Horse Gulch Blog

Watchdogging for the greater Durango area

1 Sep 2013

Some of the most talented riders on the sickest pre-legal freeride trail near Durango

Posted by Adam Howell


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Today I was one of the luckiest guys in Durango for having such enthusiastic, talented friends and role models to ride with on the sickest freeride trail on the San Juan National Forest in Southwest Colorado.

This is freeride. Nate Kirker hits a big booter on a freeride trail somewhere on the San Juan National Forest.

This is freeride. Nate Kirker hits a big booter on a freeride trail somewhere on the San Juan National Forest.

Describing the rush and inspiration that I gained from riding with these people on this trail falls short of articulating all of the feelings that I experienced given the limitations and scope of my vocabulary.

If I could tell you where this trail is, or how to get there, I would. Yet the hours of sweat labor that a few locals have expended into building the jumps, berms, single track, log rides, trestle bridges and ledges on this trail would be in jeopardy due to the imminent risk of  people loving it to death, or land managers destroying it.

It was a privilege to have Mike Smith as both a role model and a friend on this freeride trail that I just rode for the first time.   Thank you!

It was a privilege to have Mike Smith as both a role model and a friend on this freeride trail that I just rode for the first time. Thank you!

If land managers decide to sanction and legitimize all of the work that’s gone into this trail, then it could possibly be maintained on a more regular basis, and then carry out a more sustainable existence. Word on the street is that land managers already know where it is–but do they know how much that we love it and want to maintain it?

For those intermediate to advanced level riders: you can really ‘progress’ your skills on this trail with the features that it has to offer–not that I’m going to start calling it a ‘progressive’ trail. 🙂 I know that this trail allowed me to progress my skills as a rider–both in the air and while learning to balance on log rides while I’m winded from hitting three jumps in a row right before it.

At the same time, this trail will remain as a non-system trail with no name, and no map, on the side of a mountain with a road leading up to it where only those daring enough will explore it. While this trail’s identity cannot be disclosed, I can assure you that it is the sickest freeride trail in the San Juans.

Nate Kirker hits The Nemesis on this undisclosed trail. This jump is also known for where Eli landed on his feet and nearly eviscerated one clean off of the tibia and fibia. With his foot dangling by a few ligaments and skin, Eli had to be carried out of there by Kirker and Tim Longway.

Nate Kirker hits The Nemesis on this undisclosed trail. This jump is also known for where Eli landed on his feet and nearly eviscerated one clean off of the tibia and fibia. With his foot dangling by a few ligaments and skin, Eli had to be carried out of there by Kirker and Tim Longway.

Nate Kirker pulling a no footer on The Nemesis jump.

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Nate Kirker Makes this landing look smooth and easy for this 20 ft. + gap.

Nate Kirker Makes this landing look smooth and easy for this 20 ft. + gap.

Mike Smith on a log ride at the undisclosed freeride trail in the San Juans.

Mike Smith on a log ride at the undisclosed freeride trail in the San Juans.

 

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Nate Kirker jumps a bush on the sickest trail in the San Juans. Thank you for reading HGB!

Nate Kirker jumps a bush on the sickest trail in the San Juans. Thank you for reading HGB!

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That's Nate Kirker hitting a big booter on a freeride trail in the San Juans.

That’s Nate Kirker hitting a big booter on a freeride trail in the San Juans.

 

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5 Responses to “Some of the most talented riders on the sickest pre-legal freeride trail near Durango”

  1. I first came across it in 2008. Walked up from the bottom, in awe the entire way. Awe – because not only are the trail and its features a feat in such a location – but the actual plot/course of the trail is amazing. I don’t think people realize how difficult it can be to route a trail down a mountain, in a contiguous fashion. Try it sometime! Anyhow, as a friend and I ascended the trail, we were startled by a rumbling sound in the distance. A few seconds later we were startled by the actual rumbling of the ground, as a posse of downhillers flew by with all the energy of a freight train.

