I have a confession to make. I think I'm a closet mountain biker.
I say "think" because the past few times I've been out on my bike, the tires have been rolling on dirt (and rocks) instead of pavement. And while three rides might not be enough to qualify me as a "mountain biker," I have been out riding on trails. Similar to how I feel comfortable calling myself a "runner" because I do run on a regular basis - maybe not as far or as fast as other people, but I do it - I think I might be able to claim mountain biking as a developing hobby.
And I say "closet" because I'm kind of afraid to have anyone discover me in the act of mountain biking. I don't mind mentioning it in this column or in general conversation, because you never know when someone might have some good advice for you. But I'm not ready for anyone who actually knows what they're doing to come across me mid-trail, probably walking up or down a hill that is a bit too daunting at this point.
I like trail riding because it lets me see a different part of the area around Ishpeming and Negaunee, but I also feel like a complete spaz most of the time while I'm doing it.
So, to avoid being noticed, I try to ride early in the morning when more sane persons are still asleep. Riding through the cool earlier morning hours, I spent last Sunday exploring the trails that branch off of the paved Iron Ore Heritage Trail. Since I don't know much about the trail system between Ishpeming and Negaunee (yet) I picked trails that I had noticed during my Heritage Trail riding, but never knew where they went and followed them.
Sometimes they loop around to connect with other trails I didn't know existed. Sometimes they dump me back out on the Heritage Trail in a completely different area than I was expecting. Once I found myself riding on an abandoned sidewalk in the middle of the woods in Negaunee's Old Town area.
More than once I ended up in someone's back yard, so if you happened to see a very lost biker making a hasty retreat from your property, I'm sorry, that was me.
Last summer I went riding with one of my friends who is very into biking and she was able to show me some of the basics of riding on trails. Unfortunately, she has since moved and I am without my biking instructor. More than that, I'm without a firm grasp on most of the points of mountain bike etiquette, which makes me even more uncomfortable with meeting people on one of my rides.
Not knowing how to react when faced with someone else on the trails, I'm likely to just bail off my bike and lay quietly by the side of the trail hoping I'm not too much in their way. I like to think I'm saving myself some embarrassment by biking by myself for the time being.
What I'd really like to be able to do is work up the courage to ride with the mountain bike groups that are active here on the west end. Occasionally I'll see them out on one of their rides, usually when I'm headed into a city council meeting. It's impressive to see a whole group of cyclists, plus it looks like a lot of fun.
Maybe one day I'll be one of them.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.