On July 10, 2024
Local News

Riding at sunset: Notice the light through the forest

By Jason Mikula

For those willing to venture into the mountains just before sunset on two wheels, you’ll be rewarded with some amazing sunsets and the low light that streams through the forest canopy — you simply must see it to believe it. It’s a gift for riders seeking the perfect blend of challenge and serenity. The challenge is to watch the sun go down but to leave with enough light to make your way down the trail — it’s dark in the dense forests of maple, birch, and pine and the trails are narrow and twisty. Impending darkness makes every rock, stump and berm that much more challenging and a little scary. The serenity is enhanced if you find yourself up there completely on your own. Not many people decide to ride their bike as the sun is setting, so odds are good. Alone, it’s easy to feels like a guest on these mountains, among the trees, the animals and the silence. 

This week, I rode Mount Peg in Woodstock at sunset. The top of the village trail offers a unique wide-open view of the valley below with Billings Farm as the backdrop in the distance. The climb is easy and very smooth. This trail is incredibly maintained and groomed. (A great beginner trail both up and down for kids and adults alike.)

At dusk your senses are heightened, you become that much more in tune with the sounds of your tires on the dirt, your heartbeat, and the subtle noise of the birds chirping as the temperature cools. 

I tried to remain focused and present. But my chattering mind kept thinking: “Just don’t get hurt” and “Does my headlamp have enough charge to even turn on?” My wife would not be happy if she found out I had to be rescued on top of a mountain in the dark…

By Jason Mikula
The sunshine through the dense forest at dusk creates magical streams of light. Best to stop riding for safe viewing!

From the top of the village trail, after a little water and food, I headed over to Constant Flow (which is getting some work done to it). The name says it all. A nice challenging “flowy” blue trail. It was hard not to smile and giggle out loud as I made my way down each berm. I poked around over there for a while, refueled at the bottom and headed back up. I went back to the top of Mount Peg and sat to watch the sun go down a bit lower on the horizon. 

From there, I took the Mount Peg trail south towards the trailhead where Ravine cuts right. This is where the fun began. From the second I entered the single track into the dark forest the sun’s glow was beaming through trees like a fire had just erupted beyond the hills. I looked up and really couldn’t take my eyes off it. After tumbling off my bike from a complete loss of focus, I thought the safest thing was to get off my bike and sit to watch. The sun was hanging low and the colors had completely exploded. An orange beam of light was glowing through the trees like nothing I can remember ever seeing before. It was perfect. I watched it for 20 minutes in silence until it completely disappeared. I stared at it hoping that if I looked at it long enough it would be burned into my memory for life. There was a silence that filled me and all the chatter in my mind went away for a few moments. I wanted to stay but the darkness began to fall even more quickly and I needed to make my way back to the road. 

From there the trail weaved up and down the ravine. Over bridges and through the pines, I heard only my tires rolling over the dirt and the birds singing to the falling sun. 

I came to another intersection and took Up Shot down to Smiles and back to the road. What a ride! 

By the time I got to my car it was completely dark. I put my bike back on my car, sat in the front seat and closed my eyes just for a moment to make sure I captured what I had seen just a few moments ago. 

While it would be hyperbole to claim that one ride changed me completely, I will say that this ride did make me appreciate the beauty in the silence in a way that I had not experienced before.

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