That snowstorm that took out trees in Laramie on June 8 also did a number on the trees along the Medicine Bow Rail Trail. This 21-mile non-motorized route that meanders through the Medicine Bow National Forest was hit especially hard during that storm.
Members of the non-profit organization Friends of the Medicine Bow Rail Trail, or FMBRT, expended a good bit of effort to clear the trail for hikers, cyclists and horseback riders.
According to Dave Nelson, chairman of the organization, they removed 572 downed trees. By comparison, the group cleared 53 trees in 2019.
“It was unreal to see all the trees across the trail,” Nelson said. “It was mostly aspen that went down, but also a good number of pine trees.”
Considering the volunteers clear the trees using handsaws, the effort was significant. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of trees still standing. With fall just around the corner, the best season to pedal or hike along the path is nearly here. As of last week, there are just a few golden leaves appearing along the pathway, but leaf-peeping season is upon us. Plan now for an outing; the peak of color typically occurs around mid to late September.
This non-motorized trail, which first opened in 2007, winds through the National Forest from Dry Park Road near Albany to the Colorado-Wyoming state line. Its 21-mile length passes by Lake Owen, zig-zags through Fox Park, and terminates next to the Forest Service road that leads to Pelton Creek.
Most of the trail is surfaced with pea-sized gravel, similar to baseball outfields. It’s suitable for mountain bikes or even hybrid bikes with wide tires. Hiking, running or traveling via horseback are also popular options.
In addition to removing all those toppled trees, members of the Friends of the Medicine Bow Rail Trail also repaired the horse corral fence at the Vienna Trailhead. The fence was damaged during the 2018 Badger Creek Fire. The FMBRT was awarded a grant from the non-profit organization Cycle Wyoming to fund the repairs.
The Vienna Trailhead is located southeast of Mountain Home, along Forest Road 549 (Vienna Road). Finding the trailhead can be tricky for those unfamiliar with the area. Nelson worked to change that. Recently he made and put up two directional signs to help users drive to the Vienna Trailhead from Highway 230 between the Fox Park exit and Mountain Home. One sign is just off the highway along the Vienna Road, and the second is at the intersection of the Vienna Road and the Gramm Road. Personnel with the Wyoming Department of Transportation are assisting to add additional signage along the highway itself for both the Vienna and Pelton Creek trailheads.
Another chore the group completed was to clean up vandalism to the caboose located at Lake Owen. A window was broken when someone tried gaining access via the cupola, at the top of the caboose. Luckily, no additional damage was discovered and the opening was repaired before further weather damage could occur.
Personnel with the U.S. Forest Service have also been working to improve the Rail Trail. Segments of new buck rail fence have been erected to serve as barricades to illegal motorized trespass onto the trail. Also, to minimize any health risks, the trailhead toilets are cleaned every Monday and Thursday.
Other plans for volunteer work days and special events on the Rail Trail were put on hold for 2020 due to the pandemic, but a couple of events are planned for 2021.
Joe Lord, a member of the FMBRT Board of Directors, serves as Race Director for the inaugural Med Bow Trail Run Marathon and Half Marathon race. Runners should mark their calendars now for August 14, 2021. In addition to runners, volunteers will be needed on race day to help along the route, which will all be along the Rail Trail.
A unique event is also in the works to highlight the accessibility of the Rail Trail to individuals with disabilities. The “Access Nature: Medicine Bow Rail Trail” event will welcome those using wheelchairs or hand-crank bicycles on the Rail Trail. Demo models of wheelchairs and other modes of travel on the Rail Trail for those with disabilities will also be available.
For more information on special events, maps of the Rail Trail, and a historical perspective of its previous life as a railway, go to the Friends of the Medicine Bow Rail Trail website at: medicinebowrailtrail.org. The website also provides information for those wishing to donate or join the organization.