An Interview with 21st Century Pine Barrens Explorer Joseph Young of Hamburg, PA

Joseph Young contributed to this article in his own personal capacity. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily represent the views of author and Piney Tribe team administrator William Lewis.

“I still remember my first enduro in the Pinelands. I can’t tell you my score, or how I rode. But I remember the smell of the dirt, the clear blue sky, and the beauty of the pines.”

Joseph Young

Interview Conducted on 11/19/2020

1) If you were forced to categorize your interests in the great outdoors what one would you say fits you best? Example botany, local history, geology, herping etc.

Joseph- “Offroader rider, that’s really the community I’m representing and it’s my heart. As a hunter, as an offroader as a person. I’m a Chaplain for our organization, so I bring an element of faith to it. I see the outdoors, the Pinelands its creation. I value all of that even when doing my activities, I still see a hand of the creator that I look to in all of those. But pretty much offroader and specifically Enduro events that happen in the Pinelands. That is my sole usage of the Pinelands because I live in Pennsylvania. I’m in the woods a lot, but living in PA only gets to come down to the Pinelands for organized events. I’m an outdoorsman through and through both in NJ and PA. Offroader, or Hunting, or hiking, and fishing too.

For Enduro events it’s not just the race, it’s a time keeping event. Which is totally different than anything else on a dirt bike. I had ridden Enduros in Pennsylvania. But to come down to Jersey for my first time to ride in the Pinelands, I remember the smell of the dirt. It’s different dirt than anywhere else. It’s the pines and I couldn’t believe how flat it was. The beauty of the Pinelands. It’s something that you just can’t get anywhere else. I couldn’t tell you how I did that race or how I finished or what my score was or nothing like that. But I still remember the smells and the clear blue sky with the big white puffy clouds that day and just riding my bike basically alone, even though I was in an event with other riders. It was just me out there and man, I can still remember those feelings and falling in love with riding down there in those events. It’s not something you really get somewhere else. It really is special. It’s a real treat to be able to do that.”   

2) We never truly know the influence we have on others. Someone out there probably lots of someones look up to you in your endeavors in the Pines. Who do you list in your top 3 influencers of your own interest in adventuring?

Joseph- “Its hard to put three names to. Representing the Enduro community in the Pinelands, there’s been events in the Pinelands for about 75 years. Organized Enduros. In our association there are guys I don’t know but our forefathers that put the time together that forged the clubs and ultimately an East Coast Enduro Association in this corner of the country for these events. They put together a whole series and a whole network of fingers of clubs that work hard to put events on. And to build the whole community really, which has become family. That’s probably 75 years old maybe, but goes back to the 1960s. Some of those guys that has become almost a heritage which I kinda grew up into as a kid and fell in love with it.

Dad and I just started trail riding on our own. We had property in Northern Pennsylvania and a cabin. We would ride on state forests up there. There was an ECA Enduro that ran in the area both in our hometown and up north where we had the cabin. We would go out and spectate at those events. In those areas at those times you could go ride the trails afterwards if you knew your way around. My dream was to be able to start riding those Enduros. Be old enough to get in and compete in those Enduros. I didn’t know where else the rest of them were. I had no idea that there were about 19 events in the tri-state area. All I knew about was two of them and I thought they were the coolest thing ever. To ride those single-track trails and to test yourself on some of the terrain was just killer. It was just huge! I just fell in love with just trying it. I never did well at it. I grew up doing it in Pennsylvania. But when I got in the sand in the Jersey events, it was a totally different thing riding a dirt bike. I never experienced anything like that, and it was just a whole nother realm of riding and loved it. It was so flat the dirt totally different there’s no rocks to crash on its fun that way. The events down there are top notch and so fun. As a young boy, I just fell in love with it and continued to be involved. Promoting and being part of a club and making that happen in my area too.”  

3) Do you prefer solo or group outdoor adventures?

Joseph- “Probably depends on what mood I’m in. Because in the organized events, there might be several hundred riders. You are only riding with maybe four at a time. The guys in your minute. Your not competing against them, it’s who you are riding with. So that’s fun. But its always fun to be out alone and to slow things down and reflect. I’ve done both and love both. I think both have a different aspect. Again depends on what kinda mood you are in and what you are looking for.”

