NEK continuously morphs. Trails are "cleaned up," new trails are cut, Some get closed. Collected trail fees are evident in meticulous maintenance almost everywhere. Isaac had never been to NEK, so he was in for a real treat. I only hoped his experience lived up to all the hype he's heard over the years.
We set out in true Hill Junkie form, heading up Burke Mtn to shake the previous day's hillclimb race and 5 mile run out of my legs. Burnham Down is labeled as a double black diamond on the map. I think it was designed as a downhill run, but it also climbs superbly and keeps us off the pavement heading up. Hundreds more feet of narrow wooden bridges have been built over perennially muddy spots. Also, the pesky root step-up that I never managed to clean riding up was removed. The climb was perfect, although Isaac was soon out of sight.
We crossed over the road and continued up the Camptown trail. Getting a bit rooty from downhill traffic, but still great climbing. Most riders will stop going up when reaching the road again. I was tempted to. In thirty minutes, I already had diaper chamois. It was very steamy outside. Hard climbing at 6mph will have you soaked in no time. Isaac wanted to experience all of Burke, so up the toll road we went. I was in no shape to drill it this time. I told Isaac to scoop me up on the way back down. He lingered at the summit just long enough from me to get within a stone's throw of the top, so I finished it too.
On the way down, it was Moose Alley all the way. I cleaned it all with margin. I had dropped the air pressure from already low to ridiculously low for the chunky riding found on Moose Alley: 16psi front, 22psi rear. On lower Moose, a reroute sent us down a pretty scary rock chute. My rear tire pinched so hard it sounded like bare metal against rock. A quick inspection showed my onion skin Racing Ralph tire was still intact. I just may have to buy a new set of those for Colorado.
A new trail next to Nose Dive, called Swan Dive was tried. Very soft and loamy still, but another great way down to the river. We replenished fluids, then headed over to the Darling Hill system.
Flenceline down was taken, climbed back up carriage road, then bombed down the new Troll Stroll trail. What a riot, with buttery smooth berms. Tap & Die was taken up, which was a brute on tired legs. Amazingly, nobody came down Tap & Die during our climb. Tody's was taken down. Next was Sidewinder, which I talked up a bit with Isaac. There is now a shack at junction of Old Web's and Sidewinder selling all kinds of goodies. There must have been 40 people hanging around there. Most spoke French it seemed.
Sidewinder did not disappoint. Isaac had to hit it again. I could hear him whooping all the way down. I have a pretty good idea why snowboarders like half-pipes. It's those moments of nearly weightlessness coming back down each time. The compression was so great in the bottom, that my rims were fully compressing through the tires. Made very unusual sounds, yet the beads never burped air.
We crossed over to the other side of Darling Hill and started working our way back, hitting all the good stuff. We bombed down Kitchel, which was quite sandy, then decided to head back in for just a bit more, riding Riverwood. We finished on Herb's, which I don't think I've ever ridden before. A lot like Troll Stroll actually, big swooping turns at breakneck speed. Wicked fun.
While on the doubletrack heading to Kitchel/Herb's, something nailed me on the hand. It felt like an electric shock went up my arm. I figured something stung me, but never saw it. It hurt like hell. I didn't stop, but figured I might be in world of hurt later.
Our track highlighted in yellow.
The river was flowing with a couple chest deep pockets in it. It was a perfect way to cap off 5+ hours of riding. That was one of my best NEK days ever. No hint of cramping either.
The deli was still open. I had to get me one of those Thanksgiving sandwiches for the drive home. These monstrosities are basically a whole thanksgiving meal on a large sub roll. I think it weighed about two pounds. It disappeared very quickly.
Six hours later at home, my stung hand swelled up to the thickness of an orange. Half of my forearm swelled up too. Last time I had a reaction like this was over 30 years ago when I got stung by a yellow jacket in the forearm. I took a couple Benadryl when I got home, which controlled the swelling, but promptly knocked me out for the night. Four days later the swelling is gone, but my hand itches incessantly. Stupid insects.