Sunday, October 21, 2012

There's nothing daft about the Taft (Tunnel)

 While preparing to enter the tunnel, a cold breeze from the tunnel's mouth envelopes you and reminds you to put on a cycling jacket.  In my case, I put on three T-shirts I had purchased at Lookout Pass and then donned my cycling jacket and required headlight.  Since we always ride with a helmet, we didn't have to rent one - wearing a helmet that many people had already worn creeped me out a little.

A young forest ranger, David, was comfortably sitting under a pop-up tent ready to check to make sure that you had purchased a rail pass and had affixed the purple tag to your left brake cable.  He had helmets and powerful lights for rent as well.  He informed us that the outside temperature might be 85 but in the tunnel it was 40 degrees - not far from freezing.
Got your pass?  Got your helmet?  Got a light?

My friend Roy and I have ridden through many tunnels on our annual bike-packing trips and negotiating our way through the Taft tunnel was a thrill we had never experienced in Canadian train tunnels.  Once you cycle well into the Taft tunnel, complete darkness surrounds you and and you lose your sense of space.  Here you are riding the very same bike in the very same way that you've ridden it for the past several days and suddenly you feel like you've never ridden before.  You can't distinguish up from down, left from right and if it wasn't for the sound of rushing water coursing through gutters on either side of the tunnel to guide you, you'd automatically crash.
Rentable headlights

A cyclist approaching from the opposite direction had two powerful lights on the handlebars and one on the helmet.  In my disoriented state, it appeared to me that a freight train was approaching me and my small patch of dimly lit tunnel.  My anxiety increased when two dorks flew past on my left - in between the oncoming freight train and myself.
There's light at the end of the tunnel
While most of the cyclists we saw in and around the tunnel had reached the entrance to the tunnel by driving the I90, my cycling friend Roy and I were secretly pleased to know that we had ridden 100 miles to reach this famed cycling experience and not just pulled off the freeway in a car.
The requisite pass

At the far end of the tunnel, the notion to turn around and ride the tunnel again was very strong and the only way we could resist the urge was to look further down the trail to view the spectacular trestles and mount our bikes in anticipation of riding atop these tall structures and have commanding views of the Bitterroot Mountains.  Mountains covered in a carpet of green trees.

Just up ahead was a sign telling riders to that if they found themselves at this sign in the late afternoon that they should turn around to make the last shuttle bus.  So it was with some satisfaction that further down the trail, Roy and I came across two exhausted riders - the same two dorks who recklessly blew past us in the tunnel.  They'd now miss the shuttle and have to pedal all the way uphill to the starting point.  Boo Hoo!

No comments:

Post a Comment