Wednesday, June 06, 2012

A Father's Perspective on the Trail

11 years ago, it was much simpler.

I was a mountain biker first and foremost. The standard by which I judged all trails was simple: how rocky and technical is it? The more obstacles and challenges a trail had, the higher I valued it.

But yesterday, everything was different as I walked along Hirchman's Trail in Nevada City. My 1/2 mile trek to the pond was not about navigating a tight switchback or cleaning an uphill root section. Yesterday, it was about spending precious and all-too-rare time alone with my beautiful 11 year old daughter as we set out to catch some fish after school. The kind of experience that make memories for years to come.

I challenge anyone to point to a prettier spot in our small town than this the first portion of trail off Cement Hill Road. It meanders though riparian woods one hundred plus years after mankind tore apart the area with hydraulic mining cannons. In the heart of the ecological carnage, nature has since reclaimed the land where now birds serenade you as you pass by thick green vegetation approaching the pond.

Like the land itself, so many things have changed with me. I am a now father of two girls who want nothing more than to spend time with their dad on outdoor adventures. Life is busy and there is never enough time to dedicate to my children and their aspirations.

But for a few short moments yesterday, time did slow down as my daughter and I took in the beautiful trees, sounds and forest. The pond itself was esquisite and serene as we sat by each other on the rock-lined shore. School, work and worries were a million miles away. We would have never experienced this amazing evening without the vision and hard work of Bill Haire, the Bear Yuba Land Trust and Nevada City officials, creators of this trail. In fact, few in our community would even know this gorgeous spot existed just outside of town.

Such trails are now different and much more meaningful to me. Sure, they still represent fun on a mountain bike, but they also provide a gateway into the peaceful magic of the forest with my daughter. Soon she will be grown and perhaps not want my attention so much. But for one beautiful evening this summer,  we relished our time together, caught some fish and took in the splendor of a small Sierra Nevada foothill wilderness. While my bike sat in the garage back home, completely forgotten.

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