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The Backyard Trail

Editor’s Note: The following essay was originally featured on THE ROCK FIGHT podcast and is available to listen to in the player below.


Today I’m picking a fight with…Big trail networks. The ones that try to lure you to a new town or a long drive to use them. Because the best trail in your life is the one closest to your house.

I’m here today to defend the little guy. Or at least the short guy. I’m talking about the trail you rely on the most. The trail you’ve ridden, run or hiked more than any other. The default in your life. The one whose every feature, baby head and root has a name, the one you can clean on bike or on foot with a blindfold on.

I’m talking about your backyard trail. The trail closest to your house.

So close that you can either walk out your front door and be on it in minutes or the drive is so short that you can rip around on it for an hour and still be back in time to pick up the kids from school.

In all of human history there has never been a time where FOMO has achieved such heights as right now. The internet era has provided us the opportunity to see all that we don’t have and often forget what we do have.

We wake up and immediately pop open Instagram, see all the outdoor media and athletes posts and the part of our brains in which FOMO resides immediately starts pumping out thoughts like:

You need to go ride the entire Whistler trail network in 3 days this summer

or

You know if you surfed every day for a month you’d probably be able to handle Nazare

And even worse, this mindfuck of FOMO poisoned thoughts make you look down on the trails in your backyard. You may start to consider them lesser than because they are so familiar and so much less epic then the other stuff you’re seeing online.

But the truth is… that your backyard trails are the best trails in the entire world.

Let’s start with the fact that not everyone has backyard trails. An upside that has come with the internet is the ability to access places we didn’t know existed before and so it’s easier than ever to find local places to get outside on dirt. But even then there are still people out there for whom this is nothing more than a pipedream. If you’re one of those people and you are listening to this, you have my condolences. It may be up to you to find a way to bring a local trail network to life, so get cracking.

Then there is the other end of the spectrum, the 1% we’ll call them. Those who live with immediate access to one of the big trail networks that people travel to specifically to ride, hike or run.

We don’t hate these people, so long as they take advantage of this incredible access.

For example my buddy Chris lives in Winter Park with access to some of their best trails literally out his back door. We don’t turn green with jealousy when we think about this, we instead morph into the Robert Redford as the Jerimiah Johnson gif and give an approving nod. Now if Chris lived in this place and never went on the trails? We’d take his house by force and install a new resident with a quiver of bikes worthy of such a location.

The look we give those who have some truly awesome backyard trails.

For most of us, having a few miles of a nearby trail enables everything. It allows you to be on dirt quickly which then allows you to reach that wonderful zen state we all love when mountain biking or trail running. It’s close by, so you’re on it before you know it and a lunchtime workout is quick and simple.

Even if you live near a larger trail network, you’ll still use your backyard trail the most because, well, it’s in your backyard.

I used to live in Park City in a neighborhood called Summit Park. Did I drive over to ride Jenni’s, Spiro, Armstrong or Pine Cone every day? No, I rode the amazing trails we had in Summit Park and then maybe on the weekend I’d hit those other ones.

Plus the most underrated part of any backyard trail is that because they’re not a destination, you rarely have to deal with crowds. These are locals only type trails. Even on a weekend with the most perfect weather I won’t come across more than 3-4 other people on my backyard trail. Solitude has never been easier to find on a regular basis.

My current backyard trail is one of my all time favorites. I can bike it, hike it or run it. I don’t have to drive to get there because it's only a half mile of paved roads and sidewalks away. It goes up a steep, small mountain with a bare summit so not only do I get the physical benefits of climbing but I also get great views when I top out. There is a ton of variety, from smooth dirt sections to the part I’ve named baby head alley.

And I can get in roughly six miles of distance before doubling anything up. This local trail will prepare me for anything.

The backyard trail is maybe the most underrated part of any adventurous life. Hold it close. Cherish it. You’ll spend more time there than on any other trail and don’t be tempted by the propaganda put out by mountain towns and feel the need to move somewhere with a reputation for being a mountain sport paradise.

Those places are cluttered with people who consider themselves ‘hardcore’ and are hiding their boasts on social media with phrases like “I’’m so blessed to live here”. They also attract a lot of touristy newbs who don’t know what the hell they’re doing.

So quit lamenting the fact that you’re on your 268th time out on the same trail.

Embrace that local legend strava badge and love your backyard trail.

Love that it’s getting you ready for bigger adventures while also helping you to keep your sanity on a daily basis.

Your local spot is special, because it’s yours.

And if I see anyone disrespecting my backyard trail? You better believe I’m heading to babyhead alley to arm myself for yet another rock fight.

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