Soil Searching: The Constant Gardener
Dillon Osleger is what you’d call a “gentle activist.” His passion for mountain biking, and his conviction for a healthier planet, bridge the gap between recreation and activism. Can a trail possibly preserve and protect what we hold dearest in our natural environment? Dillon shares his conviction with us, and we reckon he’s onto something.
“Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul.” — Edward Abbey
Words by Dillon Osleger:
If I had a choice, all that I fight for would never be extremely relevant. Yet, as I type the release text for this film, fires rage across the west coast of the United States. Every national forest, and many public lands in California, are closed, restricting access to trails and the outdoors for all users. Now seems like the appropriate time to ask, “What is mountain biking without trails?”
Trails are the common ground that, not only we as mountain bikers, but all as outdoor athletes, can relate to. While they may only be 18-inch-wide ribbons of dirt sinuously traversing landscapes, trails are our connections to so much more than recreation. Each trail acts as a story recounting eons on geological change and ecological shift, centuries of culture, and continuous evidence of climate and natural disaster. Trails are our way of understanding our backyards, interpreting the story of landscapes ourselves through experience and observation, and instilling personal memories and emotions with places.
What do we learn when we realize that trails, even those in our backyard are not guaranteed? Perhaps we may look at ourselves and see that our commonly held sentiments of loving our forests, coastlines, deserts, and hills are impetus to take action. Action beyond the access advocacy that mountain biking has focused on for so long, to reach beyond our personal needs to fight for the protection of these environments and our planet.
We hope to invoke a shift in conversation, to recognize the need for mountain biking, and to transcend to activism.
But this story isn’t just about me, it is about each of us and the future of our sport, our lifestyle, and conviction.
The trails we visit here, as well as the landscapes themselves, are similar and incredibly different from those around the world — none better than the other, each unique in its own right. Each reacting to climate change and land use shifts in its own way, reflecting the ripple of consequences we experience in our own backyard trails.
I am a trail builder, a scientist, a backcountry skier, a fly fisher, a surfer, a trail runner, and a climate advocate. Activism is my response to seeing snowpacks dissipate year by year, seeing dams take away native fish populations, watching sewage and disaster take away surf breaks. I have seen the beginning of trails being lost to resource extraction and climate related natural disaster, there is not time to wait for us as a community to rise up and join the fight for the environment. We must vote, consider our impacts, and shift our perspectives to look beyond the ribbon of singletrack, to see the forest for the trees. I will leave you with this film as the first swing of a McLeod in building a trail towards a more sustainable future for our sport.