I often fall into the trap of doing what is comfortable or easy instead of challenging myself. It’s like sometimes you just want to eat donuts even thought you know broccoli is so much better for you. There’s this crazy idea percolating in my middle aged mind that sitting back and coasting through the day and letting habit dictate actions instead of mindfully challenging myself is slowly eroding my experience of this brief life. Huh?
Anyway, writing this blog got me out exploring a new trail Tuesday when I might have done some form of habitual routine exercise like riding my bike along the same old loop or even worse and at least as likely, just riding my couch as I surf Youtube. I do love Youtube. A lot. So, I’m glad I’m doing this, but it’s been almost three weeks since I posted on this weekly blog. For one reason or another, its been a few weeks of donuts. Actually Coffee Rolls, but who’s counting.
Earlier this week I was analyzing my weekly schedule and an appointment in New Milford, CT grabbed my attention. New Milford is in Litchfiled County, CT, a beautiful, largely pastoral section of CT. Rolling hills separate towns of blocky colonial houses and hide stashes of contemporary architecture. I’ve spent most of my life in America’s third smallest state, but don’t know much about this cool and quaint section. I really wanted to find a cool trail up there to explore on my mountain bike.
As with many of my life’s pursuits, I set about this mission expecting the best results and willing to expend the least amount of effort. I reached for my iPhone and posted a request for suggestions of trails to ride near New Milford on the Northwest CT NEMBA Facebook Group. And unlike me, a few members over there offered a great amount of effort on their part to help me out, which of course was in return for nothing from me.
Unfortunately no one could drop what they were doing and meet me for a tour in the area with less that 24 hours notice, go figure. So, based on a few posts, I decided to check out Paugusset State Forest in Newtown, which after further post ride review, is actually not in Litchfield County at all. It’s really close though.
They Call Me the Working Man
Well, anyway, this blog was supposed to be about how I work hard at my corporate gig all day and have these great adventures in the outdoors at quitting time. I did manage to get everything packed up for the day, and even remembered all the prerequisites for gear. Here’s a picture of my car all loaded up at my first sales call of the day.
The sales call went well, though I didn’t actually sell anything, which happens surprisingly and alarmingly often. The first call was in Bridgeport, CT, about a 50 mile drive for me. Next stop was New Haven, CT, about 20 miles from Bridgeport. New Haven kept me busy for a few hours, and just long enough to find out my plans in New Milford had been cancelled. So, up to Danbury, another 35 mile drive, where I made some more unsuccessful sales calls and stopped in the hopital lobby to take a chunk out of some office work and at down with my laptop and cup of coffee. Coffee isn’t just for closers. What the hell else would you drink with a donut?
When I checked the forecast that morning before heading out, the prediction was a 15% chance of precipitation, which I remembered as I looked out at gray skies through the lobby windows. Maybe I should check that again. Now the forecast said it was currently raining, with an 80% chance for the rest of the night. Huh? Time to practice some Smart Phone meteorology. I looked at MyRadar. I looked at the Weather Channel. The dark yellow and red polygons representing rain storms were passing to the south while the confusing green glob that covered my current location looked like it might linger as is at worst. I decided to drop what I was doing for work and hit the trail. It was after 4pm and the work I had started could wait until I got home. The night before, I had loaded the address for the Parking lot into my contacts as Gussy, and my iPhone navigated to the trailhead.
On my last GPS guided misadventure at Tyler Mill, I forgot to let my Garmin sync up with the satellites, an then started the navigation already too far into the track to link up and properly route me in the right direction. This time, I set the GPS up on the bikes handlebar mount while it was still on my bike rack when I parked and turned it on so it could find satellites while unobstructed by trees. While my palm sized GPS unit and the satellite hovering 12,000 miles above made small talk, I switched from work clothes to bike gear in my car. I need to come up with better system for storing my dirty work clothes, but for this day, the dashboard seemed up to the task.
At Least I’m Enjoying The Ride
Everything went smoothly with the GPS, so smoothly, in fact, that I didn’t even think to take a picture. What do the say, progress not perfection? The arrow on the compass kept me on target as I wound through some extremely well built trail that notched through some very nice soil that reminded me of the minimally rocky trails I ride at Wadsworth Falls back home. After climbing for a bit, there was a long descent that lead down to Lake Lillinonah, a body of water that was created by damming of the Housatonic and Shepaug Rivers, resulting in the formation of Connecticuts second largest lake.
Take a look at the map above and you’ll figure out why it looks so small. The trail system seemed to be fairly easy to follow. There are a couple of trails thatgo north/south between the parking area at the end of Echo Valley Rd and the lake and some side trails that branch out from them. On my return from the lake, I abandoned my GPS track and took a side trail that looked less worn in than the one I was on and appeared to intersect the two main trails. I’m glad I did, as it was a nice windy trail that broke up the climb back up.
The forecast was still in my head for most of the ride. I didn’t want to get caught in the rain and I didn’t want to break trail etiquette by churning up the well built trails in the vulernable state a sudden downpour might create. I limited my stops and only snapped a few pictures. Lighting was dismal and I don’t think I would have had much more to show for investing more time in photography. Yes, I’m calling it photography.
Upon return to the Echo Valley Rd Parking area, I couldn’t help but notice an ugly amount of trash scattered around the area. I had been listening to an audiobook on Buddhism for much of the road trip that day and decided to feel sorry for the people who left it as they were clearly suffering and unenlightened. I had an empty bag in my car and decided to at least fill that up as a thank you to the trail builders who cut the paths I had enjoyed and the trail users who had posted on Facebook to help me find this ride.
And then I forgot about that bag of trash for two days and finally removed it after a long round of my least favorite road trip game, “What’s that smell in my car”. So, it wasn’t pretty and this is no where near Bike Magazine quality “journalism”. But, it was an adventure. It was living in the moment and striving for something meaningful in the course of my every day existence. Very Zen. Or something. Huh?
A next step in this blog will be to get back on pace with 1000 words or so a week. I do want to explore better storage options for gear and clothes, and generally be able to keep organized. I would also like to create checklists for myself to help inventory everything I’m going to need for these types of missions. I’d like to create pdfs or spreadsheets that I can store on my iPhone. Sounds like a good idea. What do you think? Please comment below. Or just grab a donut. I suggest Boston Creme.