Courtesy of Amber Powell
When Anthony and Amber Powell left the sprawling megalopolis that is Phoenix, they entered into a time and place in the Four Corners that was so different from their past and so rewarding that they wanted to give something back.
As enthusiastic mountain bikers (well, Amber is becoming one), they decided to create a new guide that maps riding trails from Pagosa Springs to Aztec to Cortez. That product, Trail Head: Durango Area Mountain Bike Guide, just came out in mid-October and is available at local stores. It sells for $15 to $20, depending on location.
Anthony, already a serious mountain biker, visited cycling stores in town to find the best trails.
“When they start(ed) drawing maps on a piece of paper,” he explained, he realized that having a more formal printed guide would be helpful for others like him just becoming familiar with the area’s trails.
While Amber worked at her bookkeeping job, Anthony, a graphic designer by trade, rode trails around the area. He mapped and photographed the trails for about nine months.
In all, he covered about 500 miles of trails, and even lost 20 pounds in the process.
“I don’t get any sympathy from my friends for ‘having’ to go and ride every day,” he noted. The Powells also live just steps from a cycle shop.
The guide covers trails that are within about 1½ hours driving time of Durango, Powell said. The guide has 15 maps, among which are Phil’s World in Cortez, Alien Run in Aztec and Kennebec Pass and Log Chutes near Durango.
Each of the maps has an adjoining page discussing ratings, riding style, skill level, “work” level, comments, trail description, favorite loop and directions to the trailhead.
The first few pages of the spiral-bound tome include trail etiquette, “tools and stuff” and a big warning that mountain biking can be dangerous, a “basic disclaimer preaching safe and fun riding,” according to the text.
The last few pages of the book include local advertisements and coupons of interest to cyclists.
Powell said he plans to update the guide every year and to add five trails with each new edition. He also is adding GoPro action-camera videos and photographs to his website, www.ridetrailhead.com.
One type of “trail” Powell is not including is road cycling trails, despite some requests.
Powell said he received help from some local riders, including racer Colin Shadell. He also developed a relationship with Trails 2000.
“Trails 2000 does a great job” creating and maintaining trails, Powell said. For instance, he said he likes the berms on their trails.
The Powells first moved from Phoenix to the Pagosa Springs area, building a small cabin in the Aspen Springs Subdivision west of town. After getting their fill of living off the grid full time, they decided to move to Durango and keep the Pagosa property for weekend getaways.
Even Phoenix had been a step away from Anthony Powell’s boyhood city of Cleveland. He moved to the desert city just after high school and enjoyed the trails there, with two exceptions: It took an hour or more to navigate the growing city’s traffic, and there are fees for using the trails, about $6, he said.
The trails he rides for free in the Four Corners definitely are different from the ones he rode around Phoenix. The highest elevation gain in the dry mountains around Phoenix is a little less than 3,000 feet.
Some of the trails included in Powell’s guide can gain as much as 6,000 to 7,000 feet, depending on where the rider starts and finishes.
An example is his inclusion of Engineer Mountain. This trail takes the biker to the 11,700-foot base of the mountain.
Another breathless ascent is the Kennebec Pass trail, which takes the rider from the 10,300-foot pass to 6,900-foot Junction Creek Trailhead. That trek includes a four-mile-high climb in the middle.
Despite his devotion to the project, Powell maintained his Phoenix graphic design customers and still works for them long distance. The completion of the guide does free up some of his time, though not necessarily for work.
“I can now get back to pleasure riding,” he said, “(and) not stop to put in waypoints or take photos.”