This year, more than any other year, has forced me to redefine what it means for me to be outside in nature, living fully immersed in the moment, connected to the rawness of my own existence. Or perhaps, this year hasn't forced me to redefine this type of visceral experience, but rather rediscover something that perhaps I had lost. 

For years when I faced injury, I would focus on recovering. Returning to what I had been doing before. All of my energy would be channeled into not only rehabilitation, but longing for something I had lost—if but temporarily.

While I think I personally need that drive in order to return to the things I am most passionate about, this year I have found myself dissatisfied with the idea of simply waiting around to get better. Part of this, granted, was likely forced upon me by an unexpectedly protracted recovery period… from my perspective. 

The point here is that I am no longer willing to simply wait around for my situation to improve. I’m not even willing to be satisfied with just working slowly toward improvement in my own situation. Instead, I have been asking myself, “what can I do with the amount of wellness that I have, right here and right now, in order to go outside and live?”

While planning for the future and working toward what will hopefully be an even better future is a part of life, at the same time, the only moment we are guaranteed is the moment that we are presently in. How can we make the most of it? 

On my most recent Monarch Crest ride, I noticed an interesting phenomenon. While many riders on this busy Saturday morning stopped to take in the view, some riders, on the other hand, powered straight by, offering up sarcastic remarks—bordering on condescending—for those who were stopping to enjoy the surreal beauty afforded by the mountaintop views.

While I’m not one to sling comments at other riders unnecessarily as I ride by, I do think that for years I was one of those riders, in the sense that I would charge as hard as possible, all the time.

But one thing I’ve realized recently?

Even as a Salida local, if I get 6-8 Monarch Crest rides in per year, every single one of those rides is a rare moment to be treasured, even though I'll log many, many more hours on the Crest than the average tourist.

Personally, if I could get above treeline and hang out on the mountaintops every single day, I would. But that’s not the present reality of my life or my physical health. So when I DO get to journey to the mountaintop—those are moments to be savored, not blasted through with my heart rate through the roof.

Sure, we all ride for different reasons, and maybe those people were way more hardcore than me and were heading out on an epic. (But then why did they ride up in the shuttle?)

Regardless of their unique motivations, I have personally resolved to take it a little bit slower every time I head up above the trees. Especially when riding the Crest and I know I can get down and out of danger quickly if storms build, I've now resolved to take more time to savor the experience of the crisp alpine air, the expansive views in all directions, the changing perspective of the mountains as the sun moves and the clouds float over, and the crunch of gravel beneath my tires.

Sure, my Strava times may suffer. But I’d rather hang out on top of a 12,000-foot mountain than in a parking lot gas station in Poncha Springs any day.
Descending off of the Monarch Crest on the Starvation Creek Trail. Rider: Nick Heil.

The small mountain town of Salida, Colorado lies on the banks of the rushing Arkansas River and in the shadows of towering 14,000-foot mountain peaks. Accessible directly from downtown, professionally-built singletrack trails run up into the mountains on both sides, providing easy access to stellar mountain biking and hiking routes.

In fact, the Arkansas Valley that envelopes Salida may just be one of the most diverse climate zones in the world. On the west side of the valley, the high mountain peaks soar thousands of feet above treeline into a high elevation alpine tundra. During the winter, the local ski resort — Monarch Mountain — receives over 350 inches of snow.

As the elevations drop, the forest transitions through many different zones, eventually culminating in a high desert environment filled with cacti and scrubby pinion pines.

This incredibly diverse climate means mountain bikers, trail runners, and hikers can hit the trails 12 months per year on the east side of the valley, while still skiing deep powder in the nearby mountains mid-winter. Add in whitewater kayaking and rafting, rock climbing, and many other mountain sports, and it’s clear that Salida is ground zero for adventuring in the mountains.

Here are three popular Salida-area trails guaranteed to whet your appetite for adventure:

Read the full article here.

Destination Embed

Monarch Crest Embed

…and they don’t belong to me, either.

