The idea and purpose of a trail have seemingly changed over time, but the aesthetic and the way a trail guides users through terrain has changed even more. Trails have been used to experience nature for ages in various forms of recreation, and as routes for travelers.
Mountain biking has influenced the way a trail is built more than any other form of recreation, and that continues to change because mountain bikes are always evolving. When professional trail builder Tom Lepesqueur was a kid, trail building meant sketchy features, like wooden jumps with bad landings, or teeter-totters that landed on other teeter-totters. They didn’t need to look good or flow together. The trails they built in random places throughout New England forests kept Tom and his brother busy as children, and made for fun, yet sometimes dumb, challenges.
“We’d push each other into doing foolish things. And, building really crazy stuff, especially for how bad our bikes were,” says Lepesqueur. “We broke a lot of bikes.” Lepesqueur and his brother rode Huffys and other BMX bikes around, “farm-fixing” them when they broke and riding them much greater distances than 20″ bikes are designed to be ridden. Lepesqueur describes the days of his childhood as simple and free. On the weekends, he and his brother would “eat breakfast, leave, and come back when it was dark. It was definitely a different time. I think [our parents] were just happy we weren’t bothering them.”
When Lepesqueur made it to college, his interest in mountain biking returned, after a lull in his high school years. He spent weekends building trail illegally or as a volunteer for an organization, escaping from the stress and books of college, which, as a neuroscience student, there was plenty of.