Many people likely blazed the Sesame Canyon trail into existence, trampling the thin, dirt path through a lush corridor in Colorado Springs’ southwest mountains, providing those in the know an escape from the heavily trafficked High Drive and entry to the higher reaches of Jones Park.
Those not in the know have visited corners of the internet for more information. This paper has at least three times spotlighted the trail in the recurring Happy Trails series, once at the end of last month, which was a mistake.
Janelle Valladares of the U.S. Forest Service emailed to say the trail was unauthorized. It never was authorized, she said in a phone call. “It’s just a totally user-created trail.”
This summer, the plan is to make it a trail no more.
Under the Forest Service’s direction, Rocky Mountain Field Institute crews will cover it with brush and rock. They’ll plant revegetating seeds and construct short check dams to prevent erosion — the technical work of “decommissioning” and “restoring.”
An exact date has yet to be set. But when the time comes, RMFI hopes people will respect the gate that long has stood at the bottom of the steep, mile-long trail.
“There has been signage there over the years,” says the institute’s Joe Lavorini. “It doesn’t last very long.”
Valladares said she met with someone about new signs.
“It’s really a challenge ... I think the vast majority of people, one, they don’t realize that it’s not a system trail. It’d be really hard for an average person to know. And secondly, they don’t know what their impact is. The people who originally built it, I don’t think they realized the impact they were gonna have on Bear Creek.”
Sesame Canyon will be the next trail wiped as the Forest Service continues its mission to protect the creek’s greenback cutthroat trout — a genetically pure species found nowhere else, claimed a 2012 lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity. That year marked the start of Valladares, the fisheries biologists, meeting with several others to replot recreation in the watershed, away from the habitat.
The past two summers saw the closing and rerouting of Forest Service trails 666 and 667. Mountain bikers have lamented the latter, also known as Cap’n Jacks, a far cry from its former downhill glory. And in Sesame Canyon, they’ll lose another ride, “very well-known” despite its unauthorized status, said Cory Sutela, president of Medicine Wheel Trail Advocates.
The group never officially recognized Sesame, he said, but “I believe there is significant interest in the trail, and there will be disappointed people when it gets closed.”
In the meantime, Medicine Wheel is “actively investigating an alternative that would provide a similar connection,” Sutela said.
In Garden of the Gods years ago, he recalled, he and others helped close beloved singletrack. That “elevated the conversation with city parks,” he said. “There’s a desire for this kind of riding, and if you don’t provide it somewhere, people are gonna build these kinds of trails.”
Social or rogue trails forever have tormented land managers here where the metro meets the wild. They occur indeed “where people want to make a connection,” Lavorini said. “But they’re seldom, if ever, well-constructed, and they’re seldom, if ever, sustainable.”
They fulfill a purpose, he said, but at the expense of the environment. RMFI closes them only to sometimes see them reopen.
“We don’t have success 100 percent of the time,” Lavorini said. “Sometimes there are those trails that people have attachments to. But things change, and we need to adapt to those changes so we can continue to have these treasured landscapes.”
Maybe people will adapt with more information, Valladares said. “My hope is once people know better, they can do better.”