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Trail Tales

Professional Bushwhacking 101: Transforming Ribbons of Asphalt to Ribbons of Dirt

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Sitting with my feet up at my favorite nearby watering hole (hello handsome Mendenhalls!) in late winter, I raise my glass to putting the final pieces of my spring schedule together. Good-bye Colorado, with your glorious ever-changing season of desert blooms and snow dumps. On to vagabonding the flat lands.

No exclamation point on that sentence. Not much panache in Ohio or Iowa.

But as a Midwestern escapee, there's some latent vortex in my outdoor soul pulling me back. A lack of readily-accessible outdoors (not dominated by corn and ragweed) is largely why I left. Now I'm prepping for immense amounts of driving to return. It seems a cruel irony, but the Dude abides.

It is, after all, my work. I'm a professional bushwhacker, a.k.a. trail developer.

This spring I'll help develop a 40-mile destination trail system at the progressively managed Whiterock Conservancy. I'll sojourn to a triumvirate of the country's most popular outdoor destinations of Cleveland, Akron, and Dayton Ohio to help their park staffs develop mountain biking opportunities. I'll consult with the Outdoor Recreation Alliance, a truly outside-the-midwestern-box organization pushing for quality of life gains through recreation in a region that wasn't flattened by glaciers.

Along the way, I'll test the waterproofing qualities of my new Oboz Sawtooth boots in a continuous cycle of spring mud and mist followed by "drying" in the back of the truck.
Here's the thing: I ruin boots well. Blisters, jacked tendons, and strange foot bruises are my nemesi. Wide feet, blown arches, compromised ankles, multiple knee operations, and many hundred miles of hiking each year—much of it off-trail with my beer-enhanced Clydesdale status and a backpack full of gear and tools— should keep me from enjoying my ample time outside. I'm hoping this will be the year that my feet stay happy, thanks to my Oboz windfall.

But my passion for travel and working with likeminded advocates for the sanity of real air and pumping blood isn't waning yet. I truly believe that the magic bullet for many of our societal ails, whether it be global warming or depression, is getting more people outside more often.

On the job, I'll witness the spring migration through the windshield—honking cranes and geese and ducks by the thousand—on the Mississippi flyway. I'll pilot country two-lane highways. I'll get sampled by the local ticks of many states and I'll tick my tally of beers from local breweries (I'll even answer the ubiquitous question for the bartender, "No, the closest beer they have to Budweiser is the Kolsh" to try and garner a free pour).

So I'm off. As I drive, I'll give karmic headlight flashes to the big rig drivers, one-handed top-of-the-steering-wheel waves to the farmers in trucks, and hellos to everyone because that's just how it's done in the middle kingdom. At the end of the road, there's a new place to bushwhack, developing a ribbon of dirt that hopefully fulfills the stirring outdoor soul of kids like me.

At the heart of everything we do are the folks who make the magic happen. A group of likeminded footwear-industry vets who left our big-brand jobs back in 2007 intent on doing business a better way. 

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