Monday, September 3, 2012

Labor Day picnic ride on the High Line Canal trail

View from the Big Dummy.
I'm not ready to acquiesce to the common perception that Labor Day is the end of Summer. It just doesn't feel like it. For the past week or more, the temperatures have been in the 80s and 90s, and look to maintain at roughly that level for some time. Besides, the calendar says it's still Summer until September 22, and I'm sticking with that date.

Regardless of my peculiarities with acceptance of seasonal change, the rest of the family seemed ready for a ride. With the day off from work and school, we assembled the necessary items to have a nice ride to a favorite picnic spot. While I was packing the cooler, filling water bottles, and checking tire inflation, Julie made sure that the baby's fuel tank was topped off. Lil Sis has recently taken up the big girl pursuit of eating food. On the menu today was a first experience with carrots, followed by sweet potatoes, the old standby of her food eating career, which now spans a little more than a week.
The only problem she has with eating is when the spoonfuls don't arrive quickly enough.
Once we were loaded and fueled, we hit the trail. We selected the High Line Canal trail as the focal point of the day. The High Line Canal trail system meanders about 66 miles throughout the Denver Metro area, beginning at the outlet of Waterton Canyon, where just a couple of days ago Nicholas and Lael entered the Colorado Trail. The High Line Canal system is one of the best easy recreational features of the region, and has a long history in the development of Denver and surrounding communities.

The canal and a parallel maintenance trail were originally built in 1883 for the purpose of agricultural irrigation. As agriculture gave way to urban development in the modern era, the canal is only intermittently filled with water, but the trail has become the premier non-paved trail system in the metropolitan area. Because the trail runs parallel to the canal, any changes in elevation are very slight. The trail only occasionally intersects with streets with motorized traffic, and often underpasses have been constructed to facilitate crossing major roads. Parks and recreational facilities are located throughout much of its length. Additionally, the High Line Canal has long supported more vegetation than ordinarily occurs in our semi-arid region, meaning that much of the trail is shaded by Cottonwood and various other trees lining its course. All of these features make the High Line Canal trail an excellent choice for recreational family riding.
Our little bike convoy cruising along the High Line Canal trail.
Shady parking for the trail train.
Hungry riders chowing down, while an alert dog makes sure nothing goes to waste.
Most of Denver and its suburbs have views of the mountains of the Front Range. Though peaks and forests may appear to be crystal clear and not too distant, for us, the mountains and even the foothills are just too far away to be readily accessible without hopping in a car. Little verdant oases like those sprinkled along the High Line Canal trail and elsewhere within our part of the metro area are easily accessible by bike, and allow us to feel as though we got away from the city, at least for a little while.

Our first objective was lunch, and as I was carrying the bulk of the food, I was more than happy to redistribute it to everyone else. After putting a big dent in the food, we spent some time looking at crayfish and other aquatic life while cooling off near a section of Big Dry Creek. During the heat of the day, finding a little bit of water for cooling off makes a ride just that much more fun. Both human and canine components of our group took advantage.
Darting little fish hide in the shady outcroppings along the banks of Big Dry Creek.
For a cattle dog mix, presumably with an ancestry in parched, landlocked environs, Scout sure seems to enjoy being in water.
Smiling in a snazzy bike outfit, thanks to the ever stylish Fixed Gal.
There were plenty of people out on the trails today, many of them riding bikes. From an informal accounting, the majority of bikes seen were mountain bikes of multiple vintage, but a wide range of other variants were represented. Single-speed cruisers, skinny-tired road bikes, and recumbent trikes, all plied the unpaved trail.

However, our bikes, loaded with kids and equipment, a sizable cooler, various picnic paraphernalia, and a dog pacing alongside, still deviated noticeably from the norm. After four years, the Big Dummy still draws about as many looks and questions as it did when it was new. Julie's Breezer Villager is now more than 7 years old, and remains her favorite bike of all time. It has a comfortable upright riding style that is perfect for her purposes, and has required remarkably low maintenance. It's just about the perfect Mommy bike.
The Surly Big Dummy continues to be a do-it-all family truckster of a bike.
The Breezer Villager carrying its share of the load.
As we took our time, alternately riding and stopping to check out playground equipment, we started to get hot. At some point, some of us began to accurately predict when "rain" might selectively shower individuals in our group. Of course, the source of these showers was quickly found to be errant streams from water bottles, arched just right to drench unsuspecting riders. This degenerated into an all out soaking of everyone involved, with some protest but little complaint.
Just prior to a full-scale escalation into a water fight.
Scout knows that at the end of every ride...
... a welcome dip in her water tub is awaiting.
So, that was the bulk of our Labor Day. Just remember, Summer is not over. Here's to its continuation for at least the next 19 days.
Our girls, little and big. Ages 6 months and 7 years, respectively.
Lest the occasion slip by unnoticed, welcome to the double 20-year old club, Jennie. Drinks are on me, next time you're around.

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