One Trail at a Time: My Story of Stewardship
My story starts in a small town in northern California, where I spent a good amount of my youth outdoors. I tried lots of different outdoor sports and activities, but one has had a much larger impact on my life than the rest. It is why I am in Nevada today, why I work for a nonprofit that stewards trails and trail development, and what I credit for my appreciation of the outdoors.
Second grade was not my best year. I had just moved to a new school and didn’t know a single person in my class. My favorite thing to do at the time was ride my dirt bike. I didn’t care where we were, I could ride around in circles in a parking lot all day, I just wanted to ride. We spent weeknights at the local track and weekends camping in the desert, my dad cheering me on the whole way. My dad would lead us on long trail rides, teaching us proper trail etiquette and what hand signs to make when we pass others on the trail. He took us up mountains for the view, and picked us up and provided first aid when we crashed coming down those mountains. On more than one occasion, he had to stop to usher a snake off the trail because I was frozen with fear and would not continue our ride until the snake was well out of the way. He would also make us pick up any trash we could fit in our boots or bags that we found along the way. My father cared about us, and cared about the environment he was passing down. He instilled the importance of responsible trail use from the moment we started riding; if we’re not responsible, access to the trails we ride will be removed. Like any young boy, my dad was my role model and I truly admired him.
Now imagine your dad, who is your biggest supporter and always says yes when you ask to go riding, dies during a dirt bike race. Well, that’s what happened. And with no friends in my new class, it was just a terrible start to the school year. I didn’t know what to do or make of the situation. It was incredibly overwhelming. Just like that, everything was, and always would be, different.
I remember my dad would often say, “Yesterday’s history and tomorrow’s a mystery.” Now at the time, I really had no idea what he was talking about, but it rhymed so I figured it was trustworthy advice. Looking back now, understanding what he meant and that he wasn’t just an aspiring rap artist, I can reflect and understand the importance of the message behind the rhyme. He was excellent at enjoying the moment and appreciating what each and every day offered. I wonder if he knew his attitude and silly little phrase would have such a significant impact on the way I lead my life and who I am today. My fondest memories of my father are from our riding and camping trips. On countless 3 day weekends and school breaks the family took the RV and trailer full of dirt bikes to camp and spend our days riding and exploring. One of our favorite areas to camp and explore was the high desert, that’s how I ended up in Nevada.
Nostalgia brought me to the Truckee Meadows in 2011. I was browsing 4 year colleges and wanted to live somewhere with close and accessible trails and outdoor spaces. UNR, Reno, and the Nevada desert were the perfect fit for me. A top priority for me when arriving in Nevada was racing. I wanted to race. Naturally, my mother had been a bit protective of her children when it came to racing dirt bikes, but she supported us racing as long as she could come to the races with us (she actually entered several of the races herself during my first year of racing). After finding the local MRANN (Motorcycle Racing Association of Northern Nevada) series shortly after arriving in Reno, my racing career began.
As the years went by, I discovered that there was much more to the sport for me than just racing. In preparation for the desert races (brutal 100 mile races often covering multiple valleys and mountain peaks), I would travel all over Nevada riding different trails and terrains. This quickly became more fun than the actual racing. Nevada offers an incredible amount of trails and public land, with a large portion of the state being accessible via dirt roads or trails. I enjoyed exploring. I enjoyed learning and riding new trails, observing new wildlife, and seeing a side of Nevada few get the opportunity to.
My appreciation for the trails I was riding quickly developed into the stewardship I witnessed from my father early in my life. I felt, and still feel, a sense of responsibility to keep these trails healthy, active, and accessible. After 26 years, when I’m out for a ride in the desert, I feel connected to my father. It’s one of the few experiences in life when I feel grounded, at peace with the moment. It’s just me and the trail, I’m not focused on anything else. I remind myself everyday, “yesterday’s history and tomorrow’s a mystery,” to take life one day at a time, and one trail at a time.