Mmmm, singletrack. Mmmm, Webilicious
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By jank - Last updated: Tuesday, August 5, 2003 - Save & Share - 3 Comments

All the talk of biking (and the Frazz cartoon yesterday) had me feeling ashamed that my total bike mileage for July was somewhat less than 1/10th of what the riders did in their quick loop around France. I think I actually had more miles in my sneakers than I did in the saddle. Which is pretty sad.

In any case, I hit the trail yesterday afternoon. And ran into many of BannanaSpiderCloseup.jpg these.

I actually got out of the office at 5 yesterday, didn’t spend hours in traffic, and got home with much, much daylight remaining. Without the kid waiting for me, I was at a loss for what to do. Should have gotten back on painting the house, but after spending so much time on that over the weekend, I was jonesing for recreation prior to hitting the Multiplex.

Started to step into the running shoes for a quick jog along the bayou when I remembered that Boy Scout Troop 1288 had cut about a mile of hiking/biking trail on the western edge of George Bush Park (alternate link for certian boys) that I’d been meaning to ride. The last time I tried to hit it, I got there at legal twilight, and the forest had a certian darkness and extreme creepiness to it that made me turn around. Plenty of light this time.

For those of you who haven’t done it, grab that bike in your garage and go hit some easy singletrack. You don’t need a fancy suspension rig. My MTB(Mountain Bike) is a 10+ year old steel Trek hardtail with a rigid fork, and I’ve taken it successfully up hill and down dale all over Texas, New York, and Connecticut. I tried a suspension fork for a while, but haven’t missed it much since switching back to the hard fork. Heck, there’s even a sport called cyclocross, where people put knobby tires on road bikes and ride off road. Really popular in Belgium/Holland, and increasingly in the US.

Singletrack’s a fancy word for ‘hiking trail’. That’s to differentiate it from bike path (usually populated by walkers and rollerbladers, wide and paved with asphalt or gravel), two-track (think Jeep road), or road (paved, gravel, dirt). Singletrack will get muddy and rutted depending on the weather. It winds through trees instead of knocking them down. There will be whoop-de-dos (small jumps) on good singletrack. Usually rocks, etc to avoid. Just make sure that the trails do allow bikes. Some places (California esp) are pretty prohibitive on where bikes are allowed, so check at the trailhead or online.

Regardless, riding offroad is about as good as it gets. A well tuned bike (another joy) is silent, so the only sounds are the sounds of the outdoors (I’d say woods, but have ridden some great open space around San Antonio), dirt and gravel under wheel, and the panting, wheezing, and thudding heart of your own body. Wooded areas around Houston grow up jungle dense, so once you’re about 20 yards into them, traffic noise is non-existant. Thick chirps of cicadas, more bird calls than I can identify, slap of branches off tires and my noggin are the sounds of singletrack.

This particular section suprised me. Katy is flat. But the Scouts had laid out the trail to take advantage of the couple small (3-4′) ditches and levees in the area, so there were plenty of chances to get that delicious feeling of either riding off a ledge and feeling the ground drop out from under my wheels, or of pedaling furiously up a small rise to catch air over the back side. Most of the whoop-de-doos had just the right balance between having enough area past them to safely land, but having a bend in the trail or tree to force the rider to consider positioning coming off the edge and balance before setting down.

The highlight of the trail, though, was the banana spiders. They were freaking huge! My dad and I used to love feeding whatever small banana spiders we’d find around the house during the summers, so I’m pretty much immune to being spooked by Genus Arachnae. I’ve spent enough time hiking to expect to occasionally run into a web, especially on unused trails, so the first couple webs I pulled off of my face didn’t throw me much. About a quarter mile down the trail, though, one of those honking banana spiders was sitting right at eye level in the middle of the trail. I jammed on the brakes to avoid having it sit on my nose.

Freakin’ Huge. Like the size of my hand huge. Able to carry off small puppies and children huge. South America huge. I stood there, sweat dripping off my nose, just staring at it. I hadn’t seen the Houston version of the banana spider before, and was absolutely amazed, and kind of freaked out that something so creepy looking lived so close to my house. Granted, this was the same park where I’d been bitten by a cottonmouth, so I knew there were nasty things living there. But this was just creepy.

I kept riding, a lot more slowly, and started to notice that these giant spiders were absolutely everywhere. Kind of freaky, like something out of Tolkien. I felt like all the spiders were staring at me, wondering if they could gang up and take me.

About halfway around the loop, there was a pretty nice bridge which had been crushed by a fallen tree. Scared a raccoon out from under it, and watched as it made its way carefully down towards Mason Creek. The second half of the loop didn’t have nearly so many spiders, and had a couple more chances to make like a flyin’ monkey comin’ nine foot out of the sky and catch a little air.

There was still plenty of daylight, so I ripped out two more quick laps. Luckily, I’d cleaned out all the webs at head level and below on the first lap. Next time I go back, I’m bringing a hatchet. Not to kill spiders (though that’d be cool – Vorpal Axe of Snicker-Snack +2), but to cut out a couple of trees fallen across the path.

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3 Responses to “Mmmm, singletrack. Mmmm, Webilicious”

Comment from Becky
Time August 6, 2003 at 9:05 am

Thanks for the great post, Jank. I’ve just recently discovered the pure joy of bike riding (never even liked it when I was a kid), and this reminded me how much I need to get back out there.

The hike and bike trail in Austin is too damn crowded most of the time. Anyone know of any good less populated spots around here where I don’t have to play chicken with cars?

Comment from jank
Time August 6, 2003 at 2:06 pm

You might want to start looking here. Or try Austin Cycling Association if you want to find folks to ride with.

Comment from Jack
Time September 10, 2003 at 12:43 am

Nice. I wish the picture better illustrated the size. I grew up in the Houston area, and people really don’t understand the immense size of these things, or how common they can be. They can be positively frightening at times.

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