Secret Stash

Intro by Ryan Thibault

Not long ago mountain bikers were considered the adult equivalent of angst-ridden teen skateboarders. From a property owner’s perspective, we were the backwoods version of our younger, recreating, vandal brethren. While skaters appropriated curbs and rails, we constructed singletrack, guerrilla style, in the woods of anonymous landlords. When gates and signs went up, we rode around. If bridges were torn down, we jumped over.

One thing we were guilty of, besides belligerence and trespass, was persistence. We would not be deterred from riding.

Today, with VMBA and its faction associations at the helm, organization has replaced chaos and much of the controversy that once surrounded our sport has faded.  Who knew those counter-culture rebels seeking out pedal-powered adrenaline would one day be valuable assets in the State’s economic interests and the overall health of its citizens?

Gone are the days of the secret rake and ride on your neighbors land…or are they? No my friends, they are alive, well, and evolved! I give you Danielle, Chris, Jim and the High Anxiety Crew, stewards of a secret stash buried deep in the VT backcountry.*

*Note: the High Anxiety Crew is known to defend the secrecy of their trail with a show of firepower (see video intro). MTBVT barely made it out alive.


Danielle Owczarski,
An Ode to The Backyard Stash

The dream starts like this: the forest, a dark canopy of maples letting in dappled sunlight; silence, except for your own breathe; the trail, a perfectly laid single track swooping through the trees, with arcing berms, bridge drops, gap jumps, a rock garden, and smooth effortless transitions tailored to your liking. The wind drifts through the canopy and the sunlight dances. The ride begins in your backyard.

This is not a dream. In fact, years of hard work have gone into this creation with the help of friends, chainsaws, shovels, rock bars, and tamping tools. As mountain biking progresses, and sustainable trail building becomes the rule of thumb, those of us addicted to the rush and flow of fast downhill movement are creating, or helping to create, private trails just a few pedal strokes away from our doorsteps.

Unlike trails that cater to the public’s varying levels of expertise, a backyard stash can have rollers, berms, and drops aplenty without worries of lawsuit. The only standards met are those of sustainable trail building and personal whims. The trail can be as long or short as you like and you can practice that scary six-foot gap repeatedly without the harassment from friends or the perceived amusement of strangers. Creating a self-designed trail gives you the freedom to focus on your favorite features of trail riding, while encouraging you to become acquainted with your backyard landscape.

If you are interested in creating your own trail, there are three key ingredients: make sure it’s your property (or get permission from the landowner), take a sustainable trail building class offered by your local MTB club or the International Trail Building Association (IMBA), and find a friend with ample amounts of testosterone who loves digging, chainsawing, and heavy lifting. Just remember, this gives him the right to wallow in your private stash without limitations.

After my friends and I have finished our final lap on the backyard stash I feel a collective sense of accomplishment. Cool brew in hand, we talk about what we might change, how we could smooth that transition, and where to build the next challenging drop in our secret stash that rides like a dream.

J. Deshler Photo

C. Nelson Photo

C. Nelson Photo

J. Deshler Photo

J. Deshler Photo

J. Deshler Photo

Thinking about building your own stash? Here is some further reading:
Ten Most Common Trail Building Mistakes
Trail Building Design

Big Ups to the High Anxiety Crew. To see more from the team visit:

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