, as I read on and see folks discussing the weather and trail conditions and their lack of riding I become even more confused. It’s like everyone is upset that we’re experiencing bad weather and no one is able to get out and ride their bike. Shaking my head in disgust about the whining going on I decide to throw my hat into the ring and submit an essay. This shouldn’t be too hard as I have been riding quite a bit recently, the trails are in great shape and we’ve had a decently mild winter. As I ponder about my last trip to the trails I realize it was really just a normal ride nothing worthy of winning the 6 pack of your choice so I decide why not hit the trail now and see if I can come up with something good to write. Some of my most creative moments come to me in the woods. I’ve needed to get out and try my new LED headlamp Melinda bought me for Christmas anyway.
I called around to several of my friends to see if anyone wanted to hook up and squeeze in a night ride but oddly no one answered their phone. I’ll admit I really don’t like riding alone in the dark, I guess you could say I’m a bit of a chicken. I waited around the house for as long as possible and when I realized that no one was going to return my call I decided to load up my two loyal companions Moonshine & Jackson and hit the trails. I can always count on these two to accompany me on a ride no matter what the conditions.
Except for the lack of daylight the weather was perfect for riding, I even drove to the trailhead with the windows down, enjoying the warm fresh air so unusual for this time of year.
I unloaded the bikes and wasted no time in the parking lot, I wasn’t sure how much the dogs were up for so we headed into the woods starting with Darwin’s Revenge since there is a good water stop half way for the dogs. As we cruised through the tight and twisting singletrack I was in heaven, it was almost dreamlike how smooth the trail felt underneath my measly 80mm of travel. I felt like I could ride over everything and no matter where I pointed my bike it felt as if the Mamasita was just floating over it. Downed trees, rocks, nothing stood in my way as we cruised along. I realized after a few hundred yards that I was going way too fast and had probably left the dogs behind. I hit the brakes, unclipped and turned around only to find both dogs staring right at me with a funny look as if to say “keep going and pick up the pace old man”. Normally they both would be way behind and panting heavily but tonight they were both full of energy and ready to keep going. What was really weird was I felt great too, not the least bit fatigued. As I looked around checking out the quality of my new light I noticed something very odd, almost scary. I was almost near the end of the first trail. What the heck happened to the lake where we always stop for a water break? I must have passed it and didn’t even realize it. This was very strange, but we were all feeling good, so I pointed the Mamasita in the direction of Boneyard and kept pedaling.
We continued on for a couple more miles at a pace the dogs haven’t be able to run in years. What a perfect night I thought! The moon was so bright I even pondered trying to ride without my light. I wish I could feel this good every time I rode, if that were the case I would be standing on the podium at every race. Could the new diet and exercise routine I’ve been trying really be that beneficial? I kept glancing back every so often to make sure the ridiculous pace I was keeping wasn’t too much for my four legged friends but there they were almost biting my rear tire. Before I knew it we had once again finished the trail, this time without stopping, I hit the brakes to pinch myself once we entered the powerline clearing to make sure I wasn’t dreaming when I noticed something very odd. As I came to a stop I could see several sets of eyes glowing as the light from my headlamp reflected off them. As I counted them I realized this was my very first encounter with coyotes at Warrior’s Path, I knew they were here but I have never actually seen them. Now I was seeing them for the first time and I was surprised to see so many. They were much larger than I expected them to be. I couldn’t believe it but several of them appeared to be at least waist high. As I stood there staring at them, staring back at me, I felt a bit nervous, for obvious reasons, but I have always heard they are more scared of humans than we are of them. While we stood our ground each pack staring the other down I noticed the clouds had rolled in blocking out the moonlight making it quite a bit darker than before and also somewhat colder. I decided to hang a left and keep going towards Rock City rather than short cut back since the pack was standing in the trail between us and the car. As the dogs and I started up the hill I heard the most awful blood curdling series of screams coming from the direction of the coyotes. I turned around to see the entire pack racing after us through the field. Oh crap! What now? This can’t be good. The dogs and I entered the woods via Rock City and it felt as if all my riding skills had instantly left my body, everything was in slow motion well except for the pack of coyotes coming up fast behind us as if we looked like a couple of wounded deer. The harder I rode the worse I rode; I was bouncing off of trees and rocks as if I had downed a 12 pack of beer prior to the ride. I glanced back again to see if we had put any distance on the pack but we hadn’t and in fact they were within a few yards of us. I knew I had to stop and stand my ground before they ran us down. I hit the brakes, jumped off my bike, and swung the Mamasita around to use as some sort of barrier. The pack stopped 20 feet shy of us. Just when things couldn’t get any worse my light started to flicker. Great, now what?
