Presented by PEARL iZUMi
Video and photos by Drew Boxold
Wildfire photos published with permission from Max Whittaker. 'Soul Riders' was filmed a month prior to the Caldor Fire.For brothers Dane and Zach Petersen, the trails are more than a place to ride—they’re an anchor to past and present. Mixing gold rush history and high-speed hijinks, a typical day for Dane and Zach could just as easily involve cutting logs as it does jumping them. Based in northern California, the brothers have a unique devotion to developing new trails in their local community, as well as dusting off ones soon-to-be lost.
The Caldor fire began on August 14, 2021 deep in the Middle Fork Cosumnes River drainage in El Dorado County. Over the next few days, the uncontrollable blaze exploded to over sixty-two thousand acres, taking with it the town of Grizzly Flats in the middle of the night. Thousands of people in the surrounding communities of Pollock Pines, Somerset, Pleasant Valley, Omo Ranch, and Fair Play would be forced to evacuate as the fire continued its rapid growth. The fire spread East across the County and burned through Kyburz, Strawberry, and Meyers. Many homes were saved, but over 800 structures have been lost. At over 215,000 acres, the fire will severely impact El Dorado County’s vast outdoor recreation opportunities, which are sources of pride for its residents as well as a draw for millions of annual visitors. The vast network of trails, alpine lakes, river canyons, and impressive mountainous terrain have been drastically altered. Many of the trails featured in this video were burnt by the Caldor Fire. It’s shocking that filming this video was the last time we would ride or see some of these trails the way they have always been for us. Some trails might slowly disappear, and some will live on; possibly better than before. That is part of a trail’s life cycle.
Trails are living and breathing entities that grow and coexist with all other organisms in the forests. Over the years they may become straighter and wider with more traffic, or narrow and tight as the vegetation reclaims the corridor once again. The forces of nature erode the soil and combined with boots, tires, and hooves they expose more rocks and roots. Storms may drop trees on the trail and builders make the decision to either cut out the obstruction, reroute the trail, or even incorporate the log into a trail feature. Sometimes the log will never move, slowly decomposing as users walk or ride over it. Trails are not static; they are in a constant state of change.
Fire is another part of a trail’s life cycle, burning away the old and giving way for the new. Fire can remove the overgrowth, opening a trail once again. Or it may scorch the landscape, reducing everything in its path to ash. After a fire, numerous trees will fall on the trail. Sometimes there are too many trees for even the most committed trail user to jump over or cut out, and the trail dies. Fire also has power to bring our community together, to unite with one another rebuilding and reestablishing what we lost, whether it be the homes, businesses, forests, or trails. With the El Dorado National Forest severely underfunded, it is up to local trail users to repair the damage. If you’re looking to enjoy these trails once again, be prepared to pitch in and have some initiative. There are many avenues to support your local trails, but don’t wait for someone else to invite you out to go work. Grab your tools, friends, and go.
With the recent California wildfires, the Caldor Fire, in particular, the of burning homes, communities, businesses, forests and trails has been heartbreaking. El Dorado County, where this video was filmed, is a damn cool place and Dane and Zach are proud to call it home. If you want to help and donate to El Dorado Community Foundation to support the families impacted by this fire it would certainly be appreciated by clicking here