I last visited Coed y Brenin in September 1998. 32 years young. So my return visit 2 years shy of 50 was rude awakening. Half as old again with a lad half my age back then for company.
Many things have changed in the intervening period, not least my speed and agility. Perhaps more fundamental to the experience however was the sheer volume of trails that have been built and the quality of the experience that they deliver. No more clearly was this brought home to me than when my young charge and I descended a stepped rocky trail that rejoices in the name Abel, each slab looking like a short cut to injury. I spotted that we had traversed the fearsome rock garden that had long haunted my memories of the original trip and the Pink Heifer route that had been offered to us as an alternative to the Red Bull which had been occupied with a little bit of racing all those years ago.
This landslide of rocks would still have presented a formidable obstacle to anyone foolish enough to choose to descend it, yet the quality of the craic would have been both sadly lacking and all too real for the padded fully suspended folk who now populate this forest.
Without rehashing the well worn debates about the merits of natural v built trails, I can be certain that the 32 year old me rode 63mm of elastomer travel poorly over things that the 100mm air travel near half centenarian would both be better able to attempt and yet is so much less likely to. The groomed trails of Coed Y Brenin extant, manufactured to yield high grin volumes and gravitational pull fever, made older me feel like a trail god, when for old me it had been a dog trial. How could I wish to go back to being a mere mortal?