Secret about an old friend
A couple of weeks ago, Richard and I were riding Government Trail. We were riding up from Maroon Creek, on the Tiehack side, when we got to the tree with the big roots sticking out across the trail. We both hopped off our bikes to push them past the roots, when Richard turned to me and asked if I would spot him as he tried to ride the roots going back down. I hadn’t seen the roots in more than 12 years, and they definitely looked more rideable now than in the past. Richard tried riding the roots twice and stopped each time out of fear and common sense. On his third try I started yelling encouragement to keep going, and that I would catch him if he fell. Instead of calling him a chicken, I was trying to use positive reinforcement. At the time, insulting him did not seem the best approach since I would not ride the roots, and I was standing there in skintight Lycra.On his third try, he cleared the roots, making it look rather easy. He was completely ecstatic about his riding prowess and suffered from verbal diarrhea the rest of the day. Richard asked me if he could share some thoughts about mountain biking and an old friend, so the following is from Richard:Two weeks ago, I ran into work crews from the Roaring Fork Outdoors Volunteers up in Hunter Creek. RFOV crews, made up entirely of volunteers, do a great job maintaining and rebuilding valley trails. When they told me that they had just “buffed out” the Hobbit Trail, it got me thinking back to a day in the late ’80s when I ran into a friend at Four Corners.I had stopped for a quick snack after a long, bumpy ride up the road. In those days, the road was the only sane choice in climbing – steel bikes without shocks made going up what would later be called the Plunge a foolish thought. The road itself was a different beast back then; prior to the improvements made in order to try and sell the Austers, land it was rocky, and not quite the graded tame trail that it is today.My friend, who shall remain nameless, always traveled with a small pruning saw. As I was about to learn, he often traveled with other “trail improvement implements,” as well. We started south, down the road toward the Sunnyside Trail. About 100 yards down the road, he stopped, got off his bike and said, “follow me.”More than curious, I asked, “Where are we going, and why are we walking?””It’s a secret I’ve been working on,” he replied.Wondering what the hell he was talking about, I followed him about 50 yards to what looked like a perfect trail – the trail that is now known as the Secret Singletrack.We rode it to about 50 yards from where the present-day trail meets the upper Plunge, where he made me dismount again. “You have to keep it a secret,” he told me.We rode up the Plunge past another project he was working on, he explained, and back to Four Corners.From there we walked into the woods between the descent to Lenado and the old trail that linked Four Corners to Van Horn Park. Once again, 50 yards through uncut bush and we came across a project that he called the Hobbit. Like all of his trails, it was well-built, easy to climb and descend and didn’t ditch out when it got wet. “If you build them right, they don’t need water bars!” he would say.We rode it, and the variation he was working on all the way over to Van Horn Park. As we walked once again through the grass, he swore me to secrecy for the final time that day. “If the Forest Service finds out … man, will I be in trouble!”I suppose over the course of various summers, he took a pretty good number of people to his trails and swore them to secrecy, too; they took their friends, and now it isn’t so clear why the “Secret” trail is called that.This same friend died in an avalanche in Canada a few years ago. A self-deprecating individual, he was given to say that he was antisocial and didn’t really know a lot of people, let alone have friends. At his memorial at the base of Highlands there was barely enough room in the bar for the crowd. I remember wondering how many of his friends had been guided around all his secret biking trails up in Hunter Creek.Valley mountain bikers know that some of the best mountain biking is up in Hunter Creek – built by this longtime valley local. Next time you’re riding up there, say a little thanks to this anonymous trail builder and to the Roaring Fork Outdoors Volunteers. Ron feels he is more manly in his Lycra than Richard. Richard suggests getting out the ruler to check. Shoot Ron an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. His outdoors column appears on Saturdays in The Aspen Times.