[Courtesy photo]

Next month, 2,000 runners will leave the start line for the Moab Trail Marathon and Half Marathon headed straight up Prichett Canyon, gaining almost 1,000 feet of elevation in just under 4 miles. At mile 5.7, replenishment and volunteers will be waiting, all hauled deep into some of Moab’s gnarliest four-wheel accessible backcountry territory by members of Moab Friends-For-Wheelin’.

Jeff Stevens and the rest of the crew know the call of the wild and love being able to help all of Moab’s many outdoor recreation enthusiasts answer it, Stevens said.

“For me, it’s two-fold. I love getting out and seeing scenery that is only accessible by traveling into the backcountry,” Stevens said. “And I’m after the adrenaline charge. I love doing technical things. Four-wheeling gives me all of that.”

Assisting with races has become one of the group’s favorite ways to share its passion with the community, Stevens said. Without its ability to haul tables, water, food and medical supplies miles into the canyons, the event would be logistically impossible, Moab Trail Marathon Race Director Danelle Ballengee said.

“These guys have to go on some of the most rugged trails in Moab to support the trail marathon,” she said. “I always have anxiety until Jeff calls me back and tells me he has a crew available.”

Sharing technical expertise with the community supporting races and taking on stewardship of the trails he loves just makes the sport more fun, Stevens said. Eleven years ago, after participating in Jeep Safari for years, Stevens wanted the opportunity to gather with enthusiasts year round. He and friends founded Moab Friends-For-Wheelin’ to promote fun and responsible recreation.

Part of the organization’s mission is working closely with the Bureau of Land Management – work which benefits all recreation enthusiasts in the area. With such a diversity of recreation opportunities available in the public lands in and around Moab, there’s bound to be some conflict, and Stevens’ organization acts as a bridge between different user groups.

“It’s important for the community to have a club that’s respected by the four-wheeler people,” she said. “It’s easy to get upset when I see Jeeps going off course, but these guys are addressing that.”

Last month, Stevens led a group spending 80 volunteer hours remarking the Golden Spike Trail in honor of National Public Lands Day.

The group spends time keeping trail bypasses in check, placing bolts and rails to keep the heavy recreational vehicles on hard track surfaces and off fragile soils. Members also clean up trash from time to time, and do educational work in the community to help recreation enthusiasts understand the ecosystem in which they are operating, and how they can minimize impacts.

“The community has lost a lot of trails in the last 30 years, so we work on preventing the problems that are causing that,” Stevens said.

This Week: Jeff Stevens