For many folks fall is the most popular of seasons and perhaps more than any other has its own distinct experiences. Vivid color displays put on by Mother Nature, the opportunity to break out the sweaters and boots, and pumpkin spiced everything are signs that fall is in full swing. While I do enjoy a good pumpkin stout (weird I know) and love my flannel, there is something more fundamental about fall that makes it my favorite season. As days become shorter and the weather less predictable, fall is the season where there is a heightened sense of appreciation because every ride or run might just be your last for the year.

One of my favorite rides in the Boise front is Around the Mountain (AtM), a circumnavigating cross country ride at Bogus Basin, our local ski resort. It has also become one of my favorite end-of-season rides, with cooler temperatures, fall colors, and fewer trail users. AtM also embodies the uncertainty that comes with the fall season, more so than trails closer to town that can be ridden well into December. Still September, I wasn’t sure I was going to have the opportunity to ride AtM one last time. An unexpected front plummeted temperatures and brought snow to the mountains. While winter was still several months away, if we continued on a cycle of storms it could have easily made the trails too muddy to ride and brought the season in the high country to a close. For the next few weeks I intently watched the forecast and routinely checked in on the resort’s condition camera. Conditions were looking promising and then in a moment of celestial alignment, temperatures rose and the sun shined through on Columbus Day, a federal holiday of all days. 

I waited until early afternoon to head up the mountain in hopes of warmer temperatures, dry trails, and smaller crowds. As a rounded the last of the many turns up to Bogus, the parking lot was pretty empty save for two trucks with bike racks and a handful of visitors taking pictures. My excitement grew as I got everything together and headed up the start of what had shaped up to be a great ride. As I switched back on the opening climbs and my heart rate rose I was quickly reminded that the season was a little farther advanced at that elevation with cooler temps and lingering snow in the shadows. Many of the leaves had past their peak, no doubt a result of the early freeze. The trails were in great shape though with the previous week’s moisture providing just the right amount of traction. I quickly found myself lost in the trail as it rolls in and out of the woods giving way to great views of distant snowcapped peaks. I stopped multiple times to take in the views, take a few shots, and generally appreciate how good of a day it was. 

As the trail flowed on I found myself at the apex of the ride, that point where your endorphin levels are at their peak, the gas gauge is just starting to dip, and the legs are just starting to feel the climbs. As is often the case, it was at this point that I ran into the “closed trail ahead” sign. Crap. Luckily the resort is small enough and I’ve spent enough time there to generally know what route would get me back to the parking area. As I began the grind up the fire road I was reminded of the fleetingness of fall. The sun began its decent lengthening the shadows and dropping the temperatures. I was confident I’d make it back before dark, but with the climbing ahead and my lack of additional layers I wasn’t interested in testing that theory. After a few more switchbacks the fire road intersected a familiar trail from ski season that would take me towards the lodge. I finished out the ride cruising down one of the resort’s flow trails, my face grinning and by that point my legs burning a little more. 

Back at the parking lot, I sat on the tailgate and gave myself a mental high-five. I couldn’t get over how lucky I was to have such ideal conditions for my favorite fall ride. Looking up at the mountain I was even more thankful reflecting on a summer full of riding and knowing that before too long I’d be swapping out bike shoes for ski boots. The day was a great reminder that fall is fleeting and fickle, giving you one more week or one more month. It certainly has a way of making you appreciate the here and now though, which is why my favorite season is fall. 

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