Toby Welborn came to Nevada nine years ago, drawn by the promise of wide-open deserts and mountain vistas. But when he moved to Carson City, he found getting access to that public land was more difficult than he had expected.
“There’s very few recognized trails,” he said.
So when he heard that his mountain-biking buddy, Jeff Potter, was spearheading an effort to build a 7-mile trail in the hills of west Carson City, he was eager to join in.
“It’s been a blast,” said Welborn, a geographer. “It’s been very time-consuming, but anything worth doing is.”
Potter, a volunteer with the walking and bicycling advocacy group Muscle Powered, came up with the idea in 2006 to build a trail connecting Ash and Kings canyons along the east-facing slopes of the mountains. With the help of Carson City open space manager Juan Guzman, trail work began in spring 2012 and resumed this spring. It will continue for a couple of more weeks until the weather gets too cold.
With about 2 miles left to build, along with two bridges, Potter said he expects to be finished by the end of next summer.
“I’m hoping if we are able to keep the same schedule as this year, we can finish it up,” he said.
More than half of the work has been completed by volunteers. Anywhere between two and 28 show up, many of whom have taken trail-building courses offered by the Tahoe Rim Trail Association, Potter said. Another 2 miles was constructed by a team from the Great Basin Institute, funded through a $230,000 grant from Nevada State Parks, which also paid for tools.
This week, Potter led a group up the nearly 2 miles of trail constructed from the Ash Canyon access point.
Jenny Scanland, trails coordinator for Nevada State Parks, was impressed with what she saw.
“This is the best-looking rock work in the state of Nevada,” she said.
The trail, which begins around 5,600 feet, climbs about 1,100 feet to the highest point. Builders said they designed it to keep the grade gradual, mostly under the recommended 10 percent.
“It’s a good climb, but you don’t really feel it,” Welborn said.
Potter said the bottom portions are more gradual and simple, while technical features are higher up. Builders used rock formations to create natural rest stops along the way, as well as optional mountain-bike jumps. Potter said they also considered the grade when creating switchbacks, to avoid dangerous situations for cyclists coming down the hill.
“Speed is fun as long as we can control it,” he said.
Mark Kimbrough, who was director of the Tahoe Rim Trail Association for eight years after retiring from Nevada State Parks, now runs a trail-building consulting business, Washoe Zephyr Consulting. He said that in the beginning years, mountain bikers refused to participate in trail planning or maintenance.
Now, he calls them the “next generation of trail builders.”
“They really need to give credit to these guys,” Kimbrough said. “They’re out of the grandstands on the ground.”
On Monday’s tour, he pointed to the rock work, jumps and other features along the trail.
“These guys are doing the kind of stuff that professionals do,” Kimbrough said. “It’s national park-quality.”
Guzman said it’s the kind of trail that will attract people to the area.
“People who like to do these kinds of things get on an airplane, then fly to places like Santa Fe or Boulder,” he said. “Here, we have these incredible trails that rival those places. It’s a really amazing opportunity. Seven miles of pure joy.”
The plan is to work with neighboring organizations to connect trails throughout the area.
Welborn said it’s an opportunity to get involved in something meaningful.
“The more we can get people working on it, the more ownership they will have,” Welborn said. “Hiking up here 10 or 15 years from know, they’ll know they made this turn or worked on this section.”