Juan Carlos: Discovering Trails to Health and Happiness

Read the full story on the Vail Health Foundations website here.

The Spirit of Soul Dirt

When asked how he feels about mountain biking, local teen Juan Carlos says, “I like it, I love it, it’s my passion.” This love story began in 2021 when he was introduced to the trails as part of a Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance event that would later evolve to become Soul Dirt — a program launched in partnership with Vail Health’s Eagle Valley Behavioral Health to create opportunities to access the transformative power of the trails.

Enthusiastic to get outside, Juan Carlos embodies the spirit of Soul Dirt. His newfound passion for biking radiated around him when sitting down with him and his mom, Angelica Macias, to discuss how Soul Dirt has helped him find the trails, get fit, and feel good.

“I have always liked being outdoors, in nature, but what has motivated me the most is to get my son out of the house and do things that are unique to him,” Angelica says. “I have been living here for 20 years, and I didn’t know so many of the trails that are here.” Eager to get her son out, Angelica and Juan Carlos were some of the first to sign up when Soul Dirt officially launched in 2022.

Trails Transform Lives

Trails have the power to change lives. They bring people together, connect you to nature, and improve your mental and physical health. A report from the non-profit Outride finds that at a time when health among youth is deteriorating, kids who bike regularly report higher levels of mental well-being.

As a mother, Angelica understands the health challenges facing many youth today and wants her son to have every opportunity to live a happy and healthy life. For Angelica, it was important she lead by example for her son and get out on the trails herself. Mountain biking became a challenge she was excited to take on.

Love at First Bike

With almost two years of Soul Dirt programming underway, Juan Carlos and his mom remain loyal attendees, joining every group trail ride offered in partnership with Walking Mountain’s Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement (EVOM). While they may have been the first, many more have followed. Engagement in Soul Dirt’s programs continues to grow, thanks in part to the VVMTA’s fleet of mountain bikes available for participants to use during its programs, free of charge.

Mountain bikes often come with a hefty price tag, and the high cost can be prohibitive for many would-be bike lovers. Soul Dirt makes it possible for those without bikes to experience the magic of the trails on two wheels.

For Juan Carlos, a world of possibilities opened up beyond the trailhead when he received a bike of his own as part of the Soul Dirt bike giveaway empowerment program. When asked how having his own bike has impacted his life, he says, “It makes me happier and clearer.” Juan Carlos, now a near-daily rider, is reaping the benefits. “I feel quicker, stronger, and ten times better.”

Trails for All

Everyone has the right to feel like there is a place for them on the trails. They are a vital health and happiness resource that everyone deserves to experience. To take one step closer to making this happen, the VVMTA has created inclusive trail programming so everyone can find their trail, get fit, and feel good. To join an upcoming event, go to vvmta.org/events. If you ride by Juan Carlos and Angelica, make sure to say hello!

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