Routt County Riders, volunteers install new signs on Emerald on first trail work day of summer

Gareth Mann drills a wooden sign onto a stake during a Routt County Riders trail work day on the Emerald Mountain Trail Network, June 4, 2022.
Spencer Powell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

The work on the Emerald Mountain Trail Network off Blackmer Drive on Saturday, June 4, was easy compared to most trail maintenance projects Routt County Riders performs each summer.

Volunteers didn’t need to build any trails, or break out any chainsaws. They simply needed to hammer in a few wooden stakes and attach wooden trail signs made by Steamboat Springs High School students.

The first Saturday of June is National Trails Day, and marked the first trail maintenance project of the summer for Routt County Riders. One of their earlier projects had to be rescheduled because of a late-spring snowstorm. They expect their future projects will be a lot more work, but the casual day of sign installing was the perfect christening of the summer season.

“The hardest work was actually the logistics of getting everyone to the right locations,” said Kat Ciamaichelo, the program and events coordinator for Routt County Riders.

Yet, those logistics were the most adventurous parts of the day.

Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation provided permits that allowed the volunteers to drive their vehicles on the service road that goes all the way to the summit of Emerald Mountain. It was a rare opportunity to drive motorized vehicles on this road, so several of the volunteers loaded up their bikes so they could ride down the mountain without the arduous journey of biking up.

Saturday was the first time Callie Cooper volunteered for the Routt County Riders. She plans to compete in the Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run in September, which requires at least 8 hours of volunteer trail service.

Kyle Pietras and Kat Ciamaichelo plan the day's work on the Emerald Mountain Trail Network during a Routt County Riders trail work day on June 4, 2022.
Spencer Powell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

When Cooper was asked if she could load up the back of her 2013 Toyota Tacoma and drive it up to where they would be working, she obliged, but didn’t realize she would be driving all the way to the summit. After the turn past the Little Moab trail, the road took on a pretty serious incline, and her truck was only rear-wheel drive.

“This might be interesting guys,” Cooper said to her passengers.

Cooper referred to her truck as the “Tonka Truck,” a nickname her friends gave it because of its small size. On the way up she hit a few deep crevices in the road that created some turbulence for the volunteers sitting in the truck’s bed.

Morgan Kurz, Scott Nielsen and Craig Fritzen install a new wooden sign for the MGM trail during a Routt County Riders trail work day on the Emerald Mountain Trail Network on June 4, 2022.
Spencer Powell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Fortunately, the hot summer weather dried out the dirt roads, so Cooper and her “Tonka Truck” made it to the summit of Emerald Mountain.

From there, it was a short hike to the Stairway to Heaven signpost, where they installed a couple of trail signs that should make the individual trails easier to navigate. Anyone who has been on Emerald knows the signs there can be confusing.

Derek Switzky rides his bike past a recently placed sign for the "Stairway to Heaven" trail, June 4, 2022.
Spencer Powell/ Steamboat Pilot & Today

In fact, the original Stairway to Heaven trail sign was so confusing, the volunteers’ first attempt to label it with their own wooden sign was in the wrong place. They realized the error after somebody had already taken the wooden stakes back to the truck. One of the volunteers, Trey Yoast, took it on himself to jog back and get the wooden stakes.

When the work was wrapped up, Yoast rode his bike back down the mountain. As did Laraine Martin, executive director of Routt County Riders.

“Now that I’m not number one in charge anymore on these days, I bring my bike,” Martin said.

Cooper, meanwhile, returned to her truck and faced the task of turning it around on the narrow road that was more fit for an ATV than her street vehicle. The road was so tight she had to back up and pull forward dozens of times before her Tacoma faced back downhill.

Afterwards, everyone met at the Emerald Mountain trailhead for sandwiches and beers. Some volunteers rode their bikes over to the Yampa River Festival at the Bud Werner Memorial Library.

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