I haven’t been riding my mountain bike much. In fact, I haven’t ridden a mountain bike on the dirt since about February of this year. Things moved quickly for me this year and before I knew it, I hadn’t seen any time left to enjoy on the trails, but it didn’t mean that I hadn’t made any connection to the dirt. I stood in my new garden stooped over a gentle flower bed as I poured mulch around it and began forming a trail for the stones I was about to place as the footpath around the perennials. I was enjoying the formation of what would be the literal stepping stones for my daughters to walk through the garden and enjoy the flowers that were already taller than they were. I was forming a trail.

This past Sunday, I joined my friends at Half Acre Cycling and CAMBr in too often missed opportunity to help build and preserve trail at Palos Forest Preserve. I brought my five year old along, hoping that she would enjoy the experience of being out in the woods on an adventure. Three and half hours later, I was happy to pronounce that my daughter not only survived the hardship of pushing cut branches off of the trail and tolerating dragonflies landing on her head, she gleamed with an affection for the forest and excited to have been brought along to explore. I hopefully have planted a memory of idyllic adventure among the warm humid trees that canopy the trails and bring a surprise every few feet of craggy rocks and leaping toads. It was in those moments that I realized exactly how much fondness I have for the forest. My younger memories remind me of running through the trees near Angel Guardian outside of the Misericordia home out on Devon – before it became what is now, a giant parking lot. I remember running through the forests with my brothers for what seemed like days, through mini streams and making slingshots out of tree branches and the belts from our waists – before they too became the new shopping malls that serve the suburban plight. The treks that I’ve made through rainforests with my cousins as we watched for poisonous spiders and snakes with every movement of the hanging vines that tickled our chins on our way through the paths – they now still exist but with a berth wide enough for a Jeep to roll through and cabins now available to rent to spend near the glory of mother nature.

Nostalgia is not what drives my wanderlust of the forests. It’s the anticipation of what new things I will find that later in life I would have regreted not having searched for – what beauty will I discover next through the trees. My daughter saw that as she asked why dragonflies glistened a purple hue in the sun. She ran through the trails with a reckless abandon, unafraid of the shadows that danced next to her. She held the dirt captive with her walking stick as she climbed up nimbly to the crest of old stones. I saw myself in my youth in her. I didn’t need a bicycle on the trails to remind me that the reason I fell in love with the world, was that I saw the trees as an invitation – and not a boundary of where I lived. The bicycle just made it easier to dive deeper into a greener dream, moreso than any road could ever take me on. Someday, and hopefully, my daughter and I will ride through the trees in equal harmony.

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