Issue Ten

SLICKROCK SOUL SEARCHING

An Inquiry into the Essence of Human Escape

WORDS x Leah Lind-White
PHOTOS x Satchel Cronk

5 July 2016
Part One

Why?

Canyon walls rise above like rugged cathedrals presiding over the darkness. The crackle of rocks under tread, the bouncing beams of lights refracted off slick rock singletrack, and the increasing volume of breaths expelled from chapped lips uttering messages of unwavering effort mark the onset of an epic adventure. Right, left, right, left.

Entwining illuminated dust particles among undulations of the desert landscape, tendrils of cold air send both body and mind reeling in shock as goose bumps spread across sunburnt skin. Weary legs, yearning for the lost warmth of a sleeping bag’s cocoon, grapple with the physicality of the journey underway. At the same time the groggy mind, lost in the stupor of a starry desert trance while still awaiting the effects of an early morning cup o’Joe, deciphers the critical geometric calculations of height, width, depth, and slope necessary to keep wheels from plunging to the riverbed far below.

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A film of fine desert dust settles onto both legs and bike, while the rocky plateau growing closer awakens a vein of excitement just as the morning sky begins to break. A slow progression of black to blue, the sky suddenly erupts; sending accents of color cascading over a foreign landscape like paint on an impressionist’s palette. Purples transform to pinks, resurrecting peaks of alpenglow in the distance while nearby light sends shadows dancing across the rocks and sand.

No longer pedaling, I stand with my body rigid, diaphragm tight, and eyes wide open in a frenetic attempt to absorb the staggering beauty. My senses are heightened; every sight, sound, and smell is detected for an instant before the influx of new stimuli takes over, and my mind becomes feverishly charged with a thrill only experienced in moments such as this.

No thoughts, no worries, no monotonous tasks to perform. Only one question preoccupies my electrified mind: Why?

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Part Two

Questions

A simple question at face value, these three letters strung together open a world of questioning. Why do I rise before the sun or spend weeks in the desert, chancing no lunch and probable fatigue for a rip down some unknown singletrack? Why is the trail my catalyst for insight, comprehension, and discovery? Of everything possible, why are the dirt, the dust, the moist air, and the compact tread my stereotypical fingerprints? The questions are endless and each facet of my inquiry seems to constitute a greater concept: why do I crave adventure?

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Part Three

Human nature

When I first put knobby tires to singletrack four years ago, the prospect of satisfying my internal curiosity and uncovering the source of my newfound obsession with two-wheeled adventuring seemed like a daunting endeavor. However after three years at university studying a range of subjects from psychological processes to cultural anthropology—and a memory bank now stocked with marvelous singletrack expeditions—I have begun to comprehend humanity’s relationship with adventure.

Adventure is a part of our human nature. The craving for the trail, an innate drive that cannot be resisted, originates from an appetite for novelty that keeps us scrolling through Instagram; dreaming of mountain bike vacations and bike-packing through unknown landscapes. This thirst for novelty and new experiences is what gives us a reason to hope and a desire to question. It is what drives crowds of spectators to movie theaters and sporting events, allowing them for just a moment to take part in the novelty of adventure and the unknown. It links us to history; climbing peaks once conquered for the first time by heroic explorers or traversing vast landscapes first travelled during native vision quest rituals, all compelled by the same innate desire—the need for answers, beauty, and a connection with the natural world.

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Part Four

Deeper significance

And yet for those of us fortunate enough to fully immerse ourselves, escaping a digital world for the experience of true novelty, the act of adventure has a deeper significance.

It is part of our biology; an addiction driven by chemical processes and a need for pure stimulation that once discovered can never be forgotten. The rhythm, a mantra of its own kind marked by the beat of breaths and the stroke of pedal rotations, links our brain in a harmonious combination of right and left circuits; stimulating emotions, ambitions, and creativity to the surface.

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And then the descent; a rip-roaring time of rocks, risk, sweat, and laughter as whoops and hollers are thrown at the wind to be swallowed up in a wake of dust and true exhilaration. All senses in tune to the same rhythm: left, right, up down, neurons firing, flashes of colors, eye-to-wheel coordination around roots and rocks, our mind alive with the tremendous influx of stimulation all around as chemicals surge throughout our physical form.

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Finally the crescendo; skidding to a halt as brakes squeal and dirt explodes upwards from sliding tires. Dry eyes struggle to focus on the suddenly still world, dirt and sweat is pasted on parched lips and tongue, and rapid breaths emerge from behind a giant grin that cannot be wiped away. This is a feeling of true ecstasy, a mind-body connection only made in this whirlwind of giddiness and adventure.

It is an experience that keeps our mind awake, allowing us to see past the mundane routines of daily life and instead encounter the full spectrum of possibilities that lie within ourselves.

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Part Five

Live to ride

For those of us who share an affinity for two-wheeled escapades, mountain biking is genuinely a part of who we are. We live to ride; to encounter the inspiration and ambitions developed from the awakening of the mind. Whether untouched dirt or tracked with thousands of wheels before, the experience of the trail satisfies the innate need for adventure that we all so desperately desire. While I am only just beginning my inquiry into the importance of human adventure and value what I’ve come to understand thus far, I am content with the fact that absolute answers may be unattainable. At the end of the day, the reasons behind our passion are secondary.

We ride because it brings significance and contentment to our lives in this tumultuous world. We ride because it is what we love, and that is what truly matters.

The End
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