Is Innovation a Skill: Part Two

In an earlier post, I paralleled learning the skills of mountain biking to the satisfaction I derive from helping our customers to innovate, to experience similar skill progressions. In this post, I share the fact that — like the rewarding journeys of innovation — there is nothing like the joy of discovering a new trail.

While on a winter sojourn South with my family to escape the cold weather, I discovered a trail in Pisgah National Forest in Asheville, North Carolina. I only had one day, and I’ll admit to not studying my options or the route I took. I’d been on the road for a few days and needed a workout. I was looking for an up-and-down loop on which I could do some work and possibly enjoy a fun MTB downhill back to my starting point. I found a loop that showed 1,700 feet of climbing, most of it in the first half of the 13-mile loop.

I set out to find the starting location and found it was quite remote. I had no cell service. And though my phone was fully charged, I brought a fully charged external battery pack because I’d be navigating by GPS. The loop was described as Full Spencer Gap to Fletcher Creek Loop with Trace Ridge Descent. The loop started on an access road that clearly went up, but the grade was manageable. After five miles or so, I turned onto a trail that continued up, and the grade was increasing. I soon noticed two things: (1) According to my tracking, I had climbed the majority of the 1,700 feet. (2) My phone battery had already been depleted to 35 percent. At that rate, I’d lose navigation well before returning to the starting point. I considered turning back, but I plugged in my external battery pack and continued my climb.

I saw my phone was charging. Relieved, I kept on chugging. The grade became significant. The trail was nice and the views of the forest’s trees and the occasional vistas were breathtaking. When I’d come to a clearing, the climbing became more obvious. The creek from which I’d started was far below me. Even with the views and the nice trail, the solemnness was a little eerie. Eventually, I stopped to rest for a few minutes. I heard the labored breathing of two fellow masochists coming up the trail. We shared a brief greeting, and I encouraged them on their progress. I was again relieved because this trail and its views were too good for it not to be frequented by others. It was, so that checked out.


My GPS tracking and the loop’s profile report showed I ‘d completed the climbing, but the trail continued up. So, I continued. I was encouraged and troubled by the report. On the one hand, I was motivated to know I ‘d completed much of the climbing. On the other hand, if the profile showed I was at the top of the loop and I clearly wasn’t, could I count on the report at all? I saw my phone battery had been restored to 75 percent. I was gaining confidence that I could at least navigate back.

Eventually, I came to a trail intersection. I turned right and all my earlier anxiety melted away. I was on what turned out to be a seven-mile downhill ripper! I was clearly at the top. And I was clearly descending on some fun, challenging obstacles and flowy berms. I did want a workout, and I got it. It turned out my 1,700-foot climb was really 1,900 feet. The descent was so much fun, I immediately forgot about my burning thighs. I’ve been mountain biking for many years, but that may have been the longest descent I’ve ever done. I stopped twice to rest on a downhill! There were a few short climbs and access roads on the descent, but the trail quickly resumed and continued rewarding me with amazing stuff.

The Destination or the Journey?

After what seemed like almost endless, amazing downhill riding, I eventually came to an access road back near the river at which I’d started. I had so much fun I considered riding back up to do it again, but reality hit when I looked at my watch. I needed to get back to my family so we could continue our trip.

Charged with endorphins, I was ready to take on several more days of driving. But I know I’d be back to check out more trails at Pisgah.

What new trails are you discovering?

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