It didn’t feel bad when I left the house to ride the trails at the pond – hot and humid, to be sure, but bearable. I didn’t consider how well the forest would hold the humidity. Within the first mile, I’d sweated through my clothes. By the second hill, my heart-rate was through the roof and the blood was pounding in my head, forecasting a two-Treximet migraine later that night. More than once, my back wheel spun out on condensation-slick rocks. I stopped even trying to get up the tougher hills, opting to walk the bike and save something for the next day’s planned 30 miler.
Although I wasn’t loving the conditions, the mosquitoes were. If I stopped, their buzzing sounded like the special effects in a jungle-survival movie. With one particularly well-aimed slap, I killed four at once. It was only when I stopped that they descended, so much of the ride was a balancing act between surviving the heat and humidity and evading the mosquitoes.
Still, I pedaled through to Minor Bridge. Riding back, I was shot and my skills were at an ebb. In the shadow of the hill, the flat light made it hard to pick out lines. Coming around the corner into the first descent I buried my front wheel against a rock and launched over the bars, landing on my shoulder, hip, and leg. The bike was fine and I came away with minor scrapes and bruises. Mainly it was a caution to pay very close attention for the rest of the ride.
I opted for the easy way out, riding through the hayfield and down to the railbed rather than climbing the hill again. At the car, I traded my empty Camelback for my backpack, which contained a towel and water shoes, then rode the quarter mile down to the swimming hole. Wading in felt incredible, and my first shallow dive into the Shepaug must have left an epic cloud of mud, sweat, and mosquito parts.