Chapter 3: “A committee shall lead them… and the trail from nowhere”

(first published in Foot Notes, Fall/Winter issue, 2002 – Volume 13, Number 2)

by Kenyon Jordan

 

            The news article is yellowing now. The headline reads, “Trail preservation effort begins.”

            Appearing on page 36 of the Pikes Peak Journal, a weekly (now-defunct) Manitou Springs newspaper, on Feb. 20, 1987, the story describes the first meeting of the Intemann Trail Committee on Feb. 12 of that year.

            As the author of that piece, having been in those days the Journal's

 chief reporter and bottle washer, I read it now with a mixture of nostalgia, pleasure and pride... because that meeting marked the beginning of a committee project that deserves a place in Pikes Peak region history for resiliency, originality and toughness -- not to mention sheer effectiveness.

            A reader's reaction at this point might be: “You've got to be kidding. A successful effort by a committee? That just doesn't happen.”

            Maybe, but few committee efforts have the inspiration that gave birth to the Intemann Trail Committee: a visionary city planner's last expressed wish for his town. And so people came that  night hoping to carry out Paul Intemann's call for preservation/ construction of a peripheral trail in and above Manitou... but without a really clear idea of how it should be done.

            There was definitely enthusiasm. The air seemed to crackle with energy there in the Great Hall of Manitou's Miramont Castle -- an ancient yet appropriately vast and airy setting for discussion of a mountain trail -- as ideas flew from one person after another.

            Bob Naatz, an experienced area hiker to whom Paul had shown the bits and pieces of footpath he hoped would become a full trail, chaired the meeting. Other attendees included his widow Robin, holding the now half-year-old baby that had been unborn when Paul died in the auto accident in March 1986; various civic leaders; a few government representatives; several citizens who'd seen the small meeting announcement in the Pikes Peak Journal; and a certain news reporter with his notepad, as inspired as anyone else but still not sure how involved he should get.

            Many of the action items at that first meeting didn't get far. A subcommittee (quoting from the article) “to address various issues involved in legally establishing the trail for public use”? Never happened. Another to start “contacting property owners about easements”? Contact, yes. But easements? Only one, and too small (300 feet) to make a difference at the time.

            Amusing now is the comment from an unnamed Manitou city official, that a “main cost” would be “hiring surveyors to plot out the technical route.” We've never spent a penny on surveying. Never had to.

            “We really didn't know what we were doing,” Robin recalled recently. “We had a bunch of different ideas, but we didn't know where to start.”

            Meeting every couple of weeks  -- weekday nights at the castle brainstorming strategies and weekend days on hillsides looking at trail routes, the committee membership gradually took shape. Some of the early people dropped away, while newer people came on board. Among the group those first few months were Wendy Lobdell, who's still active; Anna England, Peggy Borman, Frank Applegate and Joanne Garrison, all of whom stayed with the committee to varying degrees for several years after.

            “It sounded like a good idea,” Anna said recently, when asked what brought her to the meetings and hikes even though she wasn't a Manitouan and didn't know anyone at first. “It was something I wanted to get involved in, something fun.”

            Wendy was familiar with little more  than the the story behind the committee, but that was enough. “I was very anxious to get involved,” she recalled. “I thought it was a great idea, and I wanted to help.”

            For her part, Robin felt “really impressed and moved that people who didn't even know Paul thought this was a worthwhile idea to pursue. Paul would've liked that,” she said.

            By late spring 1987, the committee was working on a slew of tasks, most of them pointing toward the inaugural Sept. 12 workday Bob had set up with the Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado (VOC), a statewide trailbuilding group. We were studying maps; we were contacting outdoor groups and government entities; we were signing up for VOC training to learn how to build trail and lead trail crews; we were planning food, registration, entertainment and publicity for the workday.

            We just had this one slight, lingering problem... We still didn't know where the trail would be built. Our easement-procurement effort having gone virtually nowhere, we were stymied (at least at the time) from putting trail in the area above central Manitou Springs where Paul had envisioned it.

            But Bob's knowledge of area hiking systems produced a possibility even Paul had not foreseen. In the foothills east and south of eastern Manitou's Crystal Hills subdivision were two large, pristine, government-owned properties that also bordered Bear Creek Park and National Forest lands. One belonged to the Colorado Springs Water Board and the other, Section 16, was leased from the state as open space by the El Paso County Parks Department.

            “I remember we had some maps at a meeting, and spent quite a bit of time going over them and putting together possibilities,” Bob said in a recent email from his current home in Wisconsin. “I thought ‘wow’ because the maps really got everyone excited.”

            The committee belief  (which turned out to be correct) was that the government entities would allow the trail on their lands. The thought popped up that the trail could go there to start with, then link with the central-Manitou segment in the future -- thus expanding Paul's peripheral trail into a regional trail.

            We decided to hike the area. But on May 10, the scheduled day, the weather turned cool. This could be why only Bob, his dog and I showed up.

            Starting near the water tank above Crystal Hills, we expected a difficult, bushwhacking sort of hike -- the kind where you're continually plowing through scrub oak, stunted pines and mountain mahogany and barely knowing if you're headed in the right direction. We weren't even sure if we could find a route through the string of gullies, ravines and sharp little hills in the mile or so that stood between us and our destination: the Section 16/ Red Rock Loop Trail.

            This didn't faze Bob's dog, Lola, an older springer spaniel mix. She kept trotting out ahead, anticipating, as dogs will, where their masters are going. And before long we were noticing a twin phenomenon: We were not having to redirect Lola, nor was the going as tough as we'd expected. It was as if we were on... an actual trail. Or a set of trails. In any case, it/they were headed, fortuitously enough, in the exact direction we needed to go.

            Sure, the path wasn't much, badly overgrown and washed out in places. But every time we'd think it had died out, we'd spy new signs of it (the springtime sparseness of new growth helped in that regard), or Lola would meander onto it again. An ordinary deer trail would not keep going like this, Bob and I commented to each other. And when we found a nice little shelf through a steep ravine that would have been otherwise impassable, the last of our doubts was erased. Somebody had worked on this with tools once. Indians? Cowboys? Miners shortcutting from Gold Camp to Manitou?

            We'd brought along surveyor's tape, which we used to flag our route. That route, with modifications in later weeks from other committee members and VOC leaders, became the first mile of the Intemann Trail in the Sept. 12 project.

            But to this day, Bob and I remain mystified about our discovery on that hike. I've looked at various old maps over the years, including a couple dating back to the early 20th century that show several now-lost trails... but not the one we found.

            “I always thought the area between Crystal Hills and Section 16 was more or less difficult terrain,” Bob said. “And while hikers I knew told me about trails that went up towards Cameron's Cone and Gog and Magog rocks (and need I mention the social trails up Red Mountain?), I can’t remember anyone ever commenting about the old trails that eventually made up the basis for Intemann.”