|Skookum Flats draped with moss|
|Paradise shrouded in fog|
|Greg "Caution" approaching the mushroom stump at Duthie|
Winter in the Pacific Northwest is cold and wet. It's continuously moist climate has it's drawbacks and it's many detractors and haters. Not me though because unlike any other region in America it also stays green year-round. Not sparsely green either. Trees that are usually dense with leaves most of the year; alder, ash, birch, and maples drop their vibrant plumage to reveal that their trunks and branches are not bare and twisted bones but are flowing arms elegantly draped in moss, peppered with lichen, and flaunting the most extraordinary array of colorful mushrooms.
Early Saturday morning we stood in my driveway chatting and loading our bike gear. The aluminum frame of my bike is cold to the touch. It's just above freezing at 7:30 AM and I think about putting my gloves on and how that might feel; much better than frigid metal of course. Greg breaks my train of thought with a blunt observation: "Thick fog this morning". It sure was, I hadn't given it much attention until then. I paused and looked around to notice that we were socked in. The sky, or more accurately the space above us was an endless fluff of light grey dog-toy stuffing, yanked out and scattered to every horizon. It floated and hung in the air and it wrapped itself around pine trees, connected eaves between houses and obscured lamp post tops.
I felt the smile on my face moments after the subconscious, involuntary reaction put it there. I am smiling, kind of smirking actually because I love it here and I know that most people don't, they can't stand the grey and I'm okay with that. They long for July when it's hot and sunny whereas I'm thankful that the heat only lasts a few short weeks. And so I soak it all in. I inhale deeply; the cold damp air fills my lungs and surrounds my heart with the same blanket of fog that surrounds the trees. I am energized by it, lifted by it, strengthened and inspired by it.
Some of my close friends and family have referred to me as a die-hard mountain biker, or hard-core, or some other similar moniker meant to describe my tendency to head off into the forest on my bike in spite of the sun-less weather. They are almost right. I do enjoy mountain biking and all the side-effects that bubble up because I'm active. I can't deny that riding twice a week improves my physical health and mental well-being. I have more energy and it gives me yet another great item to add to my list of wonderful things in my life.
The truth is, I simply love living in the Pacific Northwest and mountain biking has been the best way for me to enjoy it. I get to go out with my close friends that not only share my passion for biking but also share my love of this region. Sometimes getting out and riding with my friends ends up not being at all about riding but more about the camaraderie, the shared experience, the common passion and sometimes it feels like we share a secret that no one else knows about or understands. And so it is. As I give our bikes a final once-over before we head off to hit another favorite trail, I catch a glimpse of Greg: he's smirking.