4) What’s your typical mode of operation (MO) when it comes to how you interact with your interest. Is it pure hobby, part nostalgia, or academic in purpose? What’s your goal from doing it?

Joseph- “Obviously it is a hobby in purest form. The dirt bike riding and the Enduro competition is a hobby. Me personally I’ve taken it to another level of wanting to see that it continues on. In being part of a club in the organization and then in leadership to help to see that the next generation grabs on to it and moves forward with it. It is kinda of a dying thing. Enduro itself not so much other dirt bike racing. Enduro is all older guys. Probably 75% are over 50 years old. The younger generation is into a different style. Its kind of a heritage thing passed down. The timekeeping and Enduro nostalgia goes back 75 years and what we are hanging onto. Trying to keep some of the younger generation involved in this thing, it takes a lot of work to put an event on. And to keep legal riding areas open and maintain a positive appearance in the public eye of what we do. Because it does have a negative connotation get lumped together with some of the illegal stuff. So it takes a lot of work constantly to overcome some of that.”

5) Is there a way to encourage people to follow your passion or should we not encourage others that may or may not be respectful in the same manner to the environment?

Joseph- “Always encourage the next generation to pursue their passions. So if we had young people that are interested in dirt bike I think our organization owes it to the landowners or the public land owners State Forests of the Pineys anybody who uses it we owe it to them to be training the next generation. Of how to be polite and have etiquette in what we do as off-roaders in our events. Even in within ourselves there is etiquette in competition there is stuff you don’t do. It’s not a free for all. Some of the younger generation don’t get that. I would always encourage them to try something new. If you like a dirt bike, try an Enduro.  It’s not for everybody, not everyone falls in love with it.  But we do see young guys do really like rather than motocross or a different type of riding style. Some really latch on to it. Then you want to build that training of how to put on events and encourage the younger generations to get involved in the clubs. In the legal riding and to keep the legal aspect of it moving forward. Don’t be part of the problem be part of the solution.”

6) How many people do you know that have told you that what you do in the wild is crazy or kinda weird?

Joseph- “Anybody you talk to that’s not a dirt bike rider probably doesn’t get it. I don’t know what the number is but anybody that doesn’t do it would probably think its odd. The amount of expense the physical side of it. We see it as good exercise, but Monday morning you just hurt. My wife always ask why do you put yourself through that. A non-rider doesn’t get it of what we do. Especially sticking to the Enduro events. They are so long, so kind of hard and demanding to ride 60 miles which used to be much longer. To ride 60 miles in a day in the dirt on an off-road bike is demanding. About 5 plus hours give or take depend on where it’s at and the speed of the event. The club dictates the speed of sections and how we do it. Not everybody understands why you would put yourself through that. Break parts and spend money on it as parts are constantly wearing out. It’s a giant money pit. Its not like hunting. I can have hunting gear, a lifetime good stuff lasts forever. If you get one season out of it you are lucky. But with the gears and bike stuff, it wears out. Not everybody appreciates that or gets it, but we do we understand it. I hate to say a there’s almost a spiritual level to it I don’t want to make it sound deeper than it is. There is an emotional side to it. Physical it keeps your body moving. Especially as I get older, it really is therapeutic in riding.    Even psychologically cause your just focused on what you are doing. Everything goes out the way. Any exercise may have that same component, but this is what we do.”

7) What’s the best resource you can share with someone looking to pursue your specific hobby?

Joseph- “Plug into an organized club. That first of all gets you into some legal riding areas, at least on days when it is legal to do. It gives back to the sport. Now you are part of helping something continue forward instead of just going out riding. You can be part of putting something on also. It gives you a better background. And you are connected with a larger group with the same interests. Even in that the good stuff that comes out of that like opportunities to go into the Pinelands to do cleanups. And to support things that the foresters might need or help as an organized group. If you are not part of that your just I hate to say a taker, but once you become part of the club your adding to it. To keep the events moving forward. The clubs need vitalization of youth as we get older, we need new people. Someone just getting into it that’s probably the best way to pursue it. First of all, you can learn from the old guys how to do it.  Learn there are a lot of tricks to what we do. Its not just buy a bike, hop on and go fast. So much more to it. As far as the off-road thing it’s not just riding Sunday. We work on it. It’s part of our MO all week long; prepping, working, or studying, or fixing stuff. Even exercise and training for it. It becomes a lifestyle. Its not just a ride for five hours on a Sunday. We study riding technique. I’ve been riding 40 years I’m probably still terrible at it. There are trainers out there and YouTube is tremendous on how to videos and better skill-sets. Most of us don’t ride the best way we should. And to get a better score. If we are going to compete or even to ride further longer with less effort is just good technique when riding. A lot of times we don’t do that we just want to get on and twist the throttle and we don’t think about those things.”

