This past Friday we made our annual pilgrimage up to Main Street for locals’ night at Art Fest. I always enjoy taking in the visual feast and immersive experience created by the efforts and imagination of some amazingly talented local (and non-local) artists. And thanks to Mountain Town Music, we also had long-time local musical artist, Tim Wray, and Fat Paw laying down the groove and drawing a horde of “seasoned” locals out of the woodwork. All these uniquely different mediums of art got me thinking about another art form closer to home- trail-building.
For me, trail design has never been just about getting from point A to B. Call it hippy prose, but in my mind, a trail, like life, should be more about the journey and less about the destination. I like to think of trail-building as an artistic interpretation of that journey and one that highlights the uniqueness of the landscape. It’s all about creating the best possible experience for the user and hopefully one that leaves them with a smile on their face and a deeper appreciation of the natural environment. And as far as canvases go, there’s no more dynamic, challenging, or exciting medium to work with than Mother Earth.
Trail design begins with a concept, a purpose and many lines drawn on maps. Then there’s the “ground-proofing” where you physically walk the tentative alignment, often multiple times, in challenging terrain. This is your opportunity to embrace the unique and sometimes challenging characteristics of the landscape versus fighting against them. You take inventory of interesting natural features- rock outcroppings, tree corridors, talus gardens, streams, etc. and determine how to sustainably incorporate them in the journey- all part of the creative process. Once the alignment is established and the corridor is cleared, the trail artists – the trail builders – work their magic with the excavators and/or hand-tools.
Over the years we’ve been fortunate to have some incredibly talented builders on our team including Chris Vanderlinde, Nick Herrman and Chase Smith to name just a few. More recently, we’ve also worked with local contractor and trail artist, Derek Thomson on the Change Reaction project. Each of these guys have their own style and creative vision for what the ultimate user experience will be. Their ability to take an idea and bring it to fruition is what makes them great at what they do.
Currently, our two most experienced trail artists are Tim McChesney and Alec Johnson. These guys have put in their time and have become super-talented builders over the past few years. Tim has been with us seasonally since 2019 and really came into his own last year on the Sparky project at Clark Ranch. Last week he and the team wrapped up the more advanced “Cousin Eddie” trail (also at Clark Ranch) which includes big flowy berms, jumps and even a wooden ramp feature, showcasing his talents.
Alec has been with us year-round since 2021 and like Tim, has been a huge asset to the team. Building a great beginner trail is every bit as challenging, if not more so, than building an expert line and Alec did just that when he completed 4 miles of the “Big Easy” last year. I have no doubt that his latest creation, the soon to be finished, “Family Truckster” at Clark Ranch will be every bit as interactive and fun.
For more than three decades local trail artists like Tim and Alec have been leaving their brushstrokes on the mountains and high desert of our town, painting memorable experiences and countless adventures for many. Now that’s some fine art. Have a great one out there!