If You Build It, They Will Come or Why Community Trails Are For The Community

“If you build it, they will come.”

That iconic “Field of Dreams” line loomed large in the psyche of this rural Iowa boy who grew up with a right-handed glove, a left-handed swing and a big-league dream. So, too, was the thought of the ghost of Shoeless Joe mysteriously materializing from the corn fields just behind my back to join me as I spent endless innings relegated to right field. Suffice to say, I knew early on my big-league dream of playing with Kirby, Hrby and rest of the Twins would not come to pass.

However, as I stood just inside the Red Grade Trailhead a couple weeks back, that iconic line reentered my psyche. This time sans Shoeless Joe, though Kevin Costner as John Dutton on horseback riding out from the pines may have passed through my mind.

A big thank you to Ryan White for making this video from the first-ever Dusk to Dawn Trail Run, which was held at Red Grade Trails Aug. 20 and 21.

I was there taking pictures as a sea of runners sprinted past, setting the pace for the first-ever Dusk to Dawn Trail Run. As the name implies, the athletes, who came from Sheridan County and well beyond, pushed themselves and each other to their physical and mental limits as they ran laps around Red Grade Trails all night long. At least, that’s how it appeared from the vantage point of this Fat Man from the Flatlands.

So, as any enterprising ex-reporter would do, I walked around the parking lot before the race asking runners one particular question: “Why the heck would you choose to run all night long!?!”

Their responses ranged from the opportunity to challenge themselves, the chance to train for even longer events, and, in the case of one relay team, the consequence of a long night and an empty tequila bottle.

All of them said how much they enjoy the community of their fellow runners.

“There’s just so much energy. It’s a good, fun environment to be in,” remarked Matt Scarlett, who was up from Buffalo.

For those closer to home, community trails have been a welcome reprieve, especially this year.

Sheridan’s Tracee Davis, who was a women’s solo entrant, said she’s stepped up her trail use in 2020, with the Dusk to Dawn Trail Run serving as “a chance to see how far I can go.” For Dayton’s Keri McMeans, community trails are “super convenient” and expressed her appreciation for everyone who’s helped Sheridan Community Land Trust build and maintain recreation trails throughout our county.

But the Dusk to Dawn Trail Run isn’t the only event organized by people in the community utilizing SCLT’s growing trail network. This fall, Big Goose Gallop & Grind (Sept. 26), the Unleashed Foundation (Sept. 26), The Dead Swede (Oct. 3), CHAPS (Oct. 10) and the organizers of Bighorn Trail Run (Oct. 31) will hold events on SCLT trails or donate a portion of event registration or proceeds to help SCLT build and maintain community trails.

On top of that, SCLT will continue connecting people of all ages to nature through events like Mountain Bike Discovery Nights and Discovery Sessions. Our next Mountain Bike Discovery Nights are Wednesday, Sept. 9 and 16 at Red Grade Trails. We’ll meet at 5:45 p.m. and ride at 6 p.m. There will be groups for beginning, intermediate and experienced riders with clinics taught by folks in our growing local mountain bike community. Helmets required. This partnership with Antelope Butte Foundation has helped more than 150 people enjoy the trails this summer.

On Saturday, Sept. 12, is our next Discovery Session. Titled “Hiking is for the Birds,” attendees will a guided bird hike along Hidden Hoot Trail with Tina Toth, who has an eagle eye for all Aves and loves to share her passion for passerines. We’ll meet at Black Tooth Park at 9 a.m. with the hike lasting about 2 hours. We kindly ask attendees to wear a mask to this session. SCLT will have a limited supply for folks who don’t have one or forget to bring theirs.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Trailfest, which is SCLT’s celebration of the ways you can enjoy your community trails. It will be held Friday, Oct. 2 through Sunday, Oct. 4 with many of the events on Saturday, Oct. 3. There will be kids’ run/walks, history walks, fishing and paddling clinics, make and take landscape drawing and painting, yoga, live music and much more! There will even be a movie and popcorn in Kendrick Park and a Volunteer Appreciation Day as well. Stay up-to-date and see the full Trailfest schedule at https://sheridanclt.org/trailfest-2/.

Best of all, these events are fun, family-friendly and free. You can’t beat that, right?

Which is why SCLT strives to make it easier than ever before to go from your front door to the outdoors so you can enjoy our beautiful Bighorns backyard.

And that’s why community trails are exactly that – trails for our community to enjoy. 

Or, as Casper’s Justin Kinner told me at the Dusk to Dawn Trail Run, “Given the state of the world right now, it’s nice to see something that’s going. That’s why I support the Dusk to Dawn Trail Run and that’s why I support the Sheridan Community Land Trust.”

Which is a Wyoming way to say, “If you build it, they will come.”