Regardless of spiritual beliefs or hang ups relating to inanimate objects possessing souls, I feel that we can all agree that there is something indescribably spiritual about being outside, the ground beneath us and the canopy of leaves above. If we can agree on this point then we can agree when I say trails abandoned, left to overgrow and slowly erased from existence is a tragedy which should be mourned.
This past season we loaded the bikes and the dogs into the car and headed to Calabogie. For those of you who are scratching your heads as to the geographical location of this strangely named local, it is roughly an hour outside of Ottawa, which for the the youth of today is the capital of Canada. We did so based under false pretense. Word was that Calabogie was home to some amazingly technical trails and some equally technical down hill. Calabogie Peaks, the ski hill which was home to these foretold gems, website boasted of such things. In the past Calabogie has hosted both O-Cup XC and DH events as well as one of the few, if not only, X-Terra races in Ontario. Expectations were high and the itch to let it all hang out needed to be scratched.
We arrived late on Friday night, beers consumed and talk of what adventures would be had. The following morning we arrived at the base of the hill. Strangely there were no other bikes, anywhere. No trail signs, maps or for that matter any sign of trail. We sought the expertise of an employee. The words they uttered were a shot at the very soul of cycling. " The trails are closed, the down hill was shut down last year and you can't ride on the hill." Imagine if you will the heart break, the disappoint and more so the audacity to tell me I can't ride on the hill. I immediately disobeyed this mandate. Soul Mate having competed in both the 0-Cup and the X-Terra became the guide in our search for the forbidden trails, which turned out to be the forgotten trails.
In five hours of riding we uncovered only a small portion of what was a trail system. This portion was a testimate to the lore. It was technical, steep and required more then just the ability to pedal. This brief glimpse into the past revealed that this trail system was incredible and a loss for all those, including myself, who missed riding it during it's hay day. A few artifacts were happened upon. Two signs, both black diamond foretelling of what use to be. These signs left to be consumed by the forest, which had already reclaimed the majority of the trail system could not be left. I took these signs, stealing a piece of the past.
Searching revealed that these trails closed some time in 2009 if not in late 2008, a combination of Insurance issues and land owners. The closure of these trails put an end to mountain biking in the area, unless of course you enjoy riding ATV trails of which there is no shortage.
Exploring what once was, I left Calabogie feeling as though I had missed out on something special. How can we, as riders, just let a trail system parish? I reached this conclusion. We often take for granted our local trails, expecting that they will always be. Never wondering how they came into existence or picking up a shovel or a rake to help maintain them. We ride, blissfully unaware that like all living things they too may one day leave us. Having had this experience I now more then ever appreciate the struggles that IMBA faces in keeping trails open and turning illegal trails into legal ones.
This is a mournful report. Calabogie's trails are CLOSED. Let this be a lesson to not take our local trails, any trails for granted. I have spent many hours this season, after this experience, maintaining and building new trail. In doing so my riding is enriched knowing that as long as I pitch in these trails will not see their death. I encourage every single rider to get out there and help keep our trails alive, because where else are you going to ride?
Peace and love and happy trails.