Sunday, December 30, 2018

A Day On The Trail- Fujifilm X-E2

A Day On The Trail- Fujifilm X-E2
December 2018, Carl Garrard

The Christmas holiday took its toll, regardless of how simple I tried to make it. I had spent all weekend cleaning and re-organizing my place; making up on all of my chores and also did early spring cleaning. It was time for a change. After that personal victory, I had showered and relaxed, and slept very well through the night. I awoke, made coffee, and reveled in the feeling of accomplishment as I looked around my house at all the changes and cleanliness of it all. Something about a clean house, and how it smells and looks. I had a renewed sense of pride in my domicile. I poured some coffee, and lazily started thinking about my day. Somehow, I knew today had to be spent outdoors. Still in my pajamas, I peeked out of the blinds and looked towards the mountains. I took another sip of coffee...ah yes, a perfect winter day and it beckoned me to explore. I knew I had to go cycling.

I finished my coffee and got ready, slowly but deliberately, enjoying the fact that I didn't have to rush for once. I dressed for the cool weather, all black, leg and arm covers on to keep me warm, and felt perfectly dressed for the elements. I love when a spontaneous plan comes together perfectly so soon in its implementation.

I had to bring a camera, but not sure which. So of all of them, I wondered what I should bring with me. Early yesterday, I had used my X-E2 to make some product photographs, and marveled at how much I still love that camera. It's not too big or heavy for a mountain bike trip in the Camelbak, as long as I don't use a zoom lens, so I attached the 27mm f/2.8 pancake and hoped I wouldn't see any wildlife. It's a perfect camera because its just the right size- it feels like a proper camera. It does not sacrifice handling or vital controls at all, but it's small and light enough that it does not weigh me down on the trail. Perfect, it will do.

Clothing check. Camera check... now which bike?  Ah yes, my OIZ Orbea full suspension... or hmm... maybe not?

I decided to let that be a last minute decision. I noted that I felt better prepared for this ride than I have in years. I don't know why everything came together so well, but after being in the emotional gutter lately, I feel I deserved some wind under my wings that was desperately needed. I didn't care how hard I pushed my body today, my equipment would get me home no matter what shape I was in. I felt like I was headed for battle, but so relaxed and ready. And I'd come home to a clean and organized house with absolutely nothing that I had to do. Today, seemed special.

I headed downstairs.

Of my three beloved bikes, I chose my Orbea Alma hard tail mountain bike. After all, he and I have been through personal emotional wars, out of state travels, and even races together. He has never let me down, he is reliable, fast, and versatile. Yet, he wasn't my first choice;  as stated above, I had intended to use my full suspension Orbea OIZ today, but at the last minute my gut told me to choose the Alma. I'm not sure why, but it turned out he was indeed the right choice. Probably because I knew he would not let me down. Go with your gut.

I headed out.... and I knew I had to go out through Coto De Caza towards Caspers Regional Park, it's been months since I've been there and I needed a change. My pace was good, my legs felt rested, my lungs and heart would need some warming up in the cool air though, so I took it easy at first being patient with them. Smart choice too, because soon as they warmed up, they would be telling my legs to keep up!

I rode for about 10 miles before I finally stopped. It felt so good to be outdoors, clean air, beautiful blue sky with high clouds, and my body and mind in full focus. I didn't want to stop and take pictures, but I knew I needed to remember today. Today was special. I  loved the sky and it's lack of contrails, rare unspoiled high clouds.

I motored on a bit down the trail, through cross country hills, some fast downhill sections, and some challenging climbs. The trails, recently rain soaked, had dried up just enough that riding on them would not damage them in any way. They were perfect. And even in December, green grass has already sprung up. The trees and shrubs in the chaparral seem to be healing after a very long drought.

I came to the fork that would lead me to Caspers Regional, but Bell Canyon trail was closed for "maintenance" with large machinery. No doubt the rains caused some damage, and these are fire trails that need to be maintained. I took the opportunity to make this image of my trusty Orbea Alma. A rider can be seen on the fire road in the background.

I was already about 12 miles out, so I decided not to continue on the road I was on, for it was a dead end. So, I changed my plans, and headed back and do a different fork in the trail. This turned out to be serendipitous for me. A very fast downhill and gutted out fire road proved to be challenging but quite fun. Whatever stress and negative thoughts I had the last couple months, was completely gone. I felt like a kid flying down this section, my body and mind perfectly in tune with my Alma, we felt as one. All of my experience came back to me, as it always does. Then I reached the end of that downhill section, and came to the Live Oak Forest and stopped suddenly when I saw this scene.

My lens wasn't wide enough to "grasp" this moment. So I thought for a second, then got an idea! Thank god the XE2 has a very good panorama feature, because it worked flawlessly here. The cool air and blue sky, the still forest, the new green grass, the birds and their songs. This shot almost captures that perfect moment. The sun peeking through healing Live Oaks. Ahhh.

Nobody braving the cold and the trail today. This was all mine. My mind and body were fighting against one another, my body wanted to ride, but I had to take a moment for this. I looked up, and all I could think was "canopy". I felt just as warm and comforted as a blanket and couch could offer at home. But I felt small, and humble, and reunited. Yes, the canopy.

These oaks have been here for hundreds of years. I am just one of countless visitors under their sparse shelter. How very beautiful. I wondered, what stories they could tell, the history, the years of natural history not of man, but of nature. My mind was silent. My senses keen. Then I felt compelled to look to my right, and these branches caught my eye.

Something about them captivated me. I was going to move on but I couldn't. All I could do was sit and wonder what made these branches so. Years and years of wind, rain, invading insects, lightning, sun, and wildlife had helped shape them. Oh the stories they could tell, oh the story they do tell. I was paralyzed, fascinated with the broken yet somehow strong looking limbs. They felt like a metaphor of my life. Of all of our lives. That no matter what they had endured, they were still here, still standing, through the abuse of time and experiences. I teared up, and I smiled.

Of this forest, they were the wisest of the wise. The strongest of the strong. And yet, nearing the end of their reign. All life must live, and die. But their strength, gave me motivation, as silly as that may sound. I looked behind me.

The Live Oaks taking in a bit of sunlight. A family, some fallen, some young, some older and wise. To most people, they would be lucky to get a quick glance, but not for me, not today. Something was different about the trees today, or perhaps it was something different about me. I smiled. Humbled and enlightened, happy to see the forest reunited with much needed rain water. The forest was happy, I was happy. Moments don't get better than this.

Then I heard the sound of a family down the trail, a Father and Mother, and their son and dog. They were out here only with me in this forest, barely audible, and I heard them talking to one another, marveling at how beautiful the forest was today.

And all of my feelings, thoughts, and senses were instantly filled with additional validation. As I passed them with care and politeness, I wished them all a Happy New Year.

Happy New Year to all of you. Thank you for spending the time reading my thoughts.

Stay Focused.

-Carl Garrard


  1. Thanks for sharing your good day with us. I really enjoy the photo taken by the XE(s) family.

  2. Hi Beary, you're welcome. And thank you for reading my ramblings :)