Editor’s Note: “Over a Beer” is a regular column written by Greg Heil. While Greg is the Editor in Chief for Singletracks.com, any opinions expressed in this column are his alone and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Singletracks.com.
The secret to getting lost–and having fun doing it–is to get lost wisely. By that I mean, I’m rarely ever truly lost in the sense that I don’t know where I am, I don’t know how I got to where I am, and I don’t know how to get back to where I started.
Instead, most often I get to a place I’m not anticipating, or the route I hope exists doesn’t exist. I know where I’m currently located, I know how I got there, but the way that I got there is so insanely miserable that I just can’t make myself turn around and go back the way that I came.
So inevitably I soldier on, and the ride devolves into walking my bike through the woods for a significant amount of time, and generally, it ends up being about 10 times worse than going back to where I started. It never fails: it’s just always worse hiking your bike cross country, pulling it through the undergrowth and slinging it over downed trees as you crawl over behind it.
But sometimes I think you need that–or at least, I do. The feeling of true adventure. The feeling of, “Oh shit, maybe I don’t know where I’m going!” or “Oh shit, I’m going to fall off that next cliff!”
I think that’s healthy.
As I try to solve problems and determine what my next move should be to get myself out of this royal mess I’ve created, everything within me comes alive. I find my mind working in overdrive, reading topo maps, looking at satellite imagery (if I’m lucky enough to have a signal), reading the mountains, looking for cross-country routes, following deer trails which dead end at steep chasms.
And sometimes, despite the hardship and the feeling of being lost, I end up connecting my intended route together, and everything is hunky-dory! And other times, I have to pull the plug and get out any way I can–and that’s ok.
Just last week, I was trying to follow one trail to connect between a road and another singletrack… and I ran out of trail. I was relegated to pedaling through wild meadows, dodging flowering cacti, bushwhacking along deer trails, before eventually determining that it would be highly unlikely that I could complete my intended route. I ended up pulling the plug by half-walking, half-riding down a drainage on a stupid-steep, loose mountainside, all the way down to a road many hundreds of vertical feet below me.
Despite my intended route not working out, I loved every minute of it. The mountains were beautiful, but intimidating. The views were stunning. The riding was frustrating yet rewarding.
And through every moment of it, I felt completely and utterly alive!
So go out there and try getting lost. It might just be the most fun you’ve ever had.
Disclaimer: I take no responsibility for anyone who takes my advice and gets injured, truly lost, or dies in the process. Mountain biking is a dangerous sport and it can turn deadly. In fact, I take no responsibility for anything that anyone else does at any time for any reason whatsoever–you are on your own. Accept the risks and be self-sufficient, or don’t mountain bike.