Passing through the parking lot, it struck me as strange that there should be a ranger vehicle parked there, especially with no actual ranger inside or nearby. It was just a quick thought, passing as quickly as the small birds that were picking through the brush on the side of the trail.
The ranger hailed me about 5 minutes later, halting me as I swung upward from singletrack to the short, wider transition to the next narrow bits. The trail was closed, he said. They were removing an individual from the trail. No further information, despite a couple of pestering questions from my end. It did seem odd that there wasn’t more visible paramedic activity, but they could have been working from the paved road which heads up to the ridge. Ended up doing a bit of inside-out loops to cover things, and it seemed like a number of other users had been pushed down to the lower trails on this clear Saturday morning.
At the other end of the park, I stopped and assisted another rider with a particularly vexing tire change. It turns out that their group had passed by the place, and the “individual” in question had died. They had ridden by the covered body. A bit later, another rider I followed briefly stated that it had been a cyclist out with a group. They’d all stopped to drink some water and he just folded over. He didn’t have any further specifics. It just sounded sad and sudden.
The last thing in my mind when I leave for a ride is the possibility that I won’t come back. Sure, there are dangerous drivers, unknown variables and skills which too often fall short of needs, but the idea that the biochemical processes would short out, or that things would just end never seems to be part of the consideration. Of course, we all get just so many ticks of the clock, and when you get smacked by that every once in a while, it’s time to sit with that thought a bit.
I hope the person was with friends, that they’d shared a laugh or thought that day which would be remembered. I hope cycling was a deep passion, so that the bright, damp and chilly morning was a great adventure. I hope that everything which could be said to loved ones had been shared. I hope they all carry the person’s memory forward with them. I guess we all do, for ourselves and those around us.