Early last summer I pitched an idea for a feature to Bike Magazine: find the fiercest mountain-bike access battle in America, and take a hyper-local look based on facts. My goal was to help people on both sides understand each other better, and also to expose any unethical or illegal practices. My editor, Nicole Formosa, who is also a longtime friend and former newspaper colleague, decided to expand the idea to a four-part, all-digital series that would examine not one but three localities around the country.
I spent the next two months vetting locations and decided on Northern California, Montana, and central Massachusetts, for varying reasons. Salt Lake City-based photographer/videographer Justin Olsen and I then spent a week in each state reporting last summer and fall. The result, called Lines in the Dirt, ran in late March and early April and sparked the kind of vigorous conversation I had hoped it might. Bike recently decided to publish the features in print later this year, too.
I just uploaded each story from the series onto this website; if you click the "Writing" link at the top of this page you can read them. Here are some photos I took during the reporting trips, which were draining and action-packed but also a terrific way to experience different parts of the country.
Montana's Bitterroot Valley, one of the nation's most polarizing access battlegrounds.
Bushwhacking near Lake Como outside Hamilton, Montana.
Two Bitterroot locals pedal up a final ascent in late August while smoke from a nearby wildfire deepens the sunset hue.
This overgrown sign greets you at the empty entrance to a trail in Point Reyes National Seashore in Marin County, California.
The journalism gods don't make many sources as colorful as Burton Eubank, a firefighter and EMT who has been riding the trails in Marin for 44 years.
One of many stellar trails in Truckee, California, just west of Lake Tahoe.
In November we spent a week in central Massachusetts, where the turkeys roam freer than the mountain bikers.