The History of Carbon County Mountain Bike Trails

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By Fuzzy Nance — In May of 2017, the Bureau of Land Management issued a press release saying they’d “spent the last two years building and mapping” the “Wood Hill Trail System”. The folks who had been building and riding those trails since 2002 loudly laughed at the absurdity of that claim. Here’s the actual history of Luke and Buster’s Mountain Bike Trails, and the culture they created.

In September of 2002 Luke the Pitbull moved to Carbon County with his human, who everyone knew as “Fuzzy”. Luke was 8-years-old and had spent much of his life in the Bicycle Shops and on the Trails of the Wasatch Front. He was a Singletrack Trail Dog through and through. It didn’t take long for him to get bored with the dirt roads on the mesa above Price, and in early October, he decided it was time to start laying in what would become Luke’s Trail. Fuzzy, being a little dense, took a while to catch on, but before long he acquired some trail building hand-tools and the two worked earnestly through that Winter and had about 2/3 of today’s Luke’s Trail section finished by Spring. 

During the Summer of ’03, Luke and Fuzzy spent all their spare time on that mesa, finishing out Luke’s Trail and extending up the Mead’s Rim section to what would become the starting point of Floating Rocks. Floating Rocks named for the large boulders on spires that could be seen across the ravine. 2003 was also the year that Luke and Fuzzy founded the Price Area Singletrack Society (PASS), a riding club that would eventually become known throughout the West for its renegade attitude and annual Trailfest event. That August, PASS held its first official Group Ride; a trail rides up to the town of Kenilworth and down into Helper for the Helper Arts Festival. Fuzzy and Matt Huff were the only attendees, but you’ve got to start somewhere.

Fuzzy thought that involving the local land management agency would be helpful in accelerating the trail development, and against Luke’s better judgement, met with BLM’s Recreation Department to talk about the project. The BLM’s agents stated on the record that the agency had no plans to develop trails in the Wood Hill area and would not tolerate illegal trails. That already mentioned renegade attitude kicked in and became a source of motivation, as Luke, Fuzzy, Matt, and a fellow named Alan Peterson (builder of Alan’s Alley) continued working on what they believed to be a worthy cause. The Big Wednesday Group Rides became a weekly event, and ridership started growing. 

In 2004, a young rider named Ben Kilbourne needed an Eagle Scout project. Ben worked with Luke and Fuzzy to design and build Ben’s Switchbacks, a somewhat brutal zig-zag climb up the side of what would become known as the Dead Dog Mesa, a mesa taller than Wood Hill on the East side of Mead’s Wash and overlooking the Carbon County Airport. Luke and Fuzzy spent much of the Summers of ’04 and ’05 putting in The Dead Dog Loop on top of that mesa, so named for the massive dog whose grave under the Dead Dog Rocks (huge boulders on the spine-bridge in the middle of the loop) had washed-out over the years. Rebuilding and dedicating that grave was an important part of the project. The Dead Dog Loop has developed a fairly hardcore following, as it’s a more technically demanding ride than much of the Wood Hill trails and is separated from those trails by the Mead’s Wash drainage.

In 2005 Luke, a life-long confirmed bachelor, became a father. Buster, Son of Luke was born. When Buster was only 3 months old his feet were almost as big as Luke’s, and that was a sign of what was to come. Luke was a big, healthy 75lb ADBA papered American Pit Bull Terrier, and Buster’s momma was a shorter but similar weight Pitty. By the time Buster was 2-years-old, he was 120lbs and a full hand taller than Luke. Luke was about ready to retire, and so Buster started joining trail work days, preparing to step into his father’s proverbial shoes. In time he also became the official Greeter in Fuzzy’s bike shop, Bicycleworks.

In Spring of 2006, PASS put on its first “Trailfest” Mountain Bike Festival. That first year only drew about a dozen riders, but it was the beginning of what would become a considerable annual rager. Emery County’s MECCA had been conducting the San Rafael Mountain Bike Festival for many years, a family-oriented weekend of touring the San Rafael Swell by bike. PASS decided to conduct a slightly more hardcore event, and not quite as family-oriented. Micro-Brewery beer sponsors and Huffy-Toss competitions kept things a little rowdier, which seemed fitting for the Carbon County vibe. PASS held Trailfest a couple of weeks before MECCA’s festival each year so people could easily attend both, and members of both clubs supported each other’s events. The Mountain Bike scene really started growing at that point.

In 2007 PASS established a relationship with the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA), and taught Trail School with IMBA’s Trail Care Crew. Luke and Buster had designed the route for a connector trail from the top of Luke’s over to Mead’s Rim, so Trail School was taught building the trail named IMBAtween. Trail builders from as far away as Taos New Mexico came to build, learn, and enjoy the comradery of digging in the soil together. Many friendships were formed that endure still today.

In 2008, a PASS member named Kaylum Paletta was working as a counselor for the foster-parents system and had a group of kids who had been sentenced by the courts to service hours for delinquency. Considering these kids were actually sentenced due to their parents being convicted of Contributing to The Delinquency of Minors, Kaylum didn’t think they should be put through the humiliation of picking up trash along the highway in public, so he petitioned the courts to let them do trail work. The petition was granted. Kaylum, Buster and Fuzzy scouted out a return trail from upper Lukes to Alan’s Alley, and the kids spent their weekends building the trail they named Del Quincy (a play on “delinquency”). Years later a fellow named Bill started saying he built the trail, and renamed it “Bill’s Trail”, but everyone who matters knows who really built it. Those kids are grown now, some with families of their own, and have every right to be proud of the trail they built. For many of them, it was a turning point, and it matters. 

