Here’s an aerial view of today’s ride with numbers to indicate the location for each shot I took in order as they appear below. The route was the south bank of the North Canadian River between NE 10th and Midwest Boulevard. The starting point was not quite from the NE 10th Street bridge (lower left corner of the map), because satellite recon showed a significant tributary that with no viable ford after the recent rains. Our first shot looks back upstream from the confluence. On NE 10th, that meant backing off from the river to a secondary bridge and beyond that almost to the railroad tracks. I was able to navigate the barriers placed for motor vehicles, but this is all public recreation area. I did see a couple of motor vehicles, but enforcement is very poor until non-motor users start complaining.
The next image shows the view approaching NE 23rd (marked Hwy 62 on the map). It’s pretty nice at this point and there are multiple packed trails and plenty of solid soil under the grass, but the grass is very deep after heavy rains and as yet un-mowed. However, it got steadily more challenging the farther I went. In this next shot I am approaching NE 36th and off to the right is a large puddle of stagnant water. The banks tend to rise to the cut bank, sloping down just a bit toward the dike, so at one point I dodged a massive mud puddle by riding just a hand’s breadth from the cut-bank. One wrong twitch and I’d be swimming.
It was tricky finding a useful path under the NE 36th Street bridge, and it was the end of the wide open banks. Instead, there was a long stretch of trail through the woods. This next image was the “gateway.” The occasional puddle like the one you see always came with some marginal dry passage one side or another, so I never got more than just a little sand on Jeanette.
The forest was thick with natural regrowth roughly my age. Just off-camera in the woods to my right is an early landfill back in the days when everything was buried in long trenches. So the camera struggles to handle the dappled sunlight effect of mixed canopy overhead. It was at least a mile before I saw the river again. The view was not inspiring, but I finally spotted the river as the trees gave way to more open spots and the path turned toward the cut bank. Eventually it really opened up completely for awhile. The next shot on the left is looking back the way I came. So far the puddles have been manageable. I came to a long embankment where a sand extraction company had pushed it up from scraping the cover off the soil. There was a bit of humpy-jumpy over more of this before dropping back down onto the original trail. Of course, a drop meant a higher water table. It was getting mucky. You can see an artificial lake from sand extraction in the background there, just a very little ways below the ground level.
At first, I managed to dodge the worst, but poor Jeanette was taking on more and more mud. The next mile was quite rough and my feet got completely soaked from a couple of times I had to catch myself before falling off. This is stagnant water, folks — stinky. Now if it had simply splashed on my shoes a little, it would be no big deal. But I got them totally soaked, and that meant the smell would be forever lodged in the urethane mid-sole layer. I looked at them and told them I was going to miss them. But I kept them on until I got home. Eventually I could see the bridge through the opening in the trees. On the one hand, I had managed to stay on the bike almost all the way through this nasty mess. On the other hand, she was caked. That nasty, stinking mud mixed with grass and other rotting foliage had worked into the brakes, the derailleurs, and half-way up my calves. I stopped at the final bank and scraped off what I could, pushing it out of the working parts.
To my dismay, the rocks that had been left lying along the bank had been removed, and the underlying sandbar had washed away. There was no way I could wade across because the water was simply too high. That was puzzling because the stream had always been insignificant. There was nothing for it but to go back the three miles or so the way I had come. I tried an alternate route, but all it did was allow me to see where the artificial lake had breached its dam. That explained the high volume of water overnight. That sandbar was there yesterday, as were some rocks now gone.
I decided not to ride back out until I got past the humpy spot, because I knew it would only cake a ton of mud back on Jeanette and I was just a little worried at the gears, chain and derailleur already muddy and gritty. I came back out near NE 36th, climbed the bank and took Sooner Road south to Reno and thence just a mile eastward home. After an hour of washing, she’s all clean and oiled up again. Lord, how I hate mudding!