Four of us rode back across the stream and got a little wet and cold. But riding along the edge of the field right after, we saw the full moon just risen over the ridge to the east. We turned up the western hill on the old stage road, picking our way through the rocks and the mud before hooking back down the singletrack that wound between the hemlocks and around the unseasonably flooded vernal pool. An approaching front had clouded over the moon and everyone’s lights were on, enough to pick out the slight compaction of the leaves that differentiated the trail from the forest floor. The final descent was in full darkness, the cones of light from the LEDs on our handlebars and helmets all we could see of the steepness we were pointing our bikes down.
It was colder and at the pond, a snow squall grayed the far shore. We rode through it and up the hill to where we’d parked. Sweaty layers off, I stood for a moment bare-chested in the falling snow, letting the cold wrap my skin. When I pulled the fleece sweater over my shoulders, it felt almost like a warm embrace in a cold bed. Wool pants, a Carhart coat, and felt-packs followed. I sat on the tailgate of my truck. Chris brought a chair over, along with some Belgian-style tripels he’d made.
“They’re three years old. They might be skunked. Or they might be really good.”
The snow stopped. The moonlight turned the valley below silver. I opened a tripel. It was not skunked. It was smooth and caramelly, and the alcohol warmed my throat. Mark and Ben left to discharge pre-Thanksgiving obligations. Chris and I stayed for a second bottle, catching up on each other’s lives as wind rattled the leafless trees around us. The temperature dropped toward the promised low of 9F, and the moon-dapple on the oak and beech trunks moved and changed as clouds blew through.