US Route 95 enjoys the distinction of being one of the only major roadways in the United States that runs uninterrupted across its 1500 mile trek from Canada to Mexico — much of which as an undivided, two-lane ribbon of asphalt that cuts through the deserts of four American states. For those seeking images of rickety gasoline stands and decaying motel facades, 95 is an absolute goldmine from the bygone era of the great American highway. But for us, it was just another leg of the journey to McCall, Idaho — a sleepy resort community on Payette Lake with ample opportunities for boating, swimming, hiking, and more recently, mountain biking. The aim of our visit was a trailbuilding day with the local mountain bike advocacy and riding club: the Central Idaho Mountain Bike Association, or CIMBA — the area’s official local IMBA chapter.
Idaho is quietly filled with spectacular riding gems (including this legendary IMBA Epic) just waiting to be discovered. But actually cleaving earth to help create one of those gems? We couldn’t resist the opportunity. The more specific purpose of our McCall visit was to break ground on a new vein of mountain bike trails around Payette Lake, which would link up with some of the pre-existing network and create a singular, epic loop of singletrack. Many of the trailbuilding projects that we’ve previously lent hands on were already in motion, but this was the first time we found ourselves in the wilderness with little else than a string of flags to lead the way. After the group convened on the scene of what would be the new trailhead, everyone was quickly divided into a series of wrecking crews, with chainsaws clearing brush and dead wood away from the front lines, followed by those armed with rakes, Pulaskis, McLeods, and then sweepers to shape, smooth, and flatten the coming trail.
All morning, morale was high, and the pace was brisk. And by the day’s end, we had made rideable nearly a half-mile of trail, cut through through thick grass and rock to the nearby marsh where a separate crew was just putting the finishing touches on a permanent water crossing — a critical component of the new trail’s sustainability come early Spring.
More impressive than the sheer amount of work that was accomplished, was the composition of the group itself. In addition to the fact that the group was almost evenly split between men and women, we also found ourselves amongst three generations of the same family who had all came out to lend a hand and throw some dirt. Initially, we thought there was just something in McCall’s water, until shortly thereafter when we linked up with some of Boise’s IMBA Chapter for a Sunday ride and discovered the same thing — another large population of passionate cyclists with a huge variation in age and gender. Quite simply, everyone rides in Central Idaho, and everyone comes out to lend a hand.
Our time in the Gem State felt much bigger than just a trail day or a ride with a group of passionate mountain bikers — it felt like we’d unearthed what it means to truly be a part of a cohesive, and tangible vision. To leave our forests and deserts better than as we found them for the next generation, it takes more than just a dream or the collective sweat between friends — it takes the whole damn neighborhood. Ask Idaho about the meaning of mountain biking, and they’ll say “community.” You can connect with CIMBA here, if you planning on heading up to McCall to ride or just to lend a hand. Just remember to bring your favorite pair of swimming trunks. [zp]