2019-04-12 / Commentary

Bucket List getting rocky

40–Something

I may have slightly overestimated my abilities as both a researcher and mountain biker because this past weekend I found myself mixing prayers and various explicatives as I attempted to bike the Torry Ridge Trail in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

Why did Ido it?

I have a bucket list, and on that list is a quest to ride the Top 10-20 mountain biking trails in the United States before such pursuits become too painful. Maybe that time has already arrived because I felt like a very old man after this particular ride.

After exhaustive research (i.e. Google search “Top Mountain Biking Trails in the United States”), I put together a list of possible trails. Many are not near this part of the country, so when Torry Ridge popped up ranked as high as No. 9, I was immediately intrigued.

It was within driving distance and near Charlottesville, which meant the wife would want to go with me. We could tour Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, visit a vineyard, hang out on the UVa campus, and enjoy a lot of what that beautiful, historic college town has to offer. These perks probably helped me ignore a few foreboding comments about the trail. Instead, I chose to read and envision what was described as a “scenic seven-mile descent.”

My next mistake was deciding to “earn” the descent, so I chose to ride the beautiful Mill Creek trail to get to the top of Torry Ridge. I had not ascended much at all five miles into the seven-mile trail, which meant the last couple of miles were basically straight up the face of a mountain.

By the time I reached the top, my calves were a pair of square knots, my back needed a bottle of Advil, and I was already an hour past the time my wife was to meet me at the bottom of the Torry Ridge Trail...seven miles down the mountain.

Sort of...

Turns out a significant portion of the trail had plenty of climbing, which I could probably have handled if not for the rocks.

Oh, the rocks. My research had found that Torry Ridge featured two huge rock “gardens.” They call them gardens to hide the fact they’re actually death traps filled with broken bones and flat tires, but I had planned to walk through those things anyhow. What I did not plan for was that the entire trail was rocky, which made the downhill terrifying and the uphill next to impossible.

My wife, who had been waiting for me like a saint, got panicked and wandered up the trail to see if she could get a glimpse of me. Instead, she found a sign which gave the following warnings: 1) Beware of the bears; they have been known to rip windshields off cars in order to get at food. 2) Beware of abundant copperhead snakes; they hide among the leaves along the trail. And 3) Weather conditions can change drastically. You need to have a plan to quickly evacuate this trail if necessary.

I had missed that sign on the way up, which may have been a good thing because the anxiety of merely finishing this trail was enough without worrying about being a meal for Yogi, snakes nipping at my ankles, or Mother Nature deciding a hail storm would be fun.

A few crashes, several scrapes and bruises, and one glorious short descent later, I finally arrived at the end of the trail three hours late and looking like the defeated human being I was.

All my limbs ached, but my wife was just happy I wasn’t missing any of them. After this little adventure, she’s ready for me to stick to the cushy historical tours and bag the Torry Ridges of the world.

Despite the lingering soreness, I’m not quite ready to throw in the proverbial towel on my bucket list. However, if I want to actually complete it, I’ll have to get much better at research.

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