Recently the idea of packing up my mountain bike and gear, driving to a trail, and riding a looped trail in a park has lost some of its appeal. Don't get me wrong, I love riding singletrack trails like Theo Wirth, Lebanon Hills, and Murphy-Hanrehan. But this spring I've also really enjoyed riding right from home, especially when I'm exploring a new park/trail/route.
I feel like I've returned to my roots, so to speak. I first began mountain biking in the late 80's as a way to get out of the house, learn the city, and (most importantly) explore the local woods. I began to see the bicycle as a viable form of transportation, not just recreation. My fondness for biking is the main reason I didn't get a driver's license until I was in my 20's. Later I attended college in Montana, where I could bike to the mountain bike trails right from town... traveling by bike was part of the experience.
After moving back to MN, I got in the habit of driving to the trailhead. What's missing when I drive to a trail? It's the feeling of actually going somewhere on my bike... the feeling that I've travelled some distance under my own power. And it's compounded by the fact that most singletrack trails are packed into relatively small areas. I may ride (and thoroughly enjoy) 5-10 miles of singletrack, but since many local trails cover the same terrain over and over, it doesn't feel like I'm actually going anywhere. The whole experience seems to be missing the "traveling by bike" component.
I have a feeling this summer will include a lot of rides right from home... and hopefully a lot of singletrack too.