Thursday, March 20, 2008

$7,000,000 deal to protect Wilson's Creek, NC

I remember it like it was yesterday. The first real mountain ride I did was on Yancee's Ridge in Wilson's Creek with my buddies Shannon StClair and Mike Swanson, aboard our overly-quick handling jackhammer hardtails with 3" forks. We shuttled, except for this crazy guy Terry Sane that suggested he could beat us to the top pedalling. Shannon broke his finger on a gnarly section of trail that 10 years later, we gap over on our big squishy bikes that we pedalled to the top. The only detail from the ride that I can't remember was the date; I'm pretty sure the year was 1994. Not like it matters, because time does not exist in this place. I was instantly addicted. If it weren't for these little recreational havens like Wilson's Creek, companies like Spectrum Techwear would not exist.

Depending on where you live, riding areas are either abundant with options or limited to one. Or perhaps you have to drive an hour to get to the one spot with abundant options, which is what we had to do back when I lived in North Carolina. Wilson's Creek, NC is where myself and my friends from the east grew up riding. As the "freeride" movement began around Y2K, we began to explore deeper into the mountain forests and see what kind of riding was available. The area is a retreat for those who want to "get away from it all".

myself enjoying a mid-ride cool down

I used to get-away-from-it-all several times per week in Wilson's Creek. The sense of adventure from mountain exploration by bicycle is a real release from, well, anything that could be on your mind. And we weren't the only ones. Mountain cyclists, equestrians, hikers, kayakers, fly-fishers, tubers (not potatoes, but rather hillbillies in tubes - I once saw one hit a huge waterfall drop with a beer cooler tied to his leg) all enjoy the communion with nature this special place offers. In 4 years worth of navigating the backcountry of this area, I still found new trails quite often. And seeing other recreationalists when you get "back in there" is quite uncommon. Just being there makes you feel like the only person on Earth.

Lyndsey developing some skillz back in 2003

Designated as one of four Wild & Scenic Rivers in North Carolina in the year 2000, Wilson's Creek is surrounded by some protected Wilderness Area land and some privately owned land. Last year, a development company wanted to install 225 homes along a 4-mile corridor of the river, through a nearly 700-acre tract of undeveloped forest land. Although the family owning the land has every right to sell it to whomever they want, the impact of such development would surely lead to a significant loss of the area's recreational appeal.

Mike Swanson of Clark's Bicycles in Hickory, NC keeps me up to date on current events of the area. A bit of a steward himself, Mike has seen changes in the area in the past 20 years that have directly impacted the local bike industry. I was stoked this morning when Mike sent me an email stating that the land is scheduled to be purchased for protection. This is the article from the Charlotte Observer newspaper, regarding the recent change in development proposals for Wilson's Creek: http://www.charlotte.com/171/story/541644.html

Looks like we made it through unscathed this round. Thank goodness for forward thinking officials who realize the opportunity abounding in such a natural rarity of this day and time.

cooling down amongst 100 degree temps

We coined the term "CrossRideFreeDowning" to describe the riding in Wilson's. As corny as it sounds, it was the gnarest of gnar. 30 mile rides, 8+ hours, aboard 7" pigs, 50 lbs with 27 gears to choose from. Uphill, downhill, sidehill, overhill, logrides, steeps, etc. You don't have to ride a big bike thanks to the rapidly-progressing technology these days. Even still, it's a unique place where you can rapidly progress your fitness, technical ability, and close friendships.
Sometime around 2003 we began the Weekend at Wilson's rides. Ride, camp, ride.
It was a love/hate relationship where you either came back the next month or never again.

For years I have wanted to live "out west". I would look at road maps of the US and think about how many roads there are on the east coast compared to how few in the west. The vast openness has always been quite appealing. Now that I live here, I realize that people on this side of the country cannot even begin to imagine what a "wilderness" would be like amidst the veins of Interstate that tangle the east. The "black hole" known as Wilson's Creek serves as refuge from the everyday hustle and bustle. It's the only place I've ever been totally lost yet known exactly where I am at the same time. It's a wonderful feeling, and I'm glad that it will be there for more people to find themselves.

For more info, visit the original HickHucksters.com