Marc Sehler, left, and Gretchen Sehler work Friday morning on a mountain bike trail on Emerald Mountain. Several of the mountain's trails remain closed because of muddy spots and water puddles. The Sehlers spent Thursday and Friday trying to divert runoff streams away from the trails to allow them to dry out faster.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Marc Sehler, left, and Gretchen Sehler work Friday morning on a mountain bike trail on Emerald Mountain. Several of the mountain's trails remain closed because of muddy spots and water puddles. The Sehlers spent Thursday and Friday trying to divert runoff streams away from the trails to allow them to dry out faster.

Trails drying out across Steamboat Springs area

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— Nature will take care of it. Eventually. In the meantime, Gretchen and Marc Sehler don't want to leave anything to chance.

The Sehlers spent Thursday and Friday scouring Emerald Mountain and its signature singletrack mountain bike trails, cutting down and removing trees that the winter's snow turned into obstacles, packing down the trails in muddy spots and laying rocks to bridge small runoff streams.

They did it all - everything they could think of to give Emerald the green light.

"It's spring cleaning for mountain bike trails," Gretchen Sehler said, taking a break from the volunteer work. "We're going up and doing some clearing if needed, and a little trail work to keep things from getting gooey and greasy. We want to make sure everything looks good."

As fantastic as the huge and late runoff is for Routt County's river rats, it's a headache for those eager to assault the bike trails in the area.

The frustration came to a head when the first race of the Town Challenge Mountain Bike Series, scheduled to have taken place Wednesday, was postponed one week. It's not hard to see why, with many mountain trails still marked by muddy patches and small puddles of water.

It could be worse, explained Gretchen Sehler, who is directing the racing series for the 14th season.

"What we don't want is for people to ride around the mud spots and create a wider trail," she said. "If they're tacky and gooey, they're too wet to ride.

"People have to have patience, and they have. I'm really proud of all the Steamboat folks that have let the trails dry out. They're in good shape now and aren't rutted from bicyclists."

Emerald, at this point, is about 50 percent open, she said. It's still far behind the average opening time, though the postponed Town Challenge should go off Wednesday without a problem.

The trails around Howelsen Hill recently were opened, Steamboat Springs' Open Spaces Supervisor Craig Robinson said, and other trails are partially available for riders.

Bicyclists can ride a little on the Spring Creek, Skyline and Sanctuary trail systems, which even when inaccessible aren't actually closed. Although muddy and snowy areas continue to limit access, they lack the sticky clay mud of Howelsen and Emerald and aren't as prone to disfigurement.

The trails near Hot Springs Creek and Mad Creek, meanwhile, mostly are dry and accessible.

"It all varies from year to year, and this is just another year," Robinson said. "We're asking people to stay on the trails rather than make their own, to avoid the wet areas or walk when appropriate."

- To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 871-4253 or e-mail jreichenberger@steamboatpilot.com

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