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Church of the Trail

Following the new biking path

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Are you growing weary of the same old trail? Do you tire of single-track similarity? Fear not, oh followers of the pedals, there is hope to relieve your knobby-tired repetition. The trail powers that be are bringing unto you new paths to explore, new challenges to roll over and new routes to mountain biking salvation.

First, look ye onto the new Fat Tire trail, a unifying force in the Foothills. It may not be the longest or hardest trail in the Ridge to Rivers trail system, yet it is not daunted by the duty of connecting several of the area's most popular trails, Trail Four and Sidewinder with Freestone Ridge No. 5.

Money donated by the Southwest Idaho Mountain Biking Association begot the 1.2-mile-long connecting trail, creating a much requested link at the mid-elevation level of the Foothills. Fat Tire takes biking pilgrims from east to west and allows them to make loops out of what were paths without choices just two weeks ago.

But Fat Tire does not stand alone in the mission to connect individual trails. The two-mile Watchman trail joined the cause last fall, said David Gordon, Ridge to Rivers trail coordinator. Like Fat Tire, Watchman is a uniter, bringing together Five Mile Gulch with Three Bears and Trail Six.

"Overall, people are happy to see it as a link," said Gordon. "It allows people to spread out a little bit. So many people get locked into some rides in the Foothills that are great rides, but they get a little crowded."

Already, riders have discovered the way, Gordon said, adding that both Fat Tire and Watchman have quickly gained many followers.

Once Bogus Basin Mountain Resort finishes a short, 1.25-mile trail from the Deer Point area to Pioneer Lodge, it too, will become part of Ridge to Rivers' 130-mile-long congregation of trails when the organization takes over maintenance.

But Ridge to Rivers isn't the only group answering the call of the biking believers. The Idaho Velodrome and Cycling Park in Eagle will soon baptize a new trail of its own.

Construction is under way on a new intermediate-level downhill trail at the park, said Brad Nelson, IVCP board member and volunteer coordinator. Once completed, the trail will take followers down a bumpy road, complete with rocks and jumps along its .6-mile length. It is the first of its kind at the park, but Nelson said the master plan calls for an expert-level downhill trail.

These will eventually join beginner, intermediate and expert freeride jump lines (short downhill trails with jumps) and dirt jump lines (steeper trials with jumps designed to catch more air).

But alas, the park needs another $5,000 in order to begin construction on the expert-level downhill course. But Nelson is keeping the faith that funding will come though, either by way of an REI grant IVCP has applied for, or through private donations.

The park has passed the plate and benefitted from a giving community, racking up an impressive 7,000 volunteer hours in just more than one year. SWIMBA has also donated considerable funds to build the skills park, and Lowe's awarded IVCP $4,800 in supplies, as well as volunteer labor.

But even unfinished, IVCP is attracting its own flock.

"The park gets used heavily now, for everything from runners to cross-country riders," Nelson said. "Anyone who jumps and rides knows about the park around here."

Of course, summer riding in Boise isn't without its tribulations. The torrential rains of the spring caused heavy erosion on many Foothills trails, forcing Ridge to Rivers to spend considerable time repairing washouts deep enough for an arc.

But the rain had an unexpected effect as well. Gordon said soil on many of the trails is looser than usual, leading to dusty conditions and challenging rides. Additionally, as the rains washed other trails clean of loose sediment, much of it ended up in low-lying depressions, creating mini sandtraps for bikers.

But Gordon said it seems that two warring factions have started making peace. Since earlier blowups between dog owners and the dogless over fuzzy companions not being on leashes, with threats of closing trails because of it, the situation has calmed. "Overall, I'm seeing, in my opinion, better compliance," Gordon said. "I see more people leashing their dogs where they're supposed to."

Gordon said that more dog owners are keeping better control of their dogs even when off leash, and that everyone is being more aware of the situation. He attributes this partly to the Idaho Humane Society workers patrolling the trails, but also to the overall awareness of the issue. Part of that awareness is coming from a volunteer group of trail users who are spreading the word about proper trail etiquette.

Volunteers have taken to the trails on busy days, setting up shop at trailheads, where they can talk to people before they head out. Response, overall, has been positive, Gordon said.

Trail users were also wary of a the possibility of limited winter trail closures announced earlier this year in the constant battle against trail damage due to use when the paths are wet. Gordon said no final decision has been made, and the issue won't be revisited until later this fall.

Until then, ye of the biking faith, hit the trails to experience your own epiphany.