Scott Escott spent a year of his life working on one trail. It was called Pipe Dream, and it was called that for a reason.
Getting support from the right people in the right offices at the right time made it seem at times just that: a dream.
But the five-mile long trail, which now runs from Hidden Valley south of town up Moab Rim to Aspen Street in Mountain View north of town, is real.
It’s real, thanks to people like Escott, Tom Dillon and Sandy Freethey. It’s real, thanks in large part, to Trail Mix.
The mostly volunteer group builds and maintains trails for hikers, bikers, skiers and horseback riders.
“We’re extremely proud,” said Escott, who is the trails coordinator for Trail Mix. “(Pipe Dream is) without a doubt at the high end of what you can technically build without fossil fuels and machinery.”
Literally hundreds of volunteers lent a hand, Escott said, including one day where 43 locals came out.
The grand opening last June was emotional for many.
“It’s extremely rewarding (building trails),” Escott said. “This is a renewable resource that we’re dealing with. We’re having people come here again and again and again to ride these trails. Having visitors come in and use what we’ve created is a wonderful experience.
“Also, all these bike shop employees who say, ‘God, this place is different. We can go and ride on non-motorized trails during Jeep Safari. That’s a pretty big deal.”
Pipe Dream is just one of many trails Trail Mix has built or maintains.
Last year, the Bureau of Land Management approved 40 miles of trails for which Trail Mix volunteers asked. Those trails are still being built, said Freethey, the Trail Mix chairwoman.
This year, Trail Mix has already asked the BLM to approve 28 miles of new trails, and the group plans to propose at least another 10 more, Freethey said.
Trail Mix workers spend four days a week, year-round, on Moab’s trails. This includes scouting areas for new trails, building proposals for new trails, working with the BLM to gain approval for each new trail and then building the trail. After that, Trail Mix workers help maintain the trails.
In the past, the group has been criticized for not building trails fast enough, Freethey said.
But it’s important to keep in mind all that must fall into place before a trail can be built, she said. Namely, the BLM needs to approve it. That involves them sending an archaeologist, for example, to the proposed trail to see how much of the land would be affected. Others do research, too. And Trail Mix volunteers or workers are there every step of the way.
Tom and Ruth Dillon moved to Moab from Colorado five years ago for one reason: the trails.
Mountain biking and hiking were top on the couple’s list, so Moab made sense.
So did Trail Mix.
“Becoming involved in Trail Mix was just a matter of following my passion,” Tom Dillon said.
The Grand County non-motorized trail use advisory committee is made up of representatives from the hiking, biking, skiing and horseback riding community, as well as representatives from the BLM, the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, the City of Moab and Grand County.
Trail Mix has four employees and a couple dozen volunteers. The group receives funding from the county, the BLM, grants and donations.
About 25 people come to the group’s meetings – at noon on the second Tuesday of each month at the Grand Center, 182 N. 500 West. Everyone is welcome.
The group focuses primarily on dirt trails, and most of them are on BLM land. A few are on Forest Service territory, Freethey said.
Tracy Reed, owner of the Chile Pepper Bike Shop, said Trail Mix’s impact is huge.
“Trail Mix has played a major role in developing positive working relationships with our local land agencies,” Reed said. “Without these relationships, the process of introducing new trails would be much more difficult. Geoff and Sandy Freethey can’t be thanked enough for all of their hard work and dedication to the Trail Mix group.”
Trail Mix has concentrated largely on creating and maintaining mountain bike trails, Sandy Freethey said, but the group will look more at hiking and equestrian trails soon.
Of note is the “You are here” map system the group has implemented. Trail users will see signs and maps on the trails. The group also has trail maps online at www.grandcountyutah.net/trailmix.
“It’s a privilege to be able to build trails on public land,” Escott said. “It’s a fascinating process because you’re dealing with wildlife and archaeology and paleontology. I’ve learned so much about Moab that I never knew.”
Volunteers are always welcome. To get involved or learn more, visit the group’s website or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
This archived article was edited and updated in 2020.