A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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September 2006, vol 2 no 3

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Mike Hill

The Back Way

Traffic was light this Sunday morning, the air cool. I was off the normally-busy road in no time, and then into a new housing development area built around a small man-made lake. New houses are springing up daily here. One more turn after a mile or so and I was in the middle of Appalachia—wonderfully old, somewhat run-down houses with lots of cars and trucks parked outside them.

on a country road
day lilies for sale
a small sign

I could have ridden for miles on this road, but I came to the Forest Service road fairly quickly. There it was, just like I had read on the map. How had I missed this before? I went around the gate and up the gravel road, which had had some recent work done to it. Shortly, the "road" became single-track. There were many side chutes—I'm guessing the locals have cut their own foot paths—but I decided to try the main trail. It was perfect. No highway noise, no people. Come to think of it, besides the hare and a single squirrel, there was not much out there but me and the trees. A little surprise up ahead.

back on my bike
my fingers stained
from blackberries

I took what looked to be a side trail for a few moments, dismounted again, and walked up the trail. Was this the way into the official trail system?

the sound of my steps
on the sandy trail

Back on my bike. I didn't have much time left (I had told my family I would be back soon), but I pushed on for just a bit more. More single-track. More bliss. No people, cars, buildings. I paused for a minute on the trail to look around, then headed home. I made the roundtrip in under two hours. Best two hours I've spent in a long time.

I recently read some of Edward Abbey's previously unpublished letters. I was reminded that he encouraged people to just stay home. No way, man. Not when I can do it this way.