Thursday, January 5, 2012

Chaparral Rail Trail. It ain't for sissies.

I've been working on a meditative phrase.  It goes like this:  "Seek out your fear.  Look your fear in the eye. Tell it to go f--- itself".  That meditation was being put to the test and it drifted at the edge of my rational thinking as the bike shifted and the front wheel turned and sunk in to a two foot wide gap between the ties of the abandoned railroad bridge.  I held gingerly on to the seat post and could feel the weight of the bike, the saddle bag, and the loaded trailer hanging in the balance along with all my gear and myself.

This isn't the worst gap on the trail.  My bike is too heavy to lift, so it has to ride on the long bridge beam as I somehow find a place for my feet and push the bike across to the next railroad tie.

The rail road bridge didn't have a deck and walking across those open timbers would have jangled my nerves under normal circumstances.  But here I was, wearing hard soled bike shoes with a metal cleat and almost zero traction, holding up a loaded touring bike and trailer, bu-bumpa-bumping along each rail road tie until there was a gap so large that the trailer tire got stuck in it.  There was another large gap ahead of me, so if the trailer jerked out and I stumbled forward I would then most assuredly crack my jaw as I fell through the bridge through 20 feet of open air and then land in a foot and a half of stagnant water that reeked of cow shit.  It is not my day to die. I heaved on the handlebars and pulled on the seatpost and the rearmost wheel of my rig gradually lifted out and up on to the next timber as I caught the brake and prevented everything from meeting an unsanitary fate.  I looked back and realized that the trailer had dragged a decaying loose timber up with it.  I had been standing on that timber only a few moments ago.  I jiggled the bike back and forth and the timber dropped with a thud.  The bike stabilized and thankfully didn't go over the edge, and even more thankfully neither did I.  Out of nowhere, the word "butterfly" flitted through my mind.  I looked down in to the gully through the gaping maw of the bridge and serenity washed warmly over me.  Tell fear to go f--- itself.

You really don't want to fall in that.  For many reasons.

This trail is not for the faint of heart.  This trail is not for wussies, sissies, slackers or other non-hackers. There are many obstacles and many opportunities to bail out and go crying home to mama. You have to be committed to pushing through the whole way.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Caprock Canyon Trail - The Trail of Flats, part 2

(Read Part 1 of the adventure)

Dan moving on down the trail
Somehow, we managed to get in to the campsite just before sunset.  What should have been an easy ride of 12 miles had taken us all afternoon and in to the evening due to all the unplanned repairs.  We were camping by the Clarity tunnel, which was previously the last operating railroad tunnel in Texas.  Now, it's just a long dark cave that's home to thousands of bats.  Or, it is during the summer, anyway.  We walked the length of the tunnel hoping to see the bats and watch them fly out majestically at dusk, but it turns out that they had already migrated south to Mexico so all we found was a 742 foot long pile of guano.

Jason was incredulous.  "You mean we drove all day then rode bikes all afternoon to just to camp near a tunnel full of bat shit?!"  Yes, yes we did.  And storms were looming on the horizon.

Inside the Clarity Tunnel.  The deeper you go in, the deeper the guano is piled.