Years ago when I first started to run the trails in the fall with our fearless leader, Jack McArdle, we were always treated to a description of the route at our local park. If we complained, we were assigned “penalty hills” and as we groaned with a smile on our face, we dutifully ran the hills until the next assignment by the trail boss. Invariably, each trail run always included a run up or down the “Bathtub Trail”. At first I was confused as to what Jack was talking about until I came upon the ancient bathtub placed to collect spring water at the base of the trail. It was always a curious placement and I always wondered who put it there and when was it placed? It was always a topic of discussion and I was always way more curious than my fellow runners with my inspections of the clear spring water and the curiosity as to why on earth someone would take the time to put a bathtub there?
As time went on, the Bathtub Trail was a common route for runners and eventually mountain bikers in the park. But the trail itself was a challenge to any newcomer on two wheels with its off camber construction and loose soil which if ridden with reckless abandon, would extract a flesh wounding penalty to the disrespectful or ignorant rider. It was almost as if the bathtub itself was a sentinel which demanded respect and if the proper homage was not paid, the penalty for a rider down the trail could be severe. The opposite could be true as well in that the unprepared rider or runner might not make it up the trail without dismounting and humbly walking up to the summit.
I can remember vividly Pat” the nurse” which was his moniker by the trail runners, attempting to ride down the Bathtub Trail with his newly purchased hybrid bike. Despite my warnings about hybrid rims and tires not holding up to the demands of the trails, Pat rode down the trail without respecting what was before him. As his rims both “pretzeled” under the rigors of the terrain, the nurse went careening into the trees and came up a dazed and bloody mess. He agonized over his destroyed wheels and remarked ” I just bought this bike and now it is trash.” I warned him. I thought to myself,” another example of not respecting the trail and paying homage to the reputation of ……..the bathtub. It was almost as if positive execution required some sort of homage to this graven image or perhaps we should light yak butter candles or install prayer flags like the climbers who dare climb in the Himalaya? I laugh at these fleeting, ridiculous ,thoughts but maybe there is something to it? Just kidding……………maybe?
Currently, the Bathtub Trail has some competition surrounding it as other trails have been constructed offering alternate routes for the trail runners, equestrians, and mountain bikers. But for me, the familiarity with the trail ridden hundreds and hundreds of times in all weather is comforting. Familiarity with any trail can make things a lot easier and riding them without much thought can be comforting or lead to disaster if you take for granted that the descent is still a little sketchy. I was riding the other day with some guys and they inquired why I was riding down the Bathtub and ignoring some of the newer single track. I remarked that you had to pay homage to the Bathtub Trail every once in a while to keep the “karma” positive. We all had a good laugh at that one but as I passed the tub, I looked into the glass like water and gave it a nod of respect. Not much different than I would have received a blessing from one of those Tibetan monks before attempting a daunting climb. That bathtub has seen much carnage over the years and has extracted some serious penalties from some unsuspecting riders and runners. But not me. All hail……………..the Bathtub Trail. Thanks for laughing but don’t do it near the trail. 🙂