And on the 8th day, God covered Steamboat in single track. Actually, the hundreds of miles in bike trails that we now enjoy in Bike Town USA comes from decades of planning, building, and maintenance – mostly by volunteers. Two people who have invested more than most in that process are Marc and Gretchen Sehler. I ran into them on the trail this week and learned a lot about our local biking history.
The Sehler’s moved to Steamboat over 30 years ago and quickly got involved with the Town Challenge Bike Race Series. This motivated them to start converting old horse paths and game trails on Emerald Mountain into new single track. They’ve since become unofficial stewards of those trails and recently received a Lifetime Achievement Award for their many contributions toward Steamboat biking.
This week they were out plotting a new path for Abbie’s trail after the old one was destroyed by beetle-kill logging. They shared with me how the name came from their old Australian Shepard Abbie who used to run the route decades ago.
I was headed to No Mo Bluez, so Gretchen told the backstory behind the unusual name. Some locals had setup a makeshift bridge out of old snow skis and nicknamed it “Blues Bridge.” After the City of Steamboat acquired the land, trail builders commemorated the removal of the dangerous structure by naming the trail “No Mo Bluez!”
And while the Beall trail was still closed for elk calving, I was proud to already know that it was named after Ben Beall, Sr. a Routt County commissioner who helped secure a land swap with the BLM to make the trail. Gretchen talked about the struggles of completing that swap with the federal government and the surprising difficulty in securing the naming rights.
Other trails named after local philanthropists include Morning Gloria. This popular new trail honors long-time local Gloria Gossard and her donation of 120 acres on Emerald to the City of Steamboat Springs, a gesture called “one of the most incredible gifts this community has ever seen.” Morning Gloria is one of the first trails I rode with my son when he turned seven years old, and it is a favorite amongst visitors and locals alike.
The Sehler’s then talked about Lyman Orton, who for decades allowed public use of his land on Emerald Mountain for hiking and biking before eventually selling it to the City of Steamboat Springs at his original cost. “The world needs more Lyman Orton’s,” said Gretchen. The Orton trail now honors his legacy.
Larry Johnson introduced Marc and Gretchen to Lyman Orton, and so they created Larry’s trail. It’s fun to connect Larry’s with MGM – which stands for Mica (one of the Sehler’s dogs), Gretchen, and Marc. Eye to Eye, the tricky little tangent trail off MGM is named for the tight switchbacks that almost make a rider feel like they’re eye to eye with themselves after navigating each corner.
Root Canal perfectly describes the “rooty” trail at the top of the mountain. Lane of Pain was named by Steamboat local Marc Bennett, and anyone who has ridden it understands why. Stairway to Heaven started as an informal note on the Town Challenge course before the title was officially adopted. Lupine was nicknamed by Steamboat Youth Corps volunteers who loved all the flowers along the route they built.
Not every trail name is blessed by the Sehler’s. Rumor has it that Gretchen is particularly annoyed by Blair Witch, although I admit liking the correlation to the wooded scenes from the similarly named movie.
So there you have it – a little bit of history and a lot of appreciation for what the Sehler’s and so many other volunteers have built for us riders in Bike Town USA. The Trail Maintenance Endowment Fund was recently setup to help ensure the trails are preserved for generations to come – so please consider making a donation before your next ride!