Trail: Tank Seven. Rider: Yours Truly. Photo: Marcel Slootheer

I had the opportunity recently to sit down and chat with Ben Welnak of Mountain Bike Radio. We spoke a bit about my history, but ended up doing a bit of a deep dive into what could--for lack of a better term--be called the philosophy of mountain bike media. I may have gotten a touch overly philosophical, but hey--that's par for the course. If you're interested, check out the recording here:

Sunshine Trail, Telluride, CO. Rider: Greg Heil. Photo: Marcel Slootheer

When I think about planning for the future, the math makes sense. 

Work hard now, save and invest, and then in the future you’ll have more money and more time. Take a few days off of riding now to prevent overtraining, so you can ride longer and harder next weekend. Get surgery now so you don’t need a full knee replacement in 15 years.

The math and the logic always make sense. Put in the time now, get the reward later. We’re even taught that the ability to delay gratification is a form of maturity, and the desire for instant gratification is a childish longing that we ought to grow out of with age.

The irony is that while the math of delayed gratification adds up on paper, in real life it rarely seems to work that way. Yes, we can skip a few bike rides in order to let our legs recover… only to get to the planned weekend ride and have the skies open up and pour rain, or what was a set of sniffles transform into a full-blown knock-you-onto-the-couch head cold.

We try to delay gratification for the hope of an even better life in the future, and while I want to think that the spreadsheet knows best, the spreadsheet can never account for all of the actual happenings and random chance events in the real world.

Those random chance events? Collectively we refer to them as “life." 

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!