MISSOULA — Here in Montana, you usually don’t have to go far to find a trail to get lost in.
Walking through the woods is a pastime for those of us lucky enough to call this state home.
On Saturday for National Public Lands day, a team of about 50 got to work on Mount Dean Stone, just south of Missoula.
“Just being able to get people out on the land and give back to the resources that they cherish. This is a special one because we're building a new trail, you know, not just like fixing old ones," Brian Williams, Mountain Bike Missoula Trails Director told MTN News.
The team is foraging a new trail, House of Sky, which is not currently open to the public.
Williams is the designer behind this new site.
“Doing it by hand a lot gives it a little bit more of an organic feel just in kind of the rhythm of the trail and how it moves around trees," he said.
Williams explained the design work includes a lot of numbers. He grades terrain steepness and uses mapping software. But, there’s also creativity involved to find the trail’s character.
“Finding the best areas of the hillside, what creates nice views, and, you know, makes the trail feel intuitive and a good experience," Williams said.
Trail planning takes time, as the needs of wildlife, property owners, and more are assessed. In this case, it's state land and Nature Conservancy owned.
Then it’s the good part: rolling up some sleeves and carving out that mountainside.
Mountain Bike Missoula volunteers Sebastian Schnobrich and Olivia DeJohn were on the trail for the second time this summer.
"We volunteer with MTB Missoula building other trails around town somewhat frequently," DeJohn explained.
Mountain Bike Missoula was joined by Five Valleys Land Trust, Montana Trail Crew, Montana Conservation Corps, and Missoula Parks & Rec. All had members and volunteers on the job this time around.
“I just like to give back. I do a lot of mountain biking. It's also really cool to get a sneak preview of the trails before they're actually done," Schnobrich said.
The work ranges from digging up dirt to removing organic matter in the way.
“Yeah it's especially cool when you ride the trail after it's done and you'll remember like; Oh, I spent a couple hours working on this corner. I remember that tree stump, before it got cut," Schnobrich joked.
And despite the tough work, working on trails has a deeper meaning to these volunteers.
“Because then you're also more likely to take care of them and not do things that might be bad for them because you're like, oh wait actually doing this is a lot of work. So we want to keep them as good as we can," DeJohns explained.
The House of Sky trail is set to be completed next year. In the winter, it will be closed for elk and mule deer migration purposes.
The trail is part of a larger long-term effort to work toward a community open space outcome for 4,200 acres of the landscape up Pattee Canyon. This work includes new trails, landscape rehabilitation for wildlife, and fire-prevention forest management. For more information, visit the Five Valleys Land Trust Mount Dean Stone project website.