Without a race this weekend to fill our suffering quota, we were left to pick our own poison, so we got out the lovely guidebook and came up with the Curly Lake Highline trail.
With a distance of only 24.3 miles, the Curley Lake trail has earned an “abusive” rating, and it’s not hard to see why. The elevation profile looks like some sort of joke, and the number to go with it (5000 ft) seems equally ridiculous. Yet if that hadn’t hooked us, the ‘hot tip’ provided by the book did the trick. It reads: “this is punishing; a low carb diet will get you nowhere” and we reeaally like us some carbs!
But what fun is suffering if you can’t spread it to unknowing strangers? I quickly sent an email to the MSU list server, hoping to trick people into coming by playing up the good points of the trail and straight-up omitting the more relevant information. It wasn’t hard; despite emphasizing the pain you’ll feel, the book is quick to remedy it with the promise that “this is one of the best mountain bike rides you will ever do, anywhere.” It worked; by 8am the Hastings parking lot had accumulated a seven person bike crew.
Let me just say right now that I was thoroughly impressed with the cahones of said crew- half of them were on platform pedals and few of them ride regularly, let alone for six hours at a time. On the drive over I was having flashbacks to some of my first big rides, and there seemed to be a lot of crying and puking involved. I was worried- sometimes I like to make people cry or puke, but it seemed like bad manners for a ride I’d personally invited them to. Freshmen have enough to deal with without bike bullying.
But I shouldn’t have worried. Everyone did great, and despite a few flats and the two times I flew over my bars, there were no major mishaps, let alone puking or tears. Plus the trail was incredible. On the way up I thought a lot about how we call it “mountain biking” but rarely ever do it on real mountains. These were real mountains. We found ourselves way above treeline, surrounded by huge views and something the guide book called krummholz.*
The descent was, as promised, ear-to-ear-grin fun- it was mostly buff and wove through every climate. The good thing about a lot of climbing is that you get a seemingly endless descent. And it was definitely the sort of descent you never want to end.
We saw various people out there, from GAS/Intrinsik team riders to a trio of women doing their annual ride. There was cheering, there was whooping, and we all coughed obnoxiously when a group of dirtbikers rode by.
The guidebook said that mere mortals would probably have to stop over a dozen times to rest on the final section of the climb, so apparently none of us are mortal, which helps with descending.
We got home and created a quick but incredible bbq dinner, which we attacked like hyenas while it was still practically raw. It was one of those post-ride summer evenings that just feels perfect.
*I used my college skills (wickepedia) as soon as I got home and found out krummholz just means twisty deadish trees.