Whether we live in cities or in rural communities we’re tied to the land. Terra firma. No, that doesn’t mean we’re all farmers, ranchers, or loggers. We’re grounded in a topography. A geography. Even in urban studies when I teach university courses on the city we explore this notion of a city’s site and situation. We talk about topography, geography, climate, resources, and more. It influences us in the city … the rain, ocean, and lush forests of the Pacific Northwest … the sun, heat, and arroyos of the Southwest. We’re tied to the land.
We notice it when we ride. Especially when we’re climbing you notice every slight change in the degree of slope, every rock, every root, every washed out rut. The more you ride a trail the more you become intimately aware of every wrinkle and crease. When we ride trails repeatedly they become our home turf. Our home field advantage.
For a while as a mountain biking guide I rode the same trail network nearly every day … and often times I went out on those trails twice in a day. I tried counting up how many time I had ridden there and I came up with 650. That’s a lot of repetition. A lot of building up a muscle memory.
I knew every root of juniper that hugged tightly to the trail, every protruding rock that sought to hinder your climb, and all of the various types of climbs … short and steep, washed out and gradual, and packed down and fast. I knew when to mash hard on the pedals to build up speed to climb a tricky technical section. I knew when I could catch my breath. On the descents I was aware of each and every drop, washed out ledge and lip, or that overhanging cholla or prickly pear you needed to avoid.
There are pros and cons to knowing every wrinkle. It is easy for boredom to set in. I feel that locally with a few different trail systems. I love them, but they don’t stir any sense of thrill or adventure. They sometime become monotonous like a treadmill or resistance trainer at the gym. But at the same time there is a great comfort in going there. Without realizing it we form a deep and even emotional bond with those places. Those trails. That land. It becomes ours. Years after moving from the desert there’s still a deep emotional bond for that trail system. I can feel it deep in my chest.
It is more than terra firma. It is a landscape that becomes the receptacle of our memories, emotions, and even identity. Sometime we even tattoo those landscapes on our body. To never forget. As much as the monotony at times pains and annoys me there’s something wonderfully familiar about knowing our home trails. We know when to pedal. When to stop so we avoid pedal strike. When to pump. When to brake. When to pick up speed and momentum. When to rest and daydream. Familiar is good. Even with all of the adventures that await us wherever we go there’s something special know about the wrinkles in the land we call home.
Words and photos by Sean Benesh, Loam Coffee Founder and Brand Manager.