As I tried to get Moonshine and Jackson behind me a very odd thing happened. Normally Jackson the biggest chicken to ever walk the trail let out a growl, that I would have sworn could only have come from a lion. I looked at him in disbelief as he was bearing all of his teeth and inching toward the wild pack. Moonshine a fighter at heart, wasn’t about to be shown up and followed suit. I told them I respected their bravery but we were greatly out numbered and now was not the time to pick a fight with a bunch of hungry and larger than normal coyotes. Before I could grab either dog by the collar they both took off in a dead sprint toward the pack as if they were nothing but a herd of mangy cats taunting them through the back door glass. I tried to focus in on the chaos but everything was happening so quickly it was hard to make out the difference between a domestic dog and a wild one. I have never seen Jackson start a fight but tonight I would have swore he was possessed by a demon. I tried to adjust my headlamp and make my way toward the chaos thinking I could be of some assistance to my brave K-9’s. If Muhammad Ali could have seen them he would have been proud, I saw coyotes being slammed into the ground left and right, but with so many I wasn't sure if I was going to make it out with my dogs in one piece. I began swinging my 29er fiercely like a battle axe knocking coyotes down one by one. I think if Alan was there he would have been impressed and definitely jumped back on the big wheel band wagon.
Even though the dogs and I proved to be a bit stronger than the coyotes there were just too many of them and eventually we were surrounded. I tried swinging my bike in a circular motion as the group around us got tighter and tighter.
All at once two of the larger coyotes jumped on me from behind causing me to stumble and drop my bike. What was left of my headlamp did me no good as I fell head first over what seemed to be a small drop off hitting my head hard on something large and wooden on the way down. I don’t really remember hitting the ground but I must have been knocked out and as I came to I noticed the ground under me felt really odd, nothing like the sticks and leaves of a forest floor but more like a really weird moss that almost resembled carpet. I didn’t hear anything at first and my first thought was my hearing was damaged in the fall. I reached up to my head to see if I could get my light to work only to find that my helmet had come off. It must have gotten knocked during the fall but I couldn’t remember. I started flailing about trying to get up but I couldn’t see a thing and my surroundings felt extremely odd to me when all of the sudden a bright light came on directly overhead blinding me instantly. “Greg? What the heck is going on?” I hear coming from above me. Just when I think I’m losing it or dead I see a figure come into the light with long hair. Am I dead and is this Jesus? As my eyes readjust I realize that it’s not Jesus, it’s Melinda. “What are you doing on the floor” she asks me, “and what were you screaming about?” All of the sudden I realize I’m not in heaven, I’m not at the trails, I’m not with my dogs fighting a group of coyotes, heck I’m not even outside. I’m lying on the floor of my bedroom thrashing around in my boxers. I look around in relief to see both dogs awake but lying on their beds thinking I’ve really lost it and Melinda staring at me like I’m some kind of idiot.
As I climb back into bed I realize it was all a crazy dream and the weather has indeed been too bad to ride. I think to myself “Have I really been off the bike so long that my brain has resorted to dreams so intense I cannot tell the difference between what’s real and what’s not?”