The Skyline Trail is the latest (and maybe soon to be greatest?) piece of trail in Jackson Hole’s extensive Cache Creek trail network. Though not yet complete, the Skyline Trail will run 6.31 miles along the Skyline ridge, connecting the top of the Ferrin’s trail to the Cache-Game Divide, offering up incredible views in all directions in addition to creating a multitude of new singletrack options for trail users. The trail is not yet complete, though the distance of the trail changes everyday as work is ongoing. Did I mention the views?
Today I’m riding the trail with Andrew Whiteford, a JHMR winter athlete as well as pro mountain biker who also serves on the Friends of Pathways board. Whiteford is a passionate trail builder and trails advocate, and he certainly knows how to enjoy a nice piece of singletrack. As I struggle to keep up, I let Andrew do the talking while we climb from the base of Snow King, then continue on to the top of the Ferrin’s Trail where the Skyline Trail begins. I gasp for air and ask Andrew a few questions, while he cruises along at a nice conversational pace (for him).
“I’ve always enjoyed my time outdoors, and I’ve never been one to avoid manual labor. Trail work, like gardening, can be meditative, and provides you with tangible results directly related to the effort you put into it. Talk about an awesome stress release, too- I don’t have a gym membership or a boxing bag at home, but I can certainly go move around some rocks and lift logs and let my mind wander and release that energy in a really positive way. As a cyclist, I started digging dirt jumps in parks with my friends in elementary school, and since then have always associated the creation of new trail and features with increased personal enjoyment, new challenges, and improving my own skills. ”
We reach the top of Ferrin’s and take a break to discuss the new trail as well as our love for the existing trail network in Cache Creek. Ferrin’s itself is an incredible trail, and when combined with the Hagen trail is probably my favorite “quick” climb/descent in the valley. With a vertical gain of about 1,400 feet this makes for perfect after-work exercise, though this is really just the beginning of the offerings in Cache Creek. Once Skyline is complete, trail users are going to enjoy many new options for longer outings, and I’m sure that all sorts of crazy combinations will be created by Jackson Hole endurance junkies.
The view from the top of Ferrin’s:
I ask Whiteford about what kind of combinations he looks forward to when the trail is complete, and he has trouble deciding amongst the variety of options.
“I think it will depend on available time and energy, but I could ride from my neighborhood in Rafter J, along the bike path towards town, and then I’d link together: Linda’s to Sink or Swim towards the bottom of Ferrin’s, then descend to Hagen. Continue up Hagen along to Cache Creek trail and take that to Game Creek. Then I’ll ride Skyline from Game Creek divide to Ferrin’s saddle, and either wrap up descending West Game Creek and out Game Creek to the bike path, or perhaps Wilson Canyon if I’m up for a spicy descent. I’ll definitely enjoy testing out all the possibilities!”
We notice some potential weather moving in and head out the Skyline Trail to see how much of it we can squeeze in. The trail is getting better everyday as it gets more use and gets “ridden in.” Exploring the new trail is a blast and I’m amazed by all of the new views and trail I get to experience right in my own backyard. The trail climbs a bit before a quick descent and then some more gradual terrain. The views are spectacular and flowers are out, though a storm seems to be moving in on us quickly.
The trail is brand-new and it looks it. We cruise through each section, perhaps taking less time to enjoy it than we normally would while feeling rushed by an evening storm.
The Teton views to our Northwest are incredible, but the beauty of the Skyline Trail is that you experience a variety of aspects and views. Looking south let’s us know it may be time to turn around.
Before getting pelted with rain and rushing back down to the valley, we take a quick stop at a piece of trail that Andrew wanted to show me. It was just a little part of the trail with a small rock feature, but it stuck out to Andrew as something he wanted to share. He reflected on the rewards of trail building.
“I find riding things that I’ve helped build to be incredibly satisfying. When I test what I’ve been working on, that direct input allows me to further improve my digging skills too. It’s cool to know in a really intimate way what that section of earth is like. You gain memories from the various times digging, and become intimately aware of the different parts of trails. In a way it gives me more empathy towards our environment, and what our impact is on it- noticing the smaller parts of nature that I don’t always get to see when I’m cruising along on my bike, appreciating the root structure of plants, the composition of the soil, and the different types of rocks in various areas.”
“I would say the single best part of trail work is hearing other people talk about a section that they’ve enjoyed. A well made turn, a fun rock garden, a little jump…these are parts of a trail, but in a much broader sense knowing that other people are enjoying themselves because of something you made is a wonderful part of life.”
And with that, it is time to turn around. There is more of the Skyline Trail to explore, but I will have to leave it to another day. The storm is rolling in and we turn around at full steam in attempt to beat the storm. We certainly don’t win the race versus the storm, but have a blast descending back to Snow King anyways. This GoPro image from Whiteford during the descent illustrates the dark light and frenetic pace as he cruises through a meadow of balsam root.
Andrew’s tips to those interesting in digging and/or donating to the trail system:
“We had a great dig day on Skyline on July 2nd, but a crew will be working it’s way from the top of Ferrin’s Saddle towards Game Creek divide throughout the summer, so expect to see other trail workers and a small cache of tools moving along at the fresh end of things. Keep an eye on the Friends of Pathways calendar as well as the calendar for Mountain Bike the Tetons which generally do a dig day every Monday. If you’d like more information on this, Chris Owen, the Trails Manager for Friends of Pathways (firstname.lastname@example.org), or Tim Farris, Trails Supervisor with Bridger-Teton National Forest (@307-739-5414) are good people to contact- just know they spend most of their days out in the forest getting things done!
For those interested in donating, Friends of Pathways is a great organization that organized the funding of the Skyline Trail project. You can always contact them to discuss donations, but I find the website is straightforward. We do have a plethora of awesome non-profits that our community benefits from, and a great event to look into is “Old Bill’s Fun Run” in early September, held by the Community Foundation (http://www.cfjacksonhole.org/old-bills-fun-run/).
A personal thanks from me to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and everyone else around the country that have helped support the Skyline Trail, and other trail and pathway projects in our region. We all benefit from safe, sustainable recreation and transportation, and I hope you can find your own ways to experience the outdoors, stay healthy, and happy. Be mindful of others when you’re out (humans and wildlife!), greet each other with a smile, and follow the rules- please respect seasonal wildlife closures, and yield when you’re supposed to. (Hikers and bikers yield to equestrian users, bikers yield to hikers, and uphill travelers get the right of way, unless otherwise specified.) Thanks again and see you on the trails!