Warm winter days are always a treat, especially on weekends. We’ve had a series of warmer days this winter, but they’ve almost all been while I’ve been stuck in work. Going for a walk and having time to eat during lunch is really hard to do and while the warmer temperatures make my morning walk to the Metro nicer, it’s still usually about 15 degrees colder than the high for the day. Also, because D.C.’s temperatures mainly hover around freezing, most of my Northeastern winter activities (mainly skiing) aren’t available either. All of which is to say that when a nice weekend afternoon in the winter presents itself, I try to take advantage of it.
Fortunately, today was one of those days. All week, I had checked the weather forecast, making sure it still said the temperature was going to rise all week until it peaked on the weekend. It predicted today would have highs in the mid-50s F, with mixed sun and clouds. Much to my relief, the predictions were spot on.
With the mild temperatures and no wind, a long-sleeve shirt layered over a short-sleeved one was perfect. I brought my heavy rainjacket as a possible extra layer, but didn’t come close to needing it. At the beginning, I wore light cotton gloves but took them off when I started overheating. The sun came and went, but with generally blue skies, it was the best weather one could hope for in January in the D.C. area.
I started with the Carl Henn Millennium Trail, my town’s “Bicycle Beltway” that serves as my standard 12 mile loop for a shorter ride. While the downhill at the beginning chilled me a little, the steady grade up for most of the ride required the perfect level of effort, keeping me warm without sweating much. While I normally don’t mind a bit of sweat, it can make riding in those temperatures extremely unpleasant when combined with wind.
Unlike in the fall, the trail was almost completely free of debris, although parts were a little muddy. I definitely appreciated the town’s attention to maintenance throughout the winter, something a lot of places ignore.
The variety of tree species lining the trail made for some nice contrast, with the normally subdued conifers providing the color and the now-bare deciduous trees looking atmospheric. Deciduous trees in winter always look a bit melancholy to me, but in a pretty way. They’re even prettier when covered in snow, but I wouldn’t be out biking if they were!
I detoured a bit near the end to avoid the most unpleasant part of the trail, which runs through a rather industrial sector. In addition, it’s the part maintained by the county rather than the town. Because the county has a huge network of trails to maintain, they tend to put in less effort than the town. As a result, that part of the trail is just a glorified sidewalk. In addition, detouring through the downtown area actually added on a couple of miles. I find it funny that doing something to avoid unpleasantness actually adds on miles these days. In the far-away past, I would have avoided making a ride longer at all costs. Now, I consider it a bonus.
Overall, it was refreshing to get outside in a way that wasn’t just walking for transportation. I like walking, but I find bicycling so much more invigorating. I find the combination of the speed, the exercise, and the variety of scenery – even if I’ve seen it a number of times before – makes it uniquely refreshing, especially after far too many winter hours spent indoors.