They need a place that’s a little chunky and techy with some pockets. A few berms, but not too many. A couple doubles and tabletops would be nice.
OK, some of you may need a translation at this point: There’s a mountain bike trail user group that doesn’t want trails that are smooth and easy. With the available bike technology, combined with a high local talent level and a need for challenging terrain, the average trail is simply too boring.
So after a lot of wrangling among the city of Durango, Trails 2000, La Plata Open Space Conservancy and this “progressive” user group, the Medicine Trail is now under construction, or reconstruction, in Horse Gulch southeast of downtown. When finished, it’ll hopefully be at least a start in giving this group a more suitable place to ride.
“There’s a new type of rider who has different demands in what they want to see in a trail,” Grady James said Tuesday afternoon as a couple dozen volunteers helped the Trails 2000 Gravity Council reconstruct the Medicine Trail.
James, a Fort Lewis College graduate and former racer, and Dusty Bender, a Durangoan since 1992, headed up Tuesday’s work crew. It’s one of many crews that will be assembled and let loose – with oversight – in the next few weeks to build the trail.
After some safety basics at the trail’s bottom at Horse Gulch Road, James and Bender led the crew uphill, following the orange flags that mark the trail’s path. It’s a twisting path that transitions from sandstone-base wash to a rough, cactus-strewn dirt path to fields of rocks. Perfect for a progressive trail, which is loosely defined as a trail that offers challenging, often man-made, features and obstacles.
James and Bender are among several members on the Gravity Council, an advisory board for Trails 2000 that formed 2½ years ago. The council’s goal is to establish challenging, legal trails and avoid the issues caused recently by unsanctioned trails that the city of Durango decided to shut down.
Although Trails 2000 constructed the Snakecharmer Trail two summers ago as a progressive trail, it hasn’t met the needs of some users, who have constructed the unsanctioned Kittycharmer Trail nearby. In a recent look at what trails didn’t meet proper criteria, the city decided Kittycharmer needed to be closed. Not only was it built without permission, but it goes through a conservation easement and also onto private property.
Medicine Trail, however, is on a map that existed when La Plata Open Space accepted the conservation easement when the city purchased the land, said Mary Monroe Brown, Trails 2000 executive director. So the Medicine Trail is not brand new construction, but a reconstruction of an existing trail.
To get approval for rebuilding the trail, Trails 2000 and the Gravity Council walked the route with the city and La Plata Open Space representatives. The city officially presented the plan to La Plata Open Space for approval.
Trails 2000 is a little more geared toward making trails smooth for the general populace. Progressive trails are for more radical riders.
“The Gravity Council reaches a different demographic,” Monroe Brown said. “We wanted to speak to that audience because we really do need their participation and involvement. We wanted to get the message out that the process is inclusive.”
A couple hundred yards up the route, as smaller groups began working different sections of trail, James joined in a discussion with Ben Cross and Cliff Pinto, both passionate about creating a great track here. Cross made it no secret that he is disappointed to lose Kittycharmer. Pinto owns Pedal the Peaks bike shop near the corner of Main Avenue and College Drive.
“We’re getting there slowly,” Cross said about the development of Medicine Trail. “Make it sweet, though. Take your time and make it right.”
Pinto, with small son Griffin in tow, offered suggestions, too.
“This is a good spot to make it more techy by leaving the rocks in,” he said. “We’re trying to create some kind of line through here and create pockets.”
James and Bender know what’s required from the conservation easement. So they’re willing to let the riders be creative with the trail, as long as they follow the rules and regulations and allow for proper water drainage.
“They get really excited,” said James, who is entering his third summer as a trail crew leader for Trails 2000. “As long as it meets the criteria, then yeah, have at it. With our guidance they can come in and build what they want on a trail. We’re happy it’s a community effort.”
Bender said it was obvious by the turnout on a Tuesday afternoon that people are excited about the trail. Using ski area analogy, he described Snakecharmer as a green trail with some blue options. Medicine Trail will be blue with black options, and it’ll give riders a reason to stay in Durango rather than travel to Telluride or Angel Fire, New Mexico, for progressive trails.
“People are psyched to make something that’s going to stay around,” he said.