Lydia Tanner is a dirt connoisseur who lives in her car. She spent her fall drinking gallons of coffee and riding lesser-known trails all over the Northwest. These are her stories.
Words & Photos by Lydia Tanner
My car smelled like the innards of an old shoe. The clothes not caked in rotting mud were wadded into damp piles, and our day-olds had crumbled into a stale, homogenous mass. Over the last seven days we'd been on the road for 1500 miles and 24 total hours. We'd ridden four new trails, camped in three states, consumed countless gas station coffees–and done most of it in the rain. Even the bikes looked haggard. Still, as we pulled into our next destination, I felt a little butterfly of anticipation.
Sandpoint, Idaho, is home to some of the most badass folks I've ever met. On skis, on bikes, wherever; over the years I've stopped feeling too surprised when I find out my newest shred buddy hails from Northern Idaho. Maybe it's their proximity to the Purcells, the Selkirks and other general Canadian awesomeness–or maybe it's something in the Pend Oreille water. Either way we were headed North to see for ourselves.
Following beta from a friend, we simply drove to the end of a street and parked, staring silently into the trees. The woods were dark and deep, and the only indication that we were even near a trail was a small sign featuring the local bike club. It was time to saddle up and go exploring.
The trail started faint, then dove into the woods, twisting around trees and over logs. Not enough sun reached the ground to warrant sunglasses, and the dirt was soft and quiet. In a word the Sherwood forest trails are playful, and despite our latent road exhaustion, we found ourselves giggling as we pedaled deeper into the maze.
Nearby Schweitzer Mountain may have had more to offer in terms of gnar, and there are plenty of other trail systems in the area, but Sherwood was where we landed and we loved it. As seemed to be the theme with this trip, we were struck by the local commitment to building sustainable, enjoyable trails. No wonder all the Idahoans I knew had turned out so good at bikes.
From independent efforts like the ones we saw in Pocatello to the state-level cooperation we found in Curt Gowdy, it's encouraging to see such widespread support for our sport, especially in places off the beaten path. More than just getting our funs in on the road, hitting these gems reinforced the feeling of being part of a community; one that depends on the many folks who protect land, build trails, and make sure they'll last.
Do you know how your local diamond in the dirt came to be? Did you help build it, or know someone who did? Everyone who enjoys a trail has a responsibility to help protect it–and there wasn't one trail we found on this trip that wasn't facing its own set of challenges.
So, to wrap up my little PSA, and my Diamonds in the Dirt series: Don't take your dirt for granted; find out what you can do to help, and ride on.