Posted July 21, 2004
Cool trail: A River Runs Through It

On Whistler's most popular trail, a constant barrage of stunts fits into the trail's ultra-technical flow. You'll start out saying, "I don't do stunts," but before you know it you'll ride an 8-inch log over a huge Jurassic Park fern. Too cool. Because they fit so well, the stunts seem almost invisible. Almost.

Someone told me River is the longest trail per square foot in North America. Miles of trail have been crammed into a tiny area, like intestines in a gooey carcass. You can see a group 20 feet through the trees, but they might be 20 minutes ahead of you.

I've ridden River three times since I've been here, and I'm convinced anyone who rides this trail often will become a rock star.

Ride No. 1 - behold the master
I went out with Brian Lopes for a "recovery" ride. Ha! This might be an easy cruise for a world champion, but I struggled like a buggle. The skinnies freaked me out, and I hard a hard time climbing over the Dagobah roots. Brian hit everything with freakish smoothness. I swear, every minute spent on his wheel yields a revelation. Not only does he see lines the rest of us never consider, but he also has the skill and power to make them stick. Too cool.

Ride No. 2 - "freeriding" for posers
We three kings -- my man Mark Garcia, professional goof-off Patrick O'Leary and me -- hit River freeride style. That is, I ran flat pedals, and nobody was allowed to go fast. Our average speed was 2.8 miles per hour: not very racy, but oh so freeride.

Maybe it was knowing the trail, or the flat pedals, or the cruisy group, but on this day I ruled it. I was a freeriding fool, going all slow with my low seat, water backpack and an overall sense of "that was fun, let's try it again." I was the doctor of skinny balance, the emperor of low-speed maneuvering. A few times I stalled on uphill skinnies, tweaked my skate shoes for a little balance, sipped from my water backpack and kept going. It was too cool!

Patrick was/is a high-powered project manager type guy at Seibel Systems. This year he said screw it and has been goofing off for six months now. He's been living in Australia, New Zealand and parts of Asia and Central America. He was supposed to go back to work next week, but last I saw him he was on his way back to Costa Rica for more surfing.

Patrick follows Yoda through the roots.

Patrick's solution to every stunt was more speed. Here he looks back to see what knocked him off line. Could it be, oh I don't know, a root?

Everyone sing together: "We all need ... some tree ... to lee-ee-an on."

This double teeter is too much. When you roll over the first one, the second swings down for you.

This looks innocuous, but it's the trickiest thing we rode. You have to pop your front tire onto the log a foot to the right of the ramp, then let your rear tire follow the ramp.

Angle 2. After this, you follow the log over a little ravine. No rest for the wicked, eh? (Ha! I said "eh"!)

Mark Garcia, professional fishmonger and founding member of the Enduro Bro's fan club (coming soon), took to the skinnies like a fish to a freezer.

Mark gets skinny.

The mighty Enduro SX, freeride style.

Mark came up way short on a bridge-gap-to-wooden-berm, and this is the result.

Later, Mark walked smack into a sliding glass door. Like I said, Scotch and Cuban cigars. ...

This stunt requires you to get over a bunch of roots, pulse up a steep ramp, then balance around a long turn. Once I made the turn, I pedaled hard and got out of there!

Ride No. 3 - lights, camera ...
BL and I went back to shoot for our upcoming how-to book. I fumbled again on the bike, but riding wasn't the primary mission, especially with that heavy backpack. What a great excuse for sucking: "Hey man, I'm here to make photos ..."

Here are several.

You're climbing along the hillside, la la la, then all of a sudden you're on a bridge suspended over a rocky cliff. Just for fun, there's a gap at the end. Better get some speed. ...

This bridge-gap-to-wooden-berm almost ended Mark. But Mark landed with his front wheel in the gap. Brian prefers to land on the wood, smooth like.

The entire River Runs Through It trail bears a single black diamond for heavy-duty danger. This log ride sports a double black diamond.

"I don't know about a teeter totter on a log ..." said the man, right before he nailed it. He says small teeters are harder than big ones, because the balance point is smaller.
The coolest park in the world

On the way back from River on the Valley Trail, we passed Rainbow Park, a little piece of heaven on the shore of Alta Lake. Beautiful people frolicked, the water shimmered and dogs played.

We went back to the hotel, and returned with a backpack full of beer and my favorite little guy, Rufus. He went nuts, swimming and running and fetching like Labs are supposed to. At one point he had two sticks and a tennis ball.

For both dogs and people, life is good in Whistler.

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