Growing up my father always had a story to tell of his childhood and young adult life, so long as you were willing to listen, and as a child I was mesmerized by the stories immortalized by songs such as American Pie.
He grew up in a time where the world was changing at a pace much faster than it had previously, and so it would be no surprise that the two of us never really shared a whole lot in common.
Born into a world at war, where the television was as common in households as 3D printers are today, it was before the rise of the nuclear age, and before the digital computer had made its debut.
His stories as a young adult were reminiscent of the time of American Graffiti, growing up in southern California with the rise of Rock and Roll, muscle cars, and drive-ins, and so it was difficult for me growing up, finding common ground, as the world in which we grew up in, was vastly different.
The world I was born into was in a cold war, televisions were in nearly every household, and the digital computer was personal even, fitting on a desk rather than a room the size of my father’s childhood house.
But of the few interests and activities we do share in common, dirt may be the most unique we share.
I have enjoyed digging in the dirt as far back as I can remember, with some of my earliest memories of just that, digging in my play area that my father set aside at the house with a small hand powered backhoe that was built for me by my godfather.
I used to spend hours digging holes, only to fill them back in, adding water to the mixture making a muddy slurry, then going at it digging another hole the next day, after the ground settled.
As a young child, I was captivated how different types of soil reacted to water, how it piled, how it packed, how it would erode, and how it felt in my hands.
My father was no different.
He pushed and piled the land, shaping it at his will, using the acres before him as his canvas as he operated the large earth moving equipment with precision.
He could see it in his mind, how the land would look, how it would react, and when he was done, he would plant over it, and water it, and bring life to its surface.
Some of my fondest memories were sitting on the battery box of that Cat D8 Dozer as he pushed around the dirt, carried it, and moved it from one spot to another, and while I watched my father move mountains as a child, I use much smaller tools to bring people to them.
Originally as a way to just get me out of the office and back into the outdoors after spending so much time traveling around the country, I started to help with maintaining and building trails primarily used for hiking in the backcountry.
I enjoyed doing it, and met a great deal of people who had a similar passion with constructing and maintaining trails.
In 2012 I became more active in mountain biking again, and with that my focus switched from hiking trails to helping with multipurpose trails for mountain biking, and through Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, I met a new group of people trying to shape the future of outdoor recreation.
Evergreens approach to trail building was different than what I had been experiencing over the years up to this point, and their dedication to building sustainable trails was astounding.
It wasn’t about just scratching in a trail, it was calculated, you had to understand the terrain, understand the soil, know how and where the water flowed, and how to make it all work so that the trail could provide years of recreational use from multiple forms of recreationalists.
Better yet, they let me explore my own talents in building and maintaining, and through working with great trail builders and advocates like Mike Westra, Bryan Connolly, and Tyler Salvage, I started to understand there on Tiger Mountain how it all came together, and with Duthie Hill so close to me, I found myself out maintaining and improving what was there with the likes of Graham Turnage and Ryan Chase.
It has allowed me to advocate, be a part of a community, and share.
It has allowed me to build memories with friends, make new ones, create new methods of trail building with people like Josh Venters, a geoengineer and avid mountain biker, and pass on that knowledge to others.
Trail work became another form of therapy to me, breaking up the daily grind of my at-home job that kept me confined to my residence for long hours at a time. A form of therapy that was actionable and gave me even more understanding of my riding, and through my riding, gave me understanding of my trail work.
It takes me back to my childhood, to when I would dig those holes, fill them in, and see how the earth reacted, but now how rain, snow, and hot dry summers will shape it, and how it has become a part of the environment in which it was scratched into.
But maybe most important of all, it allows me to visualize not how the trail will look in a week, but how it is enjoyed by recreationalists for years to come.
Until next time,
For those interested in giving back to the community and help with trail maintenance or new trail projects, contact your local regional trail advocacy group such as Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance and Washington Trails Association.
Feel free to reach out to me as well if you would like to join me on one of my outings. I always provide gloves, safety glasses, rain poncho (if needed), needed tools, as well as snacks or a bagged lunch.