It’s early, the first rays of morning sunshine are fighting their way through dense leaves to deposit golden pools of light all around me. It feels as though I’m sharing the beauty of this early summer morning with no one but Marley, my young boxer who skips happily through dew covered grass at the side of the path..
This dawn walk has sat in my mind for the last few days, it’s voice becoming gradually louder as excitement mounted. An internal alarm sounded that woke me from my sleep and I lay in bed for a few minutes thinking about the coming day, after quietly dressing I coax the reluctant dog from his bed and gather my kit. Slipping out of the house and transferring bag, dog and self to the car I drive the few miles to my planned parking spot.
Today I’m the hunter, this walk is the quiet planning and preparation for coming rides, I have the skills, time spent in a Rescue Team has left me equipped with the knowledge to achieve my goal.. my instructor on a search skills course was a tracker working for America’s Border Patrol, he used ancient skills to capture those entering America illegally, my skills are normally used in helping to save lives but now they have a selfish application. I look where I will find clues; track traps that will show who has passed by.. his words sound loudly in my head.. “Every contact leaves a trace”.. I ignore the sign of animals, I’m looking for the mark of Kenda, Panracer and Schwalbe.
Preceding weather will dictate how I search.. I’m lucky, rain has left mud that welcomed passing traffic, tracks were carved that set in recent hot weather, leaving dinosaur print like signs to show that I’m getting close.
My quarry is well known to mountain bikers, we crave it’s company and I live in an area where it is abundant. It’s those trails that swoop through trees, singletrack that presents you with a challenge during and an immediate reward after, the stuff of bikers dreams that fill post ride discussions with excited chatter and mounting enthusiasm.
Usually when I look for new trails, the family are in tow in the form of a ‘walk’ that warrants rolled eyes from my wife, she knows the true motivation of these forays into unknown areas of the forest and I do little to hide my enthusiasm when I spy a likely trail heading off from the path we’re walking. These potentials are then filed in mind ready for an opportunity to ride them or, as in the case of today further exploration on foot.
Walking on I spot it.. a small opening in the undergrowth with tell tale sign leading into the trees, taking a mental image of the start point I whistle Marley and follow those who have gone before. Carving on ahead is a thin scar, its line easily distinguishable from the pine needles that cover the ground.
I picture the passing track accelerated to riding speed, noting corners and dips and how they flow from one to another, moving along the trail I move fallen obstacles and do my best to commit the feel to memory.
Smiling as I reach the end of my new discovery, I swap the quiet shade of the singletrack for the fire road, scanning the immediate area for a follow up, I push back disappointment as I realise this stands in isolation and move on..