Even the true skeptics amongst us will probably have an experience at some point in our lives where we know it’s obvious that it couldn’t have just come from chance. The moment that can at least make a partial-believer out of the non-believer. To quote the Los Angeles Angels manager George Knox (played by Danny Glover) in the 1994 hit movie ‘Angels in the Outfield’ when being questioned about the team’s recent spike in performance; “You can call it faith. You can call it Angels. You can call it whatever you want”.
For many of us who like to ski and ride bikes in Northwest Montana, we had that much needed moment over what seemed like an eternity last summer. We rode through the sub-alpine and later the alpine meadows for weeks on end, completely engulfed in our favorite, yet elusive bloom of summer, Xerophyllum Tenax; the bear grass. The plant has an extensive range stretching north from British Columbia down to California, and east to the edge of the Rockies. Individual colonies however will often only bloom once every 5-7 years. A brief trip over to wikipedia might have been needed for that information, I’m not a botanist, but anyone who has spent some time in the mountains around here can tell you that every once in a while, the bear grass goes into a full on super bloom.
Last summer was one of those years. The reason we love it so much is that it takes us back to winter, our bikes somehow feel like we’re riding lightest and deepest snow, only at 75 degrees and in short sleeves. Riding through fields exploding in the white, softball size blooms of the bear grass, many at perfect handlebar height, can be just as much fun as skiing the best run of the winter. Some plants will inevitably grow a little too close to the trail, leaving riders doused in pollen with smiles plastered across their face at the next junction. If your handlebar hits the bloom in just the right place, it pops off the stalk and floats alongside you for a second or two that feels like an eternity. As mountain bikers it’s something we truly live for.