Friday, July 6, 2018


A Google definition:

Impermanence, also called Anicca or Anitya, is one of the essential doctrines and a part of three marks of existence in Buddhism. The doctrine asserts that all of conditioned existence, without exception, is "transient, evanescent, inconstant".

I had a significant-other years ago who taught me about Buddhism. About how healthy it can be to understand and acknowledge those things that bring you suffering, or unhappiness. At the source of much of our unhappiness is craving. We crave a new house, car, bike. We may crave for a relationship with someone, and perhaps they don't share the attraction. The wanting without having causes suffering and unhappiness.

One of the things that we can crave is consistency; to have things remain as they have been. You like having your house and yard and family. You like knowing that you can pick up the phone and ask your dad for advice about things.  You like, and assume, that these and many other aspects of your life won't change.

Impermanence is the idea that the consistency, the changeless nature of your world is an illusion. It may seem like your house will always be there for you. But then a forest fire or lava flow or some other event causes it to be gone. Existence is transient, evanescent, inconstant. Be grateful for those things that stay the way you want because the nature of our time on this earth is fleeting periods of constancy, punctuated by changes.

Several weeks ago my friends and I who put on the Vapor Trail 125 mountain bike race were notified that the Forest Service has closed FS 888, the Tomichi Pass Road due to a rock slide. They let us know that we can't use it for the Vapor Trail 125. They encouraged us to find an alternative route. So we started looking at maps and talking. As soon as I had a day off I drove over there with my bike to scout.

Looking at a map is one thing. Going to the place the map describes and really looking is another entirely. The Plan B I was investigating was looking like a real possibility on the map. My optimistic brain was looking for good news.

It took a while for the reality to sink in. It could work, but there would be need for a whole new aid station. One with a bonfire and plenty of blankets. They would have to descend for most of an hour in the wee hours of the morning in the high country, chilling them to the bone. Then climb 3500 feet in about 5 miles. Then descend Canyon Creek, which takes two hours, even when you are not already hypothermic and/or exhausted from a three hour hike-a-bike. Canyon Creek is already our number 1 injury risk area, with this course it would be much more dangerous. Nobody would be on Old Monarch Pass until late morning or early afternoon. So then you have thunderstorm danger on the Crest.

What if we dumped Canyon Creek from the course? What, then Waunita Pass to Black Sage? I haven't even seen those passes. Where would the second aid station go? If we did that the course would be way easier instead of way harder, is that OK? How many days do I have off between now and the event day to explore and plan?

I struggled against the obvious truth. I went back to Forest and asked if there was any chance they would allow us to use Tomichi even with the risk. No. Their risk sensitivity for event permits is the maximum. And honestly, I have a lot of respect for how unstable much of the rock in this part of the Sawatch Range really is. It's rotten, decayed granite. Part of the reason we love it is that it's so raw and rugged.

The event can't happen this year if we can't use Tomichi. There isn't an obvious good alternative, and we don't have time to plan for a new course. Can a person push a bike over that slide? Yes. I know they can because my friend Alex told me about encountering it on a bikepacking trip. He found it sketchy, but he got across. That doesn't matter though; as long as Forest thinks it's dangerous, we won't be able to use it.

Will they fix it? I'm not holding my breath. Fixing/stabilizing it will be expensive and dangerous as hell. And at the end of the day, it's a jeep trail. Sure, it's nice to have if you're a jeeper, moto rider, hiker, or mountain biker. But it's not like a highway. Only a small percentage of the population will ever even see it. It's 100% a recreation route. Not used to deliver any goods or services.

When all of this became clear to me it made me really sad. The Canyon Creek Trail has been part of the Vapor Trail 125 since 2008. The course since then is perfect. It's a large part of what made the event great. To me it was a given that we should keep using it. Different people have suggested changes over the years, from small to large. My response has always been why the hell would we change it? The course is amazing.

But now it's not viable without major changes. The event doesn't need to die, but without a bunch of creative work it might.


People and animals get old, get sick, die. Marriages suffer infidelity and fail. Brick and mortar crumble. Forests burn. Rocks fall.

Things are not permanent. Even if we want them to stay the same, they don't. That is not the nature of existence. The nature of existence is transient, evanescent, inconstant.

What Buddhism teaches is that this craving for permanence, among other things, makes us suffer. To stop the suffering, first get in touch with what it actually is that is making you suffer, then stop the craving. Acceptance is the end of craving. Understand it and accept it. The more you fight it the more unhappy it makes you.

I'm obviously no Buddhist scholar, but I have taken comfort in understanding some of what makes this painful. It's not just that I won't have the experience of another wonderful Vapor Trail 125 this year, that I won't see many of the family of riders and supporters that have come to be an important part of my life in September. That is hard, and it makes me sad. But what's really hard is that something that was, no longer is. I had no real awareness of how attached I was to the idea that we have this event that uses this amazing course. But now I am aware. And now I am struggling to accept that our amazing course may never be the same.

The knowledge that I will be working to re-imagine the course with Shawn and Earl (and hopefully some younger folks) is helping. The fact that so many people are sharing my sadness and disappointment is helping. It's going to be OK. We're going to work hard to create a new course that will hopefully not leave anybody missing the old one.

Let's all really appreciate the memories that we have of so many great Vapor Trail 125s on that amazing course. Maybe we never get to use it again, but let's honor it with our memories.

2018 has already been a year of Impermanence. This silly little rock slide is nothing compared to the fires, floods, social and political disruptions, and wars that rock the planet. It's a damned bike race after all. We're not curing cancer. But it's always hard when your world changes, and you just want it to change back.