It’s so easy to get caught up in the same trail systems when, here in Western North Carolina, we have quick access to phenomenal fun, but branching out will make for a spectacular weekend resulting in better-honed skills.

It’s that time of year when the truck can be loaded up with bikes, spare parts, tools, first aid kits, sleeping bags and dogs to subsist in the woods for days in a row of trail sampling.

Staying at home means you might go out for a long ride, but when you’re in the weekend biking mode it means you may ride first thing in the morning, after the midday nap and quite possibly much later in the dark – just because somebody suggested it around the campfire.

Although this sounds exhausting and a great way to end up bleeding, it really shows how much energy you truly have in reserve. Plus, it makes you a lot stronger, which as we know is more mental than physical. The next time you’re climbing Black Mountain, you will think back on that weekend and realize this isn’t so bad after all. Of course ending each day with the best downhill is also an excellent way of putting the pain into the far reaches of the brain where cobwebs grow.

Keep in mind that while the skiing and snowboarding in this region aren’t all that exciting (until recent winter dumps), those very same slopes are pretty treacherous, in a fun kind of way, in the summer biking season. There are plenty of events, races and demo rides to get a taste of the fun without intimately knowing the trails.

Even just an extra thirty minutes beyond the favorite trailheads offer new fun that can be combined into a day of multi-flavored tasking. What about tubing in Bryson City after mountain biking in Tsali? Your camp mates will be happy you had some kind of water rinsing the stink off of your body before gathering for a meal or some lovin’ in the tent.

The Nantahala Outdoor Center might be too touristy for you, but nearby in Fontana, the trails are really fun, pretty challenging, and can be partnered with a boating excursion.

Just pack up all of the toys, because it’s summer – and time to hide from the heat in the woods!