The Secrets That You Keep


Remote Sensing will reveal the location, or TDM and his kind could just blab about it.

If horizons mark the extent of our vision then our worlds are defined too by the edges of our maps; those places where the illuminated familiar meet the vagaries of the terrra obscura.  The compulsion to push into these geographic vacuums is not universal, but our neural systems are tuned to detect motion and edge, and certain types of curious souls cannot resist the tiny dark horizons still left to our imaginations.  Place TheDirtMagnet squarely in this classification, and then picture him searching a sea of maps with a cup of tea in one hand (very dignified), and a slow smile on his lips as he circles his latest area of interest with the other.

It is still true that maps do not describe every detail, but the amount of information available at a swipe is staggering, and adventure is increasingly an act of willful ignorance where the practitioner finds just enough data to hint a scheme[1], then ventures out on their own terms to verify their hunches[2].  The results of chasing these blank zones most typically lie in a mundane place between the horrific and the sublime…a surprisingly boring outcome for a bold vision.  Indeed, the occasional fiasco is in some ways a more desirable outcome, as the stories last longer than the pain, and there is little harm in sharing a chuckle at one’s self-declared idiocy with some friends over a beer.

But what happens in those rare cases when the practitioner finds their unicorn?  Do they drool like Gollum or babble to themselves in the manner of certain animated gulls?  Do they hide it away to all but a few chosen ones, and there-in maintain the feeling that they are the keepers of some great beauty, and others are not so worthy as them to know of it?  Or do they post it on Instagram with links to KOM’s or whatever, and thus declare the former secret in their name?

Many options exist, and TDM has lived them all at one time or another. For the finder, the battle of the blab is a nuanced thing, and the decision to talk may bend less around images of grandeur than it does visions of monsters…overcrowding, loss of ownership, damage to the resource, or in the case of bikes a very real concern about access loss due to the complaints/abuses of other users of trails. These are real things, and are reason enough for any aspiring Vasco De Gamma to pause and consider.

But there is a second class of discovery that is actually pretty common when chasing rainbows in the Oregon land of MTB; that of the near miss, the almost perfect, the if only.  These are trails, marked on maps and accessible to all, but lacking in some class of fate, luck and design, and therefore sustained as a question rather than an answer.  Occasionally one of these is underserving of this status, having nothing more offensive than the habit of a few downed trees as a primary dooming feature.

For TheDirtMagnet and a few other souls there is currently an example of this exact scenario, where within the Old Cascades trail system (the Pyramids)  the finest singletrack dreams have been lying in wait since well before folks first rode bikes on the soils of the Cascades. When TDM first began rolling about the old cascades trails he was left (relatively) speechless at the promise they exude, but each season showed adequate trail maintenance in these parts to be a rare bird indeed.  At first he tried to contact the USFS to divine chopping schedules, but quickly it became apparent that there was no solution, the local district being overwhelmed by 500+ miles of singletrack, and only a few hands to wield saws. As a result, TDM and a few others sampled what portions they could for the few weeks in October they were clear each year, and the other 10.5 months of the year dreamed of chainsaws and able bodies.  After several cycles of waiting and wishing and dreaming, TDM (among others) put up what flags he has.  After all, the pyramids are not secrets to keep, but trails marked on maps, with posted signs and ample parking.  With so many other secrets still out there, there seemed little reason to deny us all a treat in the name of a Gollum’s desire.

And then this:  the other day TDM received via email a few hints of bodily harm for his part in releasing the cat from its bag. Such strong reactions can only come from a feeling of fear for what can be lost, and though the vehemence of the delivery mystifies most casual observers, sympathy can easily be found for this overexcited individual’s concerns and the strong feelings they precipitate.  In this case it is easy to see that, like recent political trends, the urge to lash out may come from a place of deep fear that should be honored to a degree, even though in reality there nothing here that the perpetrator should fear to loose.

Other than love, what do we as people want more than that space to be ourselves which secret places provide us?  Aided in our freedom by the wheels beneath us, those in the know have found the Pyramids to offer ample opportunities in this regard, and for some of us this is truly a secret garden.  With that truth being evident, TheDirtMagnet has much room for the fears of change and loss. Though many gems lie in remote areas, this solitude is no longer available in places like the nearby McKenzie trail, which on a prime summer day can have a hundred bikers and untold others buzzing around its 25 miles of stunning line, so it can be excused if the thought of loosing yet another zona zucreto makes someone like TDM (who have done their homework and found these private zones on their own accord) break out in hives or a fit of violence at the thought of loosing it to the  hordes from Portland, Bend and beyond arriving unbidden and unearning.  Indeed, there are areas which TDM will never expose for these sorts of reasons, but here is the thing in this case: The Pyramids will never be the Mckenzie.  There are many reasons for this, including but not limited to the physical difficulty and backcountry nature of riding here.  An excellent example could be drawn to the O’Leary Loop, which is now enjoying global fame as one of the best rides in Oregon.  Despite massive amounts of trail improvements, and much hype in print and web, it remains, by in large, a lonely place.  In three rides there this summer (all on prime weekend days) TDM saw a grand total of six people, all of whom were shuttling the final 4 mile descent, which is a ride that has been on the Oregon A-list for years.  Sure, tire tracks are now observable, and the trail rolls a little better from use, but it still feels, and is, remote and socially unobtrusive.  The Pyramids are similar in nature, but physically even harder…it may or may not be exactly secret, but the garden will still be ours to enjoy in solitude on any given day. Only now, we can simply pick a summer day and ride without having to consult a saw-sensitive genie to give you the green light. Fear not, pick your day, and go love it.

Cheers from the staff at TheDirtMagnet


[1] TheDirtMagnet  has perfected the spilling of  foodstuffs across maps as one method of data avoidance.  Gazpacho and/ various chowders work well, but a beet-based slurry is most effective.

[2]…perhaps further handicapping the self by riding naked into the semi-unknown on a rigid single speed tricycle…tassels not optional.


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