The Road Home

I couldn’t tell you the exact moment it happened – whether it built up over time or subtly crept in with an afternoon thunderstorm. But the lure of the Wasatch was nowhere to be found.


I had spent back-to-back seasons retracing my steps on miles of well-worn singletrack and skintracks, thinking it’d appear at the top of my favorite ride or be propped against my favorite cluster of aspens. Yet no matter how much ground I had covered after my metaphysical meltdown, there was no recovering the euphoric balance and clarity that so often accompanied me on my adventures through the Wasatch.

Reflection_Stephanie Nitsch

So I left.


Citing an irreconcilable difference between the Wasatch and me, I began an indefinite hiatus from this Utah life last spring. After all, how can you achieve a new perspective when you’re staring at old scenery?


I drove across the West for the better part of 6 months, etching out a new adventure du jour and discovering inspiration through different mountain-scapes and soil compositions. Every mile was invigorated by the potential (and sometimes fruitful) risk of getting lost on a desolate trail, injured by a hidden rock, or humbled by an unassuming 70-year-old ripper. Every berm, bump, and ridgeline was a step into the unknown, fueling my drive for an adventurous life that had since gone stale in Park City. Where one trail ended, I believed that another one was always waiting, leading me deeper into a physical journey of new-ness.


But for all the time I spent lamenting the boringness of trails along the Wasatch, I was equally craving a sense of familiarity. In visiting a new state each week, I envied the locals who would talk lovingly and passionately about their favorite trail. I’d see it in the way they’d move. They would guide me down their own rabbit hole of twisted singletrack and fall into a rhythmic flow that only develops after paying your dues in mileage, sweat, and occasional blood. It was a symbol of hard work, spurred by years of intimate knowledge between rider and dirt.


As I followed in the tracks of my new friends, I reflected on my own familiar trails that I abandoned in Utah. I recalled vignettes of certain trails and the blissful emotions they’d elicit – however fleeting. I knew when to go full throttle and release any hesitations pent-up by a particular section of pinball-esque trees. I reveled in knowing the exact preload needed to clear a rock drop; the precise trajectory to flick through a set of quick switchbacks; the correct ratio of whiskey-to-energy output to bring along on a ride.


These memories bubbled in my mind until mid-autumn, when I unexpectedly began resettling back into the banality of Utah life. To say that I immediately rekindled an undying love for the Wasatch, though, would be a fantastically romantic story. But subtlety has a way of creeping up and teaching you that adventure isn’t so much an exotic journey that requires a plane ticket or full tank of gas. Nor is it the mystical allure of an unexplored trail, peak or contour line. Adventure, it turns out, is a state of mind that looks and feels a lot like the evolution of love: it’s the commitment to seeking out new discoveries while still shrouded in a veil of familiarity.

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