When your passion revolves around the outdoors, when it possesses an obligatory relationship with nature, it becomes almost impossible to ignore the beauty of your natural surroundings. For me, this realization was facilitated by a man named Roy when I was fourteen years old.
My father and I met Roy while riding throughout southwestern Utah; it was insanely beautiful country, littered with seemingly infinite ribbons of swoopy, loamy, yet tacky, singletrack that swerved through aspen groves, coniferous forest, and alpine meadows.
Roy possessed a knowledge of that landscape that was more astounding than the scenery. He readily identified each different species of pine when we would stop riding to absorb the views. He described the geological processes that created the varied colors and morphologies of sandstone formations, he even knew countless bird species by their songs alone. Through his seemingly endless knowledge, and through my own cherished two-wheeled experiences in the outdoors, an insatiable desire to learn was kindled. It was then I had decided I would devote my college education, and my life, to studying and protecting the natural environment.
Some time after meeting Roy, I wrapped up my education and (luckily) built a career out of it. Through my studies and through my work, I began noticing that other fun was to be had outside, and my once solitary desire to protect access to trails on my bike, quickly spread to concerns about maintaining and protecting my local trout fisheries, ensuring the longevity of my favorite world-class surf break, and supporting the establishment of ecologically effective open space areas and biological preserves.
Through my endless quest for fun, pioneered by my love for bikes, I had established an ever-growing, life-long collection of hobbies centered on the outdoors. In a sense, I had become an advocate for nearly all things conservation through my own selfish pursuit of recreation.
In some regard, my life has led me to believe that the quest for fun in the outdoors is almost paramount to conservation efforts. Fun-seekers can come in so many shapes and sizes, and they often make for highly motivated interest groups that are willing to fight tooth and nail to ensure the long-term protection of their open spaces.
While fun alone may provide many with enough to fight for, a deep understanding and respect for the natural places in which we harvest our fun should only provide further motivation. In that regard, I urge you to learn more about the place you ride, and perhaps even try to enjoy it through something completely new. There’s a good chance it will only augment your appreciation of the place, and better arm you for battle should you need to fight to protect it some day.
Jason Fitzgibbon (Fitzy) is a Wildlife Biologist and Environmental Consultant based out of Orange County, California. He has ridden and raced bicycles in several disciplines for nearly twenty years, but now pedals primarily “just for fun”. When not on the bike, he can be found surfing, climbing, fly fishing, or backpacking, typically always with a camera in-hand.