Column: Shortest day of year a turning point for riding

'Switchback'

Winter solstice. Shortest day of the year with the sun shedding light barely past nine and a half hours. For me this day is a turning point. It signifies slowly but surely long days and rides that go well into the evening are on their way.

This year Prescott really hasn’t seemed like winter has even started. Temperatures have dipped when darkness falls yet not a single white capped peak is to be seen. The trails are dusty and loose but look hard enough and a few streams still flow under thin sheets of ice deposited between the boulders.

Generally, winter is the time of year where my riding tends to slow down. Drifts of snow and frozen ground restrict most of the trail access. I tend to explore lesser known areas around town or choose loops that are more about scenery than actual distance. I am less concerned about routes that require pushing my bike. In fact, I almost look forward to it. But this year I have no such restrictions besides those that are self-imposed. A needed wind down from a very active past 355 days.

I will break the 5,000 mile mark with over 525,000 feet of climbing for 2017. Bulk of which was dirt, most of which by trail. It’s hard to put those numbers in perspective as one big chunk, but it all just slowly adds up. Countless rocks, ruts, sticks and twigs. I have lost track of all the stream crossings and epic sunsets. Forests full of leaves and shade as well as nothing but bare bones involving the gray sky above. I have found new trails and worn out old favorites.

This is what I do. It’s what I truly enjoy and am deeply passionate about. One of the greatest things mountain biking and my involvement in it has brought me is all the people I have met through riding. Sharing route suggestions, technical tips and secret homegrown connectors with each other. If you have a bike covered in dust here in Prescott, there is a strong and welcoming local community waiting for you with big smiles and group rides.

Part of the reason I started writing this column was to share my love of mountain biking. It has been rewarding to expose readers to different types of riding, trails, wildlife and scenery that all can be found right in our back yard.  I will continue to cycle, explore, photograph and document what I find along the way … but will be doing so without this biweekly appearance.

I would like to thank everyone for the comments and questions that have been submitted or given to me in person. It was an excellent experience writing this column and trying to bring attention to the wonderments of Prescott outdoors. I encourage all riders to keep finding the flow and breathe our mountains offer every day. I know I will be doing just that as well. See you on the trails.

Steve Reynolds is a columnist for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Instagram at @Prescottopia. Contact him by email at sportsdesk@prescottaz.com.