Get the inside track on Bearclaw’s fabled Canadian dirt trails
I stared out the window at the brief but heavy downpour from my ninth-grade English class, lost in thought, daydreaming. “Darren pay attention,” The teacher yelled out to me. You may think I was day dreaming about girls and trucks, but no – I was considering ditching the afternoon of school to go dig with a shovel because that rain just made the dirt perfect for building jumps.
Most kids my age ditched class to go get wasted. But I had a level of stoke that was unmatched as I ditched and pedalled my way to the trails for the reward of moist dirt, which is key for sculpting perfect lips and landings.
In the forest, there’s an underground culture that very few people know of or understand. But for a large number of dedicated riders and pros, these hidden trails are where many get hooked on riding, and this is where their love for the sport begins and the addiction of biking becomes engrained in them.
It’s this trail scene – and I’m not talking about a hiking trail when I say trails, I’m talking about jumps and berms – that attract a small, intimate group of friends who gather in these secret spots across the globe.
It’s a scene only understood by those that are lucky enough to call themselves locals at a particular spot. It’s about dedication, spending days, weeks, even years digging at a spot through rainstorms and even at night, all on land that’s usually not theirs, so having trails torn down and hard work erased can happen at any time.
With my dad’s shovel and rake in hand, I was drawn to the forest at the young age of 12. There’s something to be said about the challenge of creating a jump from scratch, the sheer amount of will and determination to build your first jump. When you’re finished you and your friends have a jump all to yourselves to ride, and it’s all your own. This is how it all began for so many of us. For me, it was a trial-and-error process, as I had nobody to show me and no trails nearby to base my jump on. Just like my story, there are many others that were drawn to the forest for many different reasons. But in the end, it was the same end goal, to have jumps to ride with friends.
There are many ways in this world to escape a busy, hectic or stressful life. For many of us, trail riding is our saviour for when the world is getting us down. This is our place of worship, a place where we can go, to grab a shovel and just dig. Like a painter on a blank canvas, the shovel and rake is our paintbrush and the forest is our canvas.
I am a trail rider at heart and always will be – I owe the success of my career to trails.
I realised I was a builder from a young age – I was always building new jumps, making them bigger and always trying to push my abilities.
Trails were what kept me interested in biking through my younger years. There are no rules or regulations as they’re governed only by trail etiquette between riders. The only things that make you dig is yourself and your ambition. For myself and so many like me, it’s a way to step away from the stresses of the world and get lost in digging, riding or even just hanging out with your friends.
I learned most of my bike-control skills from the BMX track, but my tricks all came from trails. It wasn’t until I was 20 years old that I brought my skills learnt at the trails to big-mountain terrain.
One afternoon, I was out on my moto exploring new areas when I descended down a big hill and found an area of old growth trees. I went deeper into the forest to investigate to see what the forest looked like, as I was in search of a new spot to build trails. I was immediately in awe of the old growth of trees and the lush green moss everywhere. I came across what looked like some sort of an animal den under a stump and wondered what was in it – it was almost dark and I got spooked, giving the spot its unofficial name and. My Spook network of trails became a reality shortly after.
Starting with one jump and then another, the trails started to take shape. Originally, it started with myself and a few individuals that came and went over the years, but then a few more riders started to show up and then some more. Now, almost ten years later, there are a dozen dudes that call Spook home, taking pride in the trails and shredding together on a regular basis.