Tag teaming is an essential part of co-parenting for my husband and I. We both have things we need to do to fill our souls that are impractical to bring the Little Bear along for.
Mountain biking is arguably how my husband and I met, and as you can imagine, it is one of those things we both need to to do from time to time to feel like a functional human (or at least a polite one).
On beta from a good friend, we planned to take turns for the next two days of our trip riding the Hermosa Creek Trail, with the non-riding adult picking the rider up at the bottom of the trail. For any friends or readers who are fellow mountain bikers, especially those from Flagstaff, you might have an ethic one way or another about shuttling trails. Shuttling is where a rider is dropped off at the top of a trail and rides (usually downhill) to the other end where the car is waiting for them, preferably with a cold beverage at the ready. In Flagstaff, we never shuttle. Ever. Even driving to the trailhead better have a good reason. From most of our town you can ride straight from your home to connect with a vast network of trails, most of which have decently thought out alignment minimizing erosion and unrideable grades. So there is little reason to use a vehicle to get you up the hill only to ride back down it. Just pedal! Use the quads yo mama gave you son!
In my younger childless days, I first rode in Colorado bringing my “never shuttle” Flagstaff ethic along like so many rocks in my panniers. After a number of frustrating bike hikes and crossing too many potential rides off the list because they were impractical to self shuttle, I have learned better and become a lot less smug. Folks, Colorado is not Flagstaff. Nearly every trail I have ever ridden there is steep to the point of stupid, has long and brutal road sections between trails making the self shuttle impractical or impossible. Hermosa Creek was no exception. Self shuttling would have meant almost 50 miles of riding, only 18 of which would have been the trail in question and the majority of the remaining miles on shoulderless mountain highway. No. Thank. You. If you are still worried about shuttling because it is important to you to “earn” your downhill, don’t fret. Even “downhill” trails have climbing in Colorado. Hermosa creek spends most of the last 6 miles in a 1600 vertical foot climb.
This letting go of perfectionism has been a huge and excruciating lesson for me in motherhood. There was a time, younger, fitter and faster that I would perhaps have insisted on a self shuttle. I would have spent an entire day from dawn til dusk killing myself to do the whole thing without a car shuttle, because it’s the “right” way to do it and to compromise would have bruised my ego. If I had been unwilling to just shuttle this trail I would missed 18 miles of some of the most sublime, inspiring single track in the Four Corners area. Want to keep your own passions, hobbies and adventures a priority in parenthood? Let go of perfection and get it done. Take the one hour ride you can get instead of the 6 hour ride that is rarely available. Host that imperfect dinner party with chinese take out, instead of waiting for enough time to have a spotless house and gourmet four course meal. Buy the ticket to travel to the place you CAN afford instead of waiting around for a windfall to go to the place that is financially out of reach. In the end, it will be the things we consistently do that make up the story of our lives. If we never get out there because we need the conditions to mimic some preconceived notion of perfection, years will pass and we will have failed to spend our time the way we wanted to. We will continue to mutter some mantra about a fictitious “someday” that isn’t coming.
What a spectacular payoff it is to just get out there and do it! The first half of Hermosa Creek trail follows a wide and welcoming path along, unsurprisingly, Hermosa Creek. Mixed conifers, flowing stream, and gorgeous water holes hiding fish that tease local anglers to come and get em. This first half, though trending downhill, isn’t particularly steep, and would make a very reasonable out and back ride or hike for those not wanting to do the whole length or who are just getting started and want a ride with minimal technical challenges. The trail changes to single track where it continues to follow the creek for another third of the ride, though it frequently winds a little further up the hillside than in the previous section. The high moisture level of the area in general, mixed with some heavy rains in the previous days made the ride fairly slick and felt a bit like riding on a muddy slip and slide. After one of a number of creek crossings, the last one with a wooden bridge, the trail begins the final climb in earnest. It winds its way up to a bench dotted with scrub oak, ponderosa pine, and cedar. A amusing concoction of species frequently found in Flagstaff, but rarely seen together at the same altitude. Having gotten a later start than I had hoped, I hit the steep climbs just as the afternoon rainstorms began. I attempted to pedal up what had become a creek in its own right. The water and mud made traction non-existent, making the attempt to move forward a real life replica of those dreams in which you are running as hard as you can and not getting anywhere. I eventually had to get off and push the bike up through the pouring rain, smiling all the way. Eventually the rain cleared, and I made the final descent to the trailhead to meet my ride. I was inspired, full of dopamine, and satisfied.
Each evening after our rides, Iorek was full of energy and ready to ride himself. Pre-dinner evening strolls for us and bike ride for the Little Bear became a lovely part of the day. It is satisfying to the soul to have the opportunity to not only pursue my own passions, but to share them with my son and watch him get so much joy out of it too.
Is waiting for perfect conditions keeping you from doing the things that would feed your soul and nourish your spirit? I would love to hear what you want to do, and how you think you can get out of your own way to do it. Leave me a comment and let me know.
One more installation in the series coming next week!