The most acute danger of being local to a given area is taking that place for granted, and allowing your perceptions to fall in line with the received wisdom: which trails give the best riding, where to find good powder, what is the choice fishing spot. The ideal balance is to be aware of the history and the reasons behind it while keeping a fresh eye when examining maps. This balance becomes harder to keep the greater the experiential weight you accumulate, so I’m trying my base to put my fresh eyes to good use.
Casey and I haven’t done that many rides together, but those few have tended to be good ones. It felt normalizing to get out and ride one of those obscure local loops, like our new home in Helena was finally a logical extension of Whitefish and Missoula. And it didn’t really surprise me that two locals I ran into riding this morning had never thought about riding the trails Casey and I had two days before, even though they’re 20 minutes from downtown and have existed for a century. Our plans did get truncated, the minimal summer campout got axed when we topped the ridge and saw a series of storms marching towards us ahead of dusk, and our chosen peak offered no flat camps anywhere other than on electrically charged knobs and saddles. So down we went, through the lightning and rain, soaked and muddy faced and happy at making it back to the trailhead before dark.
None of the trails I rode this weekend were built with bikes in mind, which makes them moderately difficult in a non-flowy way that I love (“flow” in MTB generally means “easy for me”). While nothing I’ve thus far found is genuinely technical in the broader sense, there are plenty of randomly embedded bits of granite to catch a wheel or cause a flat, lots of brush overgrowing narrow sections of trail, and as I found out today loose over hardpack that pops up in the just the wrong spots to lure you in with more speed than your tires will handle. Casey had talked about going through a spell of crashing lately, something any mountain biker or skier can relate to, phases which demand a cautious approach until whatever bad combo of mindset and fate has passed. Our descent had lots of high speed sections and lots of hidden pitfalls, things made worse by rain fogged glasses, and I respected Casey for riding within his circumstances. I on the other have a full 8 months of solid riding in my past to make skills and confidence quite high, and even in the rain I rode like it. After the crash today I joked with Casey that he had left some of his bad luck for me, but really my time had just come up. Eventually everyone will crash.