Ouray Trail Group’s wilderness trails coordinator John Hulburd (left) and U.S. Forest Service training instructor John Hidy demonstrate a crosscut saw technique during a May 4 training session. (Courtesy photo)

The snow is still blanketing the high country and a few spring snowstorms are keeping local runners and hikers guessing as to when and where the best days and paths are for enjoying the outdoors. Meanwhile, volunteers of the San Juan Mountain Runners and Ouray Trail Group are ready for summer.

Mary Plumb of the nonprofit San Juan Mountain Runners spent the spring handing out donation checks from monies raised by its sponsored running races in 2018. The six nonprofit beneficiaries were selected because they “touch or support our group in some way,” Plumb explained.

The social recreational running club, which has served Ouray, Montrose and Delta counties since 1977, supports other nonprofits by providing race direction and assistance as well as funding. The nonprofit beneficiaries of 2018 race proceeds were the Ouray Trail Group, Uncompahgre Watershed Partnership, Welcome Home Alliance for Veterans, Girls on the Run, Peer Kindness and Mended Little Hearts

Club members join in weekly runs starting in Montrose with a mission of encouraging runners of all ages and abilities to gather for motivation, competition and socialization. They also organize their own races, including the ROK (Running on Kindness) 5K and 10K Trail Run in October and Turkey Trot in November.

The running club completed its annual roadside cleanup on two miles of Highway 347 Sunday. The state highway starts at U.S. Highway 50 and leads into the Black Canyon National Park, the destination of the annual Black Canyon Ascent. In its 44th year, the six-mile running race and walking challenge will be held Saturday, with overall, master’s and age division awards for top finishers, door prizes, free pint coupons and burritos from the Camp Robber restaurant.

The Trail Town 5 or 10 Miler will be in Ridgway on June 29. June is also when the Ouray Trail Group’s events kick into high gear.

The nonprofit Trail Group already organized a one-day crosscut saw training and certification in Ouray on May 4, where members and the public learned, practiced and received certification from the U.S. Forest Service. Cutting downed trees and branches for removal from trails is a major activity of the trail maintenance and building group, which volunteers throughout the Ouray Ranger District of the Forest Service. In 2018, at least 420 downed trees were cleared.

“We are organizing and recruiting, to step up our backcountry/wilderness program this year. Our website has been updated and improved, so it’s faster and easier to become a member. We are asking hikers to report trail conditions online so we can work on those problems faster. Our relationship with the USFS is better than ever,” volunteer wilderness trails coordinator John Hulburd said.

The all-volunteer group logged 2,111 service hours with 91 volunteers just on trail work last year. It also participated in a spring workday with students and teachers from Ridgway Secondary School. Other activities include producing and selling trail maps and a guidebook, grant writing, trailhead register maintenance, equipment repair and acquisition, public outreach and publicity, and coordination with other local conservation groups, including the Trust for Land Restoration and the Ouray County Historical Society.

“Last year, we did major improvements to the switchbacks by Cascade Falls (in Ouray), stabilizing a chronic problem area,” Hulburd said. “And this year we are hoping to build more of the Perimeter Trail around the city.”

The group is planning two-day trips on one weekend a month, June through September, to work on backcountry trails, including Cutler Creek, Middle Fork, Porphyry Basin, Horsethief, Difficulty and Dexter Creek trails in the Uncompahgre Wilderness, as well as the Blue Lakes Trail in the Mt. Sneffels Wilderness. Single-day trips to more accessible trails close to drivable areas are also being planned.

For July 14, the Ouray Trail Group and San Juan Mountain Runners are co-organizing a morning of trail maintenance before the 1st annual SJMR Summer Picnic in Ridgway Town Park (Hartwell Park). For information about events and joining the Ouray Trail Group, visit ouraytrails.org. For race schedules and registration for San Juan Mountain Runners events, visit sjmr.club/.