I've tried it a couple times before, so mountain biking isn't technically a new trick for me. But the last time I gave it a try was years ago, and at no time had I really given it a fair chance. I'm all about "old dog, new trick" mode right now, though, so it seemed to be the right time give mountain biking another go. I borrowed a sweet bike and Barry and I headed out to Forest Service Road 44 to ride a few of his tried and true trails... trails that he and I have done some maintenance on in the recent past and that would be both mellow enough to keep me from being scared or frustrated, but challenging enough to keep things interesting for me. Being on the right bike, getting great tips from Barry, trusting that the bike and I could handle most of what would come my way, and - most importantly - approaching the ride with an excited attitude, made for a very different experience than what I'd had when I'd ridden mountain bikes in the past. In fact, it made for an awesome time. I hooted as I rode over terrain that I was a little unsure of, I laughed out loud due to the combination of giddy nervousness and child-like thrill that resulted from flying over rocks and roots, and was proud of myself for doing something well that I'd always thought I wouldn't be good at.
We camped on the Hood River after a day of riding and headed out for more biking the next day, hitting one of the trails I'd loved on day one for another go-around and checking out a new trail to practice some of what I'd learned the day before. At one point, Barry - being really thoughtful, as he'd been all weekend - asked if I'd had enough riding and suggested that maybe we should go back to our campsite and relax a bit. I weighed my options for a minute and decided that another descent on a trail that I'd particularly liked was in order. We hopped back on the bikes and during the descent I realized: whenever given the option, choose to ride some more. The river was there to welcome us when we'd gotten sweaty and dirty enough to call it quits for the day.
We had a longer drive home than usual as our regular route home is closed due to the devastating and infuriating forest fire that's burning in the Columbia River Gorge. The scenery was tough to digest, with plumes of smoke rising from such a beautiful landscape. But I must admit, nothing was going to dampen the contentment that a weekend of mountain bike riding, thanks in so many ways to Barry, had given me.
Barry had to travel to California for work this week. A three day weekend fell right before his trip. Some of our best friends live in the Bay Area and, five years after they moved there, we still hadn't been down to see their place. It seemed like the perfect set-up for the two of us to take off for San Francisco for a few days. We crammed as much goodness as we could into two and a half days: a wonderful visit to the de Young, an overnight up in Fairfax to see Holly and Mike and their girls, a walk along Valencia to check out all the shops, an evening in the Outer Sunset neighborhood (our current favorite neighborhood in the city), and a day of walking all over the city to several spots we heard we couldn't miss. We loved our dinner at Outerlands and pastries at The Mill. I think I'd gotten Tartine too hyped up in my head... our experience there was meh. It was great to get out of Portland and take a few photos of something other than a mountain. And it was great to come home to Portland, too. I've been cranky about the rate of growth of the city recently, but our trip reminded me of so many of the reasons I still love this place.
Knowing that I always regret it if we don't take advantage of a backpackable summer weekend, we headed out to Mount Saint Helens to camp on the Plains of Abraham. Despite the heat, despite the humidity, and despite the smoggy sky due to forest fires, we had a wonderful trip. As is often the case, we passed lots of hikers who were leaving the trail just as we were getting started. We had the plains all ourselves. The almost full moon that we'd hoped to see was obscured by smoke, but colors in the sky were beautiful. A short trail run the following morning, a quick dip in icy cold waters, and lunch at Battle Mountain Brewing... the weekend was a win.