As winter yielded to spring, crews from San Juan Trail Riders (SJTR) worked with the U.S. Forest Service, clearing downfall from OHV and single-track trails in Southwest Colorado. By early June, the task was nearly complete, and everyone was looking forward to riding beautiful, cleared high mountain trails.
Mother Nature had other plans, as reported at Coloradoan.com:
A derecho is a line of intense, widespread and fast-moving windstorms and sometimes thunderstorms that moves across a great distance and is characterized by damaging winds.
The weather service reported the derecho started at 9 a.m. Saturday in southern Utah and produced severe wind gusts for 750 miles into southwestern North Dakota. The storm raced along the line at 60 mph and produced severe winds for nearly 12 hours.
After the derecho passed through on June 6th, Southwest Colorado trails were again littered with downed trees. The Echo Basin and Transfer areas near Mancos, including the Aspen Loop, were especially hard hit by the high winds, seriously impeding riding in that area!
SJTR crews were back at it the day following the derecho. The cooperative efforts of crews from SJTR, Mancos Fire Department and U.S.F.S Dolores Ranger District removed approximately one thousand downed trees in less than a week, reopening Aspen Loop, West Mancos, Chicken Creek, Bear Creek, Rim, Morrison, Helmut Creek, Echo Basin, Aspen Spur, Coyote Park, Coyote Park South, North Rampart, Ramparts Loop, Old Gold Run, and Red Arrow. Deric Hook lead a team (Dean Howard, Joseph Farmer, and Bruce Bleakman) to finish clearing Goldconda and Box Canyon, the last of the area trails to be cleared for the second time this season.
The week of June 7th SJTR members cleared Lower Hermosa Creek, Jones Creek, Pinkerton-Flagstaff, and Dutch Creek trails in the U.S.F.S Columbine Ranger District. Because of their proximity to Durango, these trails are heavily used and enjoyed by many non-motorized users as well. In the following weeks, the remaining motorized trails in the Hermosa drainage were cleared.
The Rico area trails were also severely impacted, so SJTR’s members Scott Steffens and Tara Morey established a basecamp at the intersection of Priest Gulch Trail and Taylor Creek Road the weekend of June 12th. This provided volunteer clearing crews a place to rest, eat and refuel to continue on with the work the Dolores District F.S. saw crews had started the previous week. Friday, a twelve-person SJTR crew, supported by Arizona Trail Riders, removed over three hundred trees from Lower Stoner Mesa on the first day. Saturday, a crew of four from SJTR supported by two WESTCORE riders worked their way up the bottom five miles of Priest GulchTrail removing seventy-eight large trees. On Sunday, a four-person crew removed trees from Upper Priest Gulch, Eagle, and Calico.
Together, Boot Hill Motorcycle Club and SJTR members cleared forty-eight trees from Pole Creek, Middle Pole, Lower East Fork Middle Pole, and West Lost Trail in the U.S.F.S. Rio Grande District.
The Middle Mountain network of trails north of Vallecito Reservoir — Middle Mountain, Beri, Bear Creek, Runlett Park, Vallecito View, Dark Canyon — was not as severely impacted by the high winds. But some trails, such as Bear Creek Spur, still needed a bit of maintenance. SJTR’s crew were still up to the task
Thanks to the collaborative efforts of the individuals and organizations that contributed to executing this tremendous effort to clear trails in Southwest Colorado to improve the experiences for all trail users.