The Trail Maker

It was a brisk January morning. The sun was just peaking out of the clouds when I was making my way back to the car. As I came around a corner, he crested a ridge. “Hi, glad to see you,” he hollered from 15 feet away. That was a strange way to greet someone on the trail, I thought. But then again, most hikers have their own way of greeting others. He wore a dark lightweight jacket, hiking shoes, dark pants, and a dark beanie. His shoulder length wavy hair hung below the beanie. He walked fast. I answered, “Good morning. Great day for a hike.” “It sure is,” he replied, “how do you like the trail?” “Love it!” “I built it.” At that point, we had already passed and he was talking over his shoulder never slowing. “Really?” I asked amazed. “Yep.” And he disappeared behind some rocks.

That was my first time on the Sneaky Snake Trail that circles Rattle Snake Mountain. There is a web of intertwining mountain bike and foot trails on and around this mountain. I had discovered them piece by piece, and that day, I found where they begin.  From that day forward, I started looking out for the mysterious trail maker. As I was leaving, I saw his car – the typical trail hippy car – a Subaru decked out in hiking, biking, and wilderness stickers. Sometimes, I’d see his car either when I arrived or as I was leaving, but I’d never actually see him. Another time, he was just heading out on the trail with his mountain bike. The more I missed talking to him, the more I wanted to meet him.

Finally, one sunny day in April, after weeks of storms and gloomy skies, I just came over the ridge on the trial dropping down into the parking lot, and there he was in his car. I could tell he was just arriving. He was busy in the car as I walked by, but he said, “Hi, glad to see you.” This was my invitation to talk to him. I don’t normally approach strangers in their cars, but he had greeted me in his way.  I leaned down and said hello through the open window.  I asked him about building the trails. He was happy to talk about it, but not willing to give his name. He’d been working on the trails for several years using things from the area to help define the trails. He moved rocks for edging and used cement to help with erosion or for a crossing. Dumped wood became bridges or ramps. Rocks and other debris were deliberately placed in the brush to keep motorcycles and atvs off the trail. He has also had fun discovering things long forgotten on the mountain. During brush clearing on one of the paths, he discovered a plaque from a Vietnam veteran. I keep an eye out for that one.

I was fascinated listening to him talk about the building and forgot to ask about planning it out and time put into the trials. Every time he comes to the trails he cleans them or starts work on another off shoot. Through the excitement in his voice and his animation while talking about it, I could see that he was passionate. He was eager to get on the trail and started to get his bike off the mount in the back. At this point, he didn’t slow for discussion. Things were wrapping up. But before he took off, he said that the app Trail Forks has these trails mapped. He has learned that at least a hundred people from all over the world have come and ridden on the trails. This trail maker is also starting a new trail south of town.

When asked what he’d like to say about the trails, he mentions that he wants people to enjoy them. He does want people to be aware that this is a multi-use recreational area and to kind to the different users, clean up along the way, and try not to destroy any trails.

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