Later that year, good old Luke passed away at 14-years-old. The founder of the Carbon County Singletrack movement and original member of PASS was laid to rest alongside his namesake trail, in the spot where he and Fuzzy shared many a lunch in those early trail building days. His grave is marked by a large stone with his name carved into it, a stuffed animal (which he loved), and his collar around the tree shading his resting place. Many people riding his trail stop to pay respects and throw beads into the tree to thank him for starting it all.

Fuzzy Nance on Therapy, about 10 years ago. Photo by Garth Frandsen

In 2009, Buster and Fuzzy put in the section called Therapy, which runs from the top of IMBAtween South to the BLM fence line. It’s a fun, fast, technical downhill that quickly became a favorite. Joe Dyer then helped continue the line South along the edge of the mesa with “Smokin’ Joe’s”, and then Pete Kilbourne (Ben’s dad) helped put in “Knot Pete’s Rim” to finish what would become known as “The Main Loop” back to the Luke’s Trail original starting point.

The name “Knot Pete’s Rim” was Fuzzy’s little joke with Pete. Pete was employed by a certain Federal resource management agency and had real concerns with being outed as contributing to what was, at that point in time, still an “illegal trail”. Since he was nearing retirement, his concern was justified, but Fuzzy being the insensitive jerk he was still wanted to name the section “Pete’s Rim”. Pete wasn’t having it and stated emphatically “It’s NOT PETE’S RIM!!”, and so the trail was named. Pete has since retired happily with no repercussions from his renegade activities. His trail runs along the edge of the mesa above the Coves neighborhood and makes for a perfect finish to the Main Loop.

Buster the dog on a Carbon County Trail. Photo by Brian Jewkes

About this time Buster and Fuzzy had begun scouting Bull Mesa, which was just behind (West of) the Carbon County Golf Course and Country Club. The first section they put in was entirely Buster’s design. It forked off of the main Jeep Trail directly above the Driving Range, North to the mesa’s edge, then around the edges back to the gas well road. It would be the first section, named “Driver”, of what is now called The Country Club Trails. This was just the beginning of Carbon County’s second Trail System designed by great Trail Dogs.

In 2010, Joe Dyer and another crazy Irishman, Josh McCarrell, worked with Buster and Fuzzy to build a section they named Shamrock and Roll, which came off the top of Floating Rocks (above Kenilworth) and looped up and around what’s known as the Spring Glen Rim. It’s a fabulously technical section that took a lot of rock work and adventurous planning and is another favorite of those who like a challenge. 

In 2011, Buster adopted his little brother Reno, an undersized Pit Bull who was rescued from dogfighting in Idaho. Reno was only about 45lbs and looked even smaller next to the massive Buster. The two were inseparable, and over the next several years, they worked together diligently to continue the Country Club Trails through 3 Wood, 5 Wood, and Out of Bounds. These trails above Gorley Wash give an epic view of Consumer’s Canyon and the Book Cliffs beyond. The cliff line on the South side of Bull Mesa offered an opportunity for a marquee section. It’s an easily ridable and photogenic but spooky sheer cliff, which Buster and Reno absolutely loved. The first long section was named Cliff Burton (after the late Metallica Bassist), because it’s in a rock band and is really high (wink).

As the Country Club Trails were taking form and gaining ridership, Buster began showing signs of slowing down. He didn’t like long work days and the hot sun anymore, and unfortunately in 2017, we found out why. He succumbed to the cancer that had been growing inside him for some time. His grave is at the South end of Therapy, the first trail he designed, across the Wood Hill Mesa from his father. Luke and Buster are interred on what is their monument to the joys of Singletrack.

Fuzzy Nance working on the Reno’s Rim Trail. Photo by Fuzzy Nance

Little Reno eventually recovered from the loss of his big brother and mentor, returning to Bull Mesa with Fuzzy to continue building the South Side of the Country Club Trails. Reno’s Rim, which runs from Cliff Burton to the West end of the mesa, is a tricky, technical, incredibly fun area that alternates between singletrack and ledges, and then loops back to connect with Out of Bounds. The loop, and a nice little campground named Camp Reno (just above his Rim Trail) were completed in 2019, not long before Reno joined Buster and Luke in Trail Dog Heaven. Reno’s grave is in the West corner of his namesake campground, with a view of the canyon his trail follows.

In more recent years, a select few dedicated souls have taken up the cause. People like Jordan Steele, Dustin Carlson, TJ Christiansen, and others have taken up the movement started by Luke and Fuzzy and Buster and Reno, and continued the tradition that makes Carbon County Singletrack a unique and sought-after thing. More trails, features and trailside art continue to be added, and the movement continues to grow. Carbon has a NICA High-School racing team, and the local Travel Bureau advertises the trails as a destination. The joys of tight, twisty, winding trails will live on forever thanks to the spirit that inspired these trails in the first place. The spirit of freedom, and unbridled passion for dirty fun.

The impact that Luke, Buster, and Reno had on Mountain Biking in Central Utah cannot be measured. If it weren’t for their adventurous, energetic efforts, it wouldn’t have happened. Carbon County, and Mountain-West trail lovers in general, owe them a huge hug and a head rub. God Bless Luke, Buster, and Reno. God Bless the Trail Dogs.

…and God Bless Carbon County.

 

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