While we were in Killington Vermont, we pushed our limits with downhill mountain biking, careening down twisted, treacherous runs. Today, in Carabbasett Maine, we rolled the tires of our bikes onto more traditionally groomed trails expecting a tamer ride. What we got was different than that.
Maps are symbols, not reality. A contrivance of humans to help that shopper find their way to Macy’s in a cavernous mall, atlases to help this driver navigate from one place across town or country, and terrain maps to help some more daring souls skirt the scarier edges of the world and avoid the worst dangers.
Thoughtfully chosen words, lines and symbols are employed by mapmakers of every kind to create a tool that allows their users to connect the abstract to the concrete, aligning real life markers to those on the map to interpolate location and direction.
Professional cartographers undergo rigorous training before plying this vital trade. With the advent of GPS and stunningly accurate digital maps, we are spoiled and lack appreciation for this invaluable skill.
Let’s just say the makers of the trails and accompanying map we relied on today lacked that training.
During the first hour of threading our way through the real-life spaghetti of trails represented on that map, we failed to appreciate that the “turn here for this trail” signs were very clear while the “you are currently on this trail” ones were curiously absent. Eventually our path spilled us out onto the spine-rattling washboards of a rocky dirt road lined with gashes from logging forays that were left for the forest to heal.
We decided that was a good time to find our way back to the lodge.
Imagine riding your bike down the street an unfamiliar town. Confident with your map in hand, you compare the intersecting avenue signs and see them on the map. Once you layer in the name of your street, you will know exactly where you are on the grid – but wait. There’s no name of your current street at those intersections. You could be anywhere along those stretches of crossing avenues.
Now imagine that town is a dense, steamy July forest in Maine’s mountains, and those streets and avenues are a tangled mass of bike trails. Sprinkle in a few swampy cut-throughs along with your own whirring dogfight of biting horseflies who dive bomb you every time you stop to consult your map, and you’ll get close to our experience.
Through sheer brute force, dead reckoning and no small amount of luck we made our way back to the lodge over an hour later.
They lie through omission.
For ourselves and for you, our friends and family, we’ve taken many pictures along our trip this summer and included them along with our written reflections of each day. We try to capture candid moments, but that’s pretty hard when you’re both photographer and subject.
Memories fade, but photographs can instantly snap us back to the moment they were taken. The cover photo for this post and the one below are happy, optimistic “before” moments of our day when we expected we’d log a few miles on some tame terrain and mosey back to the resort to catch the Friday afternoon concert they had scheduled for Deadgrass. If had you judged our outing by those pictures alone, you would have been misled.
We didn’t take an “after” picture. We were too frazzled from our harrowing experience of biting bugs, grasping undergrowth, and jaw-clattering roads. Instead, we soothed our jangled nerves with a few comfortable laps around the parking lot and the safe training course in front of the lodge before we loaded up our bikes.
There’s No Place Like Home
We find that we settle in pretty quickly wherever we are. For now, Sugarloaf Resort is home. We’ve taken to enjoying the luxury of a soak in the enormous hot tub following a day on the trails. We almost always have it to ourselves, and we get to drown the weariness from the day as we transition into evening.
Today, with the concert in our plans, we could have joined all the folks with their folding chairs, bar stools and picnic tables and caught the full volume of the band as we watched small children chasing one another with abandon across the grassy slope beneath the lift.
Instead, we sank into the hot tub and then pulled up our chairs to enjoy our own quieter and more private version of the concert, cocooned in warmth and safety.
With renewed appreciation of knowing exactly where we were.