Many of the trails featured in this video were burned by the Caldor Fire. The recent damage wrought by California wildfires—the Caldor in particular—has been heartbreaking. Leaving over 220,000 acres scorched in its wake, the Caldor fire was specifically concerning for us as it hit close to home, El Dorado County, where this video was filmed. Evidence of theses fires’ destruction can be seen in the remains of charred homes, communities, businesses, forests, and on the trails. And while a fire can be part of the natural lifecycle of a trail—along with the forest as a whole—humans are now part of this equation too. In light of the impact of fires on mountain biking trails, we invite you to get involved in protecting, uncovering and restoring the trails you hold dearest.
The Caldor fire began on August 14, 2021, deep in the Middle Fork Cosumnes River drainage in El Dorado County. Over the next few days, the uncontrollable blaze exploded to over 62,000 acres, taking with it the town of Grizzly Flats in the middle of the night. Thousands of people in the surrounding communities of Pollock Pines, Somerset, Pleasant Valley, Omo Ranch, and Fair Play would be forced to evacuate as the fire continued its rapid growth. The Caldor spread East across the County and burned through Kyburz, Strawberry, and Meyers. Many homes were saved, but over 800 structures have been lost.
At over 220,000 acres, the fire will severely impact El Dorado County’s vast outdoor recreation opportunities, which are sources of pride for its residents as well as a draw for millions of annual visitors. The extensive network of trails, alpine lakes, river canyons, and impressive mountainous terrain have been drastically altered.
Before the Caldor fire swept through the area, we didn’t know that filming this video would be the last time we would ride or see some of these trails the way we have always known them. Some trails might slowly disappear, and some will live on, possibly better than before. That is part of a trail’s life cycle.
Trails are living and breathing entities that grow and coexist with all other organisms in the forests. Over the years, they may become straighter and wider with more traffic or more narrow and tighter as the vegetation again reclaims the corridor. The forces of man and nature erode the soil, and boots, tires, and hooves expose more rocks and roots. Storms may drop trees on the trail, and builders decide to either cut out the obstruction, reroute the trail, or even incorporate that fallen log into a trail feature. Sometimes the log will never move, slowly decomposing as users walk or ride over it.
Trails are not static; they are in a constant state of change.
Fire is another part of a trail’s life cycle, burning away the old and giving way for the new. Fire can remove the overgrowth, opening a trail once again. Or it may scorch the landscape, reducing everything in its path to ash. After a fire, numerous trees will fall on a trail. Sometimes there are too many trees for even the most committed trail user to jump over or cut out, and the trail dies.
Fire also has the power to bring our community together, unite with one another, and rebuild and reestablish what we lost, whether it be the homes, businesses, forests, or trails.
With the El Dorado National Forest severely underfunded, it is up to local riders to repair the damage from the impacts of fires on our mountain biking trails. If you’re looking to enjoy these areas once again, be prepared to pitch in and take some initiative.
There are many avenues to support your local trails, but don’t wait for someone else to invite you out to go work. Grab your tools, friends, and go.
For those looking to help with restoring trails affected by the fires, consider participating in advocacy by supporting the El Dorado Community Foundation’s Caldor Fire Fund.