8) What’s one thing you’d like to change about our current New Jersey environment?

Joseph- “We are pretty locked into the state forest in New Jersey for Enduro racing. There are several in NJ that are more on private land. I think there are eight Enduros in New Jersey and I want to say 5 or 6 of them are 100% on state forests in the Pinelands on state land. Of course, those clubs have to work with forester and local management. Follow their guidelines. It’s all mapped out and approved. Can you go here can you not go there? They actually approve the route before the event happens.   

Obviously as an Enduro rider we’d like to see more land opened and have more access to the woods. Because we are very limited right now. We’ve seen it in the past 50 to 75 years. Events have been there for a long time without detriment. Especially with the organized clubs, there’s a lot more control and a lot more remediation could happen. I think we could have more access to real woods, not just dirt roads, and have little impact. Very little impact. As an outdoorsman, I can absolutely 100% guarantee trails in the woods are good things. We’ve seen trails be natural firebreaks on our own trails in Pennsylvania. Where there was wild fire would burn up the mountain and it came to our trail and would stop. That’s the intent of firebreaks, which New Jersey uses. On top of that, the game walk and uses the trails so much. As a hunter, I’ve seen it personally over and over. Single tract trail is not a detriment as long as it is controlled and not overrun or abused. That can easily be installed and used properly with good management that’s not a detriment. I don’t know if everyone would agree with that or not but as an outdoorsman, I’ve kind of seen it and lived it. As a hunter I’ve wrestled with it but watched what it happens, the deer really love it. The trail actually becomes a natural boundary. If you start tracking it with cameras and stuff you watch and see what happens. The bucks use it as natural boundaries.”  

9) I may have asked this and or you answered it in another question but now that you had more time to think on it, “What drives you to your specific sport?” Is it exercise, mental renewal, religious experience etc.?

Joseph- “Dirt bike riding is probably a little bit of all those things. It really is. I took about 10 years off of riding in my 40s. My body was not… I wasn’t exercising or doing anything else. When I got back into dirtbike riding I felt so much better. Physically, it really keeps you limber. Emotionally there is a lot to it. Again, it is very therapeutic. Mentally, it’s a break from whatever is going on. Again I don’t know if I’d go to a spiritual side but as a Christian I would say being out in the woods for me no matter what I’m doing is a connection for sure. There is no doubt about it. Whether I’m fishing or hunting or dirt bike riding. Being in the woods or by a stream, there is a spiritual side of that for sure. And we can always be alone and reflect a minute while we’re doing that. That’s always a great thing. So a little bit about all those things is probably wrapped up. I think a lot of guys in the community say the same thing, “If we don’t ride for a while we got to get out and clear our head.” It really brings that element for sure.”

10) Do you consider yourself a Piney?

Joseph- “As a resident of Pennsylvania I do within the limitation of living somewhere else obviously. I would say that in some respect because I do love it. As an Enduro rider to be able to the events in the Pines. For everything you defined as a Piney, of what the Pines represent, to be able to ride a dirt bike thru that element back in through the remoteness and the isolation, there’s nothing like that. That’s what we are all looking for when we ride a dirt bike. I’ll go back to the imprint that my first event in the Pinelands left on me. Again, it’s still there. I can still smell that day in the dirt and the pines and just being in that because it was all new to me. To be able to travel to New Jersey and ride an Enduro in Pinelands whether it’s a few times a year and have that ability to do that, I really value that. There’s something like that there’s nowhere else really in the country that you can do that to have that terrain. With that being said not sure if that fits what a Piney is, but I really appreciate the Pinelands and what it brings and what we can do there. I know our off-road community appreciates it too. Just the vastness and being able to isolate and get out and enjoy that. It is unique, and I think we all really appreciate that.”

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