“Life’s mysteries unravel when my tires hit that gravel, and I leave the paved road far behind.”

I find myself coming back to that line in the William Elliott Whitmore song “Gravel Road” when I’m out and about. You may not be familiar with the singer, but because you’re reading this column, you’re likely familiar with the sentiment of which the Poet Laureate of Rural America’s Soul sings.

After all, the opportunity to unravel life’s mysteries while walking through an aspen grove, wading a mountain stream, riding down a two track, climbing a canyon wall or staring at the stars from what feels like a million miles from anywhere is precisely why so many of us call Wyoming home.

And you can’t really do any of those things without leaving the paved road far behind.

“Every breath I breathe is one step closer to me easing my worried mind.”

The best part about being off the paved roads is the peace of mind that getting to spend time in nature brings. For me, that’s incessantly exploring the forest in search of a good fishing spot. They’re not too tough to find; though the occasional Close Encounter of the Moose Kind while doing so does little in the moment to ease my mind.

But it doesn’t all have to be fishing. (Yep, I’m surprised to write that, too.)

Monday evening, I was unraveling life’s mysteries one heavier breath after another while my mind worried I’d wind up hind over handlebars as I made my maiden mountain bike ride at Red Grade Trails with the Bomber Mountain Cycling Club. It was a club social, so I thought I’d be social and try something new. After all, this Fatman from the Flatlands is only accustomed to riding along the pancake-flat blacktops of northwest Iowa. I hadn’t had the opportunity to pedal my way around a mountain.

New opportunities come with new learning curves. To a seasoned cyclist, my choice of Chacos for footwear had to have appeared to be an act of hubris or naiveté. Naiveté it was, as I soon learned why everyone else was wearing proper closed-toe shoes as I wobbled and braked my way along a portion of the Prairie Loop. It was clear I had left the paved road far behind. But, hey, that’s part of the learning curve.

While I certainly wasn’t going to get through the full learning curve in one night, I did manage to glide through a few curves on my way back to the parking lot. Importantly, I had an opportunity to experience a new way to enjoy the beauty of the Bighorns, and I heard from club members how much they’ve enjoyed having new opportunities to let their tires hit the gravel — places like Red Grad Trails and, a little more than month ago, Hidden Hoot Trail. Across-the-board, Hidden Hoot was deemed a, well…hoot by the Bomber Mountain crew, who kept saying how much they enjoy having a place that lets you feel like you’re a million miles from anywhere just a short pedal from home.

Still, that’s just one of many ways to leave the paved road far behind. On the near horizon, you’ll be able to do just that as Sheridan Community Land Trust hosts Trailfest 2019 at Red Grade Trails Saturday, Aug. 24. In fact, Trailfest will feature adult and children bike rides, runs and walks where you can earn raffle tickets for prizes, yoga on the trail, nature hikes, scavenger hunts, face painting, music, brats and burgers and much more. Best yet, the celebration starts at 9:30 a.m. and will be over by 1 p.m., which leaves everyone plenty of time to enjoy the rest of the day. More information, including registration, can be found at sheridanclt.org/trailfest.

Join us as we unravel life’s mysteries as our tires — be they wheels or feet — hit that gravel, leave the paved road far behind, and ease our worried minds.


Chris Vrba is director of marketing and development for Sheridan Community Land Trust.