I’ll never forget my first time in the Yacolt Burn State Forest. It was a cold and wet day, and the lush green layered landscape was shrouded in a heaving mist that seemed to rise and fall over the Cascade Mountains as if some massive and unseen force were drawing in deep breaths throughout the day.
I first fell in love with the Pacific Northwest several years prior. Still, this trip would ultimately cement the dense evergreen and temperate rain forests of Cascadia as the pinnacle for exploring our planet aboard two wheels for me. It was sensory overload. It was the blur of deep green trees and dark brown trails, and the smell of wet pine and loam, and the muted sounds of my tires pressing through pockets at speed, and the feedback I felt through my grips from top to bottom. It was new earth and a forest teeming with life, and these forces of nature combined for one hell of an amazing ride.
Like everything else, my first ride would quickly become a memory, but I knew immediately that the imprint it left behind would be permanent and magnetic, as I had been feeling its pull ever since.
My next trip to this corner of the globe would see very different conditions. The misty conditions were replaced by brilliant blue skies and warm temperatures. The dark and damp loam was now hard-packed and bone dry. I was worried that perhaps my connection was now lost. Until I wasn’t. The sensory overload was very much intact. The sun-baked pine forest filled the air with an incredible scent, and the once muted sounds of tires over soft earth were replaced by sharper sounds of rubber meeting the hard pack with an endless symphony of creatures calling out from the warm and vibrant forests. The moss seemed to glow this time around, and the iconic peaks of neighboring Cascade summits were crystal clear in the absence of the misty shrouds that covered them previously. The speeds were higher, and the feedback more robust through my grips. It was a new side to this place for me, and while very different from the conditions that drew me in initially, I realized through the buzz of all my senses that the connection was still very much intact.
We all have places that speak to us. They may differ from one person to another, but they provide an opportunity to connect with the planet in a very tangible sense, and ultimately they prove to be a connective tissue among us. For me, the gravity of the Pacific Northwest is inescapable. It’s a place that pulls me in no matter how far away I may be or how long it’s been since my last visit.
We all have these kinds of connections, these places that pull us in. Where are yours?