The day was clear, sunny. Warm, but not too hot. Friends arrived just as I was finishing up my morning coffee. Brent, ready to go as usual, in all his cycling garb. Jake, still clad in the flannel that he slept in, the alpacas running down the hill to greet this strange-looking, long-bearded, plaid creature. And Jalon, stumbling up the driveway, styrofoam coffee cup in hand, still half-asleep. 10am was apparently too early for him on a Sunday.
We set off for Rothrock State Forest in two cars, bikes hanging off the tailgate of Brent’s truck. All Salsas. “All we need’s the chips,” remarked someone. I don’t remember who.
A road closure caused us to take the long way around, and we were nearly an hour late meeting Allison in the parking lot. Luckily, she didn’t mind. We rolled in, smoke pouring out of the hood of Brent’s old Chevy from a power steering fluid leak. He laughed it off.
We began. A slow, rocky uphill crawl to the top of the ridge. I was tired, still recovering from the illness that’s plagued me for the past two weeks. Sickness in the summer sucks. It’s been going around lately, it seems.
I asked Brent multiple times if he wanted to pass me. He said no, he liked my pace.
But despite my burning legs, my technical game was on. I cleaned my only unconquered rock garden on the Tussey Mountain Trail. Success felt so good.
The berries were thick on the ridge, spilling onto the trail, the thorny bushes scratching our arms and legs. Jake stopped to clear some of the more gnarly ones, and Jalon took the opportunity to forage. We joked about stories we could tell people to explain our bloody scratches. Maybe we were attacked by a gang of bobcats.
Jake took us to what he called the “Toilet Bowl,” a circular cutout in the earth. We rode circles inside of it. It was dizzying, but so much fun.
We continued, down the mountain this time, on one of my favorite trails. It was sandy, mountain-laurel-lined, with a number of small drops. And at the end, a perfect stream crossing.
We stayed at the stream for a while, riding back and forth, giggling. I felt like a little kid. It was impossible not to laugh from pure joy. Jake rode wheelies. Jalon somehow fell over in the middle of the stream.
Soaked, we coasted to the car our way back to the car, and stopped for ice cream on our way home.