OPINION: Squamish Trailblazer – Gary McFarlane

If you’ve lived in Squamish for even a short time, you’ve probably enjoyed some of the extensive trail network that exists in Squamish. We’re incredibly blessed with world-class trails here, but they didn’t appear by magic. Instead of trail fairies, we’ve had an incredibly dedicated group of volunteers grow the network 6through countless hours of trail building, maintenance, advocacy and stewardship.

One of the most prolific contributors is Gary McFarlane — a trail builder, rabble-rouser, and master of sarcasm.

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McFarlane didn’t move to Squamish for the biking or the rock climbing, specifically. He first started contributing to the outdoor community by scrubbing new climbing routes — but it wasn’t long before he got into building bike trails as well.

“I was putting up rock climbs on DeBeck’s Hill when Tonya —my partner — stated that the trail we hiked to get to the crag would make a good biking trail. Not knowing any better, I decided she was probably right and I should try it. It turned out to be a very easy trail to build and I was hooked. Plural of Nemesis was the result,” says McFarlane.

This was the start of an extensive volunteer career in trail building. McFarlane has contributed his “fair share of blood and skin” to the trails, as he puts it. His opus includes Rupert, Somewhere Over There, Word of Mouth, Plum Smugglers, Singletrack Mind and Unrelated Dead Guys — many favourites ranked as top trails locally and globally. Most trails can take years to build by hand. So, what inspires this dedication?

“Obsession. I get an idea in my head and tend to see the possibilities rather than the difficulties and drawbacks,” says McFarlane. “I like being able to picture something and make it come to life through work and perseverance.”

The other people involved are also a big part of what drives him. “It’s fun hanging out in the forest with all the weirdos that are attracted to building trails. We’re like a club that few people want to be a part of.”

McFarlane is perhaps most well-known for his trail ‘Rupert,’ finished in 2014. One of Squamish’s favorite mountain biking trails, Rupert is now ranked as one of the Top 10 trails in the world on Trailforks, a global mountain biking trail database that collects rider data. A varied ride, it features cross-country, rock slabs, downhill rips, and wood-work, to keep any rider engaged and shouting for more.

It also happens to be McFarlane’s favourite trail that he’s built. It’s named after his big loveable Newfoundland dog, who would accompany him on bushwacks to scout new trails. Rupert died before the trail was finished, and so the trail was named in his honour.

Beyond the trails, McFarlane has given back to the mountain biking community in so many ways. He’s sponsored many SORCA events over the years. And he’s a bit of a legend as a returning volunteer for the Hot On Your Heels women-only mountain bike race. Rumours of wild costumes and questionable behaviour abound. “If you want to know, sign up and get an awesome costume together. Who knows, the rumours might be true and you might not be offended after all”, says McFarlane.

When asked about his contributions, he says with classic dry wit, he’s “made other people feel good about themselves and their riding skills after they watch me and what my decades of biking experience have wrought”.

We’re pretty sure that’s not true, but it’s a reminder that everyone can get out there, enjoy the trails, and give back in some way.

~Helen Beynon is executive director of SORCA

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