Spoke Talk: Community effort results in new signs for Emerald Mountain

Kat Ciamaichelo
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
Fifteen new signs, made by a pair of Steamboat Springs High School students, are now in place on Emerald Mountain.
Routt County Riders/Courtesy photo
Fifteen new signs, made by a pair of Steamboat Springs High School students, are now in place on Emerald Mountain.
Routt County Riders/Courtesy photo

Have you seen the 15 new signs that Routt County Riders and volunteers put up on Emerald Mountain earlier this summer? This was an incredibly rewarding project for Routt County Riders that really represents the efforts of many to make this local gem such a special place for our community.

You’ve likely ridden MGM trail, named after Mica, Gretchen, and Mark. Mica was an Australian shepherd that frequently enjoyed the trails that her owners, Gretchen and Mark Sehler, were widely responsible for conceptualizing and constructing.

Gretchen, formerly the Town Challenge race director, wanted better trails on Emerald to help draw in more riders and improve their experience. A lifetime spent in the mountains and a husband who loved racing provided her with the vision for a more elaborate trail system. She had the consistent fight within her to make it happen.

“If I say, ‘Yes,’ will you leave me alone?” was the answer from Jeff Nelson, the open space manager for the City of Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation, after finally caving to Gretchen’s relentless requests to build more trails. At the time, racers were charging up and down the Howelsen ski runs, and Gretchen envisioned something bigger. 

At first, Gretchen and Mark were limited to using the Nordic trail system to build the new, permitted, trails. The first shovels moved dirt to create a reroute on Bluffs Loop to help control erosion. Soon after, the city purchased more land from Lyman Orton, whose backyard was also part of the race and featured steep climbs and rutted descents. Gretchen and Mark quickly got to work, using tools borrowed from the city. They put in more reroutes and new trails that began to zig-zag across the meadow and up the hillside. Next came the trail names.

Lyman Orton named Orton Meadows, which was formerly his property line. Hudson was named after a rusted 1932 Hudson car still hidden in the pines. Larry Johnson, formerly on the board of Routt County Riders and responsible for the introduction of Lyman to parks and recreation, broke his shoulder on a section of trail that is now named in his honor, Larry’s. On sunset strolls, Abby, another Australian shepherd, would constantly turn right into the woods at one particular spot, thus “walking the line” that is now Abby’s. A particularly steep, straight-up-and-down section of the Town Challenge was colloquially referred to as Stairway to Heaven by the racers, and the name stuck. 

After the city deemed a publicly built trail unsafe and asked Gretchen and Mark to make improvements, “Blues Bridges” became No Mo Blues. Some trail names need no explanation; Root Canal — so rooty it will shake your teeth out, and Angry Grouse — named for an angry grouse that attacked Gretchen during the building of the trail. Wild Rose is named after the Wild Rose Ranch, which was a dairy farm at the bottom of Emerald Mountain in the 1800s. 

Steamboat Springs High School wood shop students Wyatt Shaw and Degan Kuntz, from left, built new signs for the Emerald Mountain Trail Network.
Routt County Riders/Courtesy photo

Original trail signs were built, carved and placed by Mark, while the new signs were built by Steamboat Springs High School wood shop students, Wyatt Shaw and Degan Kuntz, using cedar donated by Alpine Lumber.

Routt County Riders is proud to have facilitated this project which is so deeply rooted in the community. Thank you to all who made it possible. 

Kat Ciamaichelo is the program and events coordinator at Routt County Riders.

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