    In that brief moment, I realized a few things:

    I was NOT the rider I thought I was.
    I saw the rider I would like to become.
    There was NO way I’d EVER be able to ride this trail.

    At that time, I could not fathom riding down a trail that was nearly impossible to WALK UP. Well, two weeks later, my friend and I returned on our trail bikes. I was able to roll in the first line, weave through the trees, but stopped short at the first really steep roller/pour over/drop thing between two trees. Took me 20 minutes to get the courage to let go and roll over the edge. I walked every other feature down the trail.

    Spent the following winter building my first DH rig from the ground up, and could not wait for the spring thaw. June 1st I was at the trail, by myself, walking up from about the half-way mark, and I bumped in to one of the main builders of the trail. He was cool, invited me to come along and help clear some dead fall and snow off the trail, and hooked up some shuttle missions.

    That first season, I had mad butterflies every time I dropped in to that trail – I was downright scared of it, white knuckled and just hanging on for the few level parts where I could catch a breather. What a thrill. THIS was why I got in to riding bikes.

    Several seasons later, I’ve ridden it probably a hundred times (more?). I’ve helped maintain it, repair cow damage, and clear it in the spring. No longer white knuckled as I drop in, but the adrenaline pumps like a biker’s heroine, instead of hanging on for life and limb, I look for quick corners, sniper lines, and boost all the jumps, hit all the features. The most fun on a bike I’ve ever had – that trail. The biggest leaps in skill and cajones too.

    Progressive… Freeride… DH? I dunno what one would label it as. I don’t think it matters.

    I am nearly 100% happy with my move to Albuquerque, NM. City life really seem to suit me. The riding is world class as well – and the variety in a 12 hour drive is hard to beat. However, there is one thing I miss dearly, and will always hold a special place in my rider’s heart & soul: that thing, is the trail pictured in this post.

    Enjoy it guys. You have something very special there.

    (and FWIW, the forest servce knows about it, has walked it WITH the builders… but don’t expect it to be “legal” any time soon)

     

    Jerry Hazard

  2. You cleared snow off of the trail? That’s some early season ambition! I’m sure it has a few downed trees on it every spring that takes some work.

    All of the jumps and terrain on this trail give me a fierce workout. Tons of smiles, too. Glad you and all of the others put some sweat labor time in to give back to this sport–everyone who rides should do that for a trail that they love at some point. Thanks!

     

    Adam Howell

  3. http://farm2.staticflickr.com/1426/5153072393_f3e9271703_z.jpg

    Every year, there are at least a few trees to clear, as well as drainage issues to address. I’m only a helper 😉 the builder(s) deserve much credit for keeping that place going.

    Snow? Oh yes. People are checking that trail beginning early May especially if the winter has been mild (The gate for the road opens June 1st, so it’s impossible to shuttle it before then). Usually, even in mid-May, there’s snow so deep on the trail that you can’t even post hole your way up very far. The first few rides often includes patches of snow or brief re-routes until it’s gone.

    I’ve ridden it as late as November, forget when they close the gate for winter. Riding it while covered with snow is a special challenge – see the pic from a few years ago:

    http://farm2.staticflickr.com/1426/5153072393_f3e9271703_z.jpg

    I was working on documentary video of that trail, but never really had enough footage to complete an edit. It shows a couple other local spots, but you can how much snow is still up there even in June:

    Miss that trail, hope I can make it up there before the season is over 🙂

     

    Jerry Hazard

  4. Next time I see the guys that built it I will most certainly give them credit for such an awesome trail. They should win an award for it.

    That shot of riding in the snow up there is kind of surprising. I would splatter myself across the mountain, most certainly.

    Also, your draft documentary is super amusing. How much extra video do you need to finish it? Hope you can piece it together someday, even if it’s just a short.

     

    Adam Howell

  5. I’d still need a season of riding up there to finish the way I would like. Sadly it probably will never happen… Need lots of riders footage as opposed to the GoPro stuff…. but you now understand, filming a trail like that, top to bottom is quite an endeavor!

     

    Jerry Hazard

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