It was late June, and the word was out that most of the snow on the iconic Monarch Crest Trail had finally melted. While I was definitely planning to get out and do the full shuttle ride once the weekend arrived, I decided to drive up to the pass for a quick above-treeline out-and-back after work. Normally the Crest is devoid of human life after 4pm on weekdays, and this early in the season I didn’t expect to see a soul.
The weather was absolutely glorious–the temperature was perfect, the sun was shining, and spring flowers were blooming on the alpine tundra. A couple of tall snow drifts were still clinging to their usual spots. Riding the Crest is always fabulous, but the first Crest ride of the year? Simply euphoric.

Friends, today marks a new chapter in my career, as I depart Singletracks and begin a new position at a company called FATMAP. But first, I want to take a minute to reflect on the past 7+ years at Singletracks.

I first started using as a regular website member during my first summer in Colorado, way back in 2008. Like most people, I was searching for trails to ride, and stumbled on the Singletracks database. I was hooked! 

In early 2011 I began freelancing for Singletracks, and later that year I started working part time—Singletracks’ first employee! The Monday after I finished my bachelor’s degree in May, 2013 I began my full-time position as the Editor in Chief for Singletracks The past 5 years have been an incredible ride: we grew Singletracks rapidly, reaching millions of people. This work has provided amazing opportunities I never even dreamt of, like being paid to travel abroad. I’ve absolutely loved my time at Singletracks!

None of this would have been possible without Jeff and Leah Barber taking a chance on an enthusiastic, wet-behind-the-ears 20-something. Very few English majors have the chance to work in a field that fully utilizes their degree, much less walk into a full-time career as a writer and editor the day after graduation. Without Jeff and Leah being willing to wait for me to finish school and then join the company, none of that would have been possible. Thank you guys!

I’ve also had the pleasure to work with dozens of amazing human beings over the past 7 years. Aaron Chamberlain added a fun and challenging dimension to the Singletracks team during his 3 years at the company, and I’m better for it. I’ve worked closely with a host of freelance writers and contributors—you know who you are. I’ve worked and ridden with people from mountain bike brands, guiding companies, advocacy organizations, tourism agencies, PR agencies, and more that have led to experiences and conversations both fun and challenging. While hopefully there are still opportunities to partner together—and get out and shred!--in the future, looking back I know that it’s the people that make the mountain bike industry so fun.

Leaving Singletracks is definitely bitter, but my next step is also sweet: I’m now the Chief Editor of Mountain Biking for . FATMAP is endeavoring to create the world’s first global three-dimensional adventure map. They began with downhill skiing and have recently passed 300,000 registered users. They’re now expanding into other adventure sports, with mountain biking and hiking being the next two emphases. The future is big and beautiful and largely unknown, but I’m excited about the challenges and opportunities that await! 

As you have no doubt gathered if you've been attempting to follow my Outside 365 challenge, I'm off the band wagon of everyday activity, and have been for some time... but hopefully, this hiatus isn't forever.

I'm currently rehabbing from ACL surgery and while many of the so-called "activities" I had been doing as a part of my Outside 365 challenge don't count as activity by the scale of most training plans or athletic trainers--i.e. walking for one mile around my neighborhood--for a knee fresh from ACL surgery, apparently that activity can be too much when added to rehab, riding, and then compounded over 67 consecutive days.

Don't worry, nothing extremely bad happened, but I did devolve to the point where I dealt with several weeks of patellar tendonitis and other knee pain and swelling. So I had to take time off.

Right now, I'm getting out and active about 5-6 days per week, but I'm currently taking at least one day 100% off from all activity each week as a rest day. My hope is that when I can return to roughly full activity, about 4 months from now, that I can restart my Outside 365 challenge at that point in time.

I do want to emphasize that even if you choose to embark upon an Outside 365 challenge of your own that you must--MUST--build in rest days, or you risk overtraining syndrome. By most standards walking just one mile in a day is a rest day, but surgery rehab throws all the normal rules out the window.

I will return.

Day 2

One of the major issues with the sport of mountain biking today is that we have too many mountain bikes to choose from. That’s right, we have too many choices. One dogma that’s been ingrained into us in affluent Western cultures, seemingly from birth, is that more choices = more freedom, and more freedom = more happiness.

The problem is, this dogma is wrong.

Read more here.