If you’ve been hiking or biking for long you’ve experienced what I refer to as progress. Trails can either evolve spontaneously or can be planned and developed. What I refer to as progress happens when the best of the spontaneously evolved trails are sent to committee, so to speak, and developed. Often this involves consensus groups which usually means a dumbing down or reduction in fun. It means that the giant mud hole that you found fun will be filled in, or the way too steep descent that you found challenging, will be turned into switchbacks.
In my mind at the time, “progress” was essentially the process of trails getting wider and more boring. However, as I have matured/aged I’ve also grown wider and perhaps more boring myself. This leaves me thinking that trail progress really is just part of the maturing of mountain biking. Mountain biking trails were muddy, dangerous and raw because really there were no mountain biking trails. The early trails were hiking trails, horse trails, deer paths, and abandon roads.
The municipality’s immediate answer for all the trails was to make them 2 lane freeways suitable for kids in strollers, thus rendering them amazingly unfun for mountain biking. In the way back, this happened in the Redmond Watershed/Novelty Hills area. A rough, tumble, and raw set of trails were improved to the point of being no fun. As these old images attest, we were not happy. I will assure you that as I have grown wider and more boring, I no longer use peeing as a political statement, at least not that you know of ;). I also have grown an appreciation for a wide spectrum of trails. I like that there are both wide meandering trails where I can walk next to my wife without fear of being run over by a biker and I also appreciate that there are trails where I can ride my bike without fear of ‘rounding a corner and taking out a whole family in the prime of their life. And I’m even happy riding really slow, sharing big wide freeway trails with all sorts. I’ve grown older, wider, boring, more mature and more tolerant of others. I now have a greater appreciation of “progress” than I did as a younger mountain biker.
So as a more mature person/biker riding around Whatcom County, I appreciate how Whatcom Mountain Biking Coalition (WMBC) has struck a good balance for trail progress. I’ve donated and gotten a nice sticker for my car, but have yet to go out and do trail maintenance with them. It’s something I should do, just haven’t done it yet. When I ride on Galbraith I appreciate that there are trails for many skill levels and interests. There are the high speed fly through the air trails of which I have no interest, there are wide open two lanes that are safe for beginners or people like myself who may want a break from the intensity of the more narrow, rooted and rocky technical trails.
The inclusion of bike only, directional trails allow intense bikers to enjoy while shielding walkers, hiker, and slow bikers from danger.
I think WMBC has nailed real trail progress. Not building trails to exclude all but bikers, but to build a mix of trails that allow a wide spectrum of people to enjoy an area. Trails where walkers, bikers and hikers are all safe.