As I’ve said so many times before, every time I throw a leg over my mountain bike I feel like a ten-year old. So, once a week, I shed fifty-five years and act like a kid.
It’s been a lovely cool winter but with very little rain. My riding companion, Sally, has been bringing her little Heeler-mix dog with her, and I take Sadie (Molly can’t go the distance), on our favorite singletrack trails in the Mill Creek wash area. There’s evidently been enough rain in the mountains to fill the local settling ponds (settling ponds are used to trap water that comes down from the local mountains. There the water percolates through the sand to recharge the water table) which provides opportunities for the dogs to swim and play.
The dogs forage afield while we labor slowly up the wash, always keeping track of where we are; and when we approach a road or habitation, they trot obediently beside the bike until the “okay” from me tells Sadie she may go at her own pace. At the top of the climb we stop to put our protective leg and arm armor on. The padded shin/knee guards are invaluable in the event of a crash but more often they provide protection against the brush that encroaches on the trail.
Our downhill speed demands that the dogs stay with us on the trail and they have great fun chasing us through the twists and turns. Towards the end of the twelve mile ride, Sadie is content to trot beside the bike, tongue lolling, and obviously satiated; that is until she spots a rabbit or bird that needs chasing. Then both dogs are off in mad pursuit, leaping over brush and rocks like gazelles. Losing sight of their prey, which they always do, they come back to us begging for more water from our hydration packs.
But now the weather is heating up and the rattlesnakes have come out of hibernation. That means it’s not safe for the dogs to run helter skelter through the brush and rocks, and even more dangerous for them to seek a cool spot to rest under a bush.
One of the best things about Southern California is that we can ride year around. In the winter we ride here in the valley, and in the summer, we simply drive a few miles into the mountains where it’s almost always cool. But, there are rattlesnakes active in the mountains too so we won’t be taking the dogs again until next winter or at least until later in the summer when the snakes aren’t as active during the day.