Everything is grey. The dirt, colorless and ashen underfoot, puffs gently into the air with each step. The trees, statuesque in their stillness, silence and stony livery, give away the only hints of color, but just where their bark has been so thoroughly charred that the heart of the tree seems to explode outwards in deep, almost wine-colored hues. It’s a world unlike anything we’ve ever seen; the destruction of a wildfire viewed in such proximity that it’s rendered a second home as something utterly foreign.
There were trails here, before, beautifully sculpted downhill lines that snaked besides moss-blanketed boulders and beneath rich, regal old redwoods. It was a haven for those who wanted big, rowdy descents far above the crowds in the beach cities below, and a refuge when spot after spot fell to the long arm of private and state landowners. Riders—from near and soon far—honed their craft besides the delicate ferns that danced whenever wheels whirred by.
But then, in August, the lightning came. And with it, wildfire.
When we drove up the mostly monochrome hillside a few months later, shocked as the road passed blackened car chassis and fireplaces standing alone like single trees in empty clearings, we found a different world. As sobering as it was, there was also something undeniably captivating and magnetic in the forest as it now stood. Maybe it was the history, or the unknown, or bearing such witness to nature’s supremacy, but we couldn’t turn away. And so we—Ryan Howard, Owen Marks, Isaac Wallen and myself—hoisted boots and bikes out of truck beds and stepped into the ashes.
Perhaps this was the end, the last session—but nothing truly dies. The forest will grow back stronger, we hope, even if not in our lifetimes. Memories will linger in the minds of those who cherished this spot and built it into the sanctuary of shred that it was. The bonds, photographs, skills, scars and stories will remain.