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Trail dedication planned for Comfortably Numb

Whistler’s longest singletrack bike trail officially open Although Chris Markle wouldn’t classify his new biking and hiking trail as a psychedelic experience, you may be seeing a few colours by the time you reach the end.

Whistler’s longest singletrack bike trail officially open

Although Chris Markle wouldn’t classify his new biking and hiking trail as a psychedelic experience, you may be seeing a few colours by the time you reach the end.

After long consideration, Markle has at last decided to name his epic bike trail – the product of more than five years and over 3,000 hours of his own personal labour – Comfortably Numb.

Comfortably Numb includes the trail that previously existed as North Secret Trail and Foreplay. Both names were temporary, as Markle’s intention was always to link the two trails.

Over the course of the last few years Markle has done just that, creating a finished trail that he estimates is about 23 or 24 kilometres long. It also includes more than 5,000 vertical feet of climbing.

"The name (Comfortably Numb) works out in a couple of ways," explains Markle.

"I always build the kind of trails that I like to ride, which is more of an intermediate trail. For a few years there, all the trail builders in Whistler were competing to see who could build the most hard-core bike trail, but that’s not really my style of riding.

"I’m into longer, epic singletrack rides with a few challenges along the way, and to go for rides with people of all different abilities. Basically, I wanted a trail you would be comfortable with at all levels of expertise, and this is it," he said. "You never really go beyond your comfort level."

Some of the more technical features were too good to pass up, like the slick rock sections of Foreplay, but he always put alternate routes around the more technically challenging sections.

"The numb part is easier to explain," said Markle. "It’s a long trail, with a lot of climbing. You really have to be in shape for this one, or you’re not going to finish it.

"It’s guaranteed you’ll be numb by the end of it, but hopefully with a smile on your face."

Comfortably Numb is not the only Pink Floyd reference on the trail. The rest of the loop section of North Secret Trail that returns to the start at the Wedge parking lot has been renamed Young Lust.

At the suspension bridge over Wedge Creek, which was donated to the project by the municipality, there will be a memorial to Al Gray, who was the WORCA president from 1994 to 1998. Gray, also known as "Al Presidenté" died of complications resulting from a bowel disease in December of 2001. The memorial plaque on the bridge will include the words "Wish You Were Here."

Markle did most of the work on Comfortably Numb himself, working on his creation almost every weekend during the summer months. From start to finish the project took him close to six years, although he took one summer off to work on other trails.

Work sped up significantly this summer with the help of a work crew from Mt. Currie hired by the municipality, and several volunteer days co-ordinated through WORCA. Workers built seven kilometres of trail in the past five weeks, said Markle. The final stages of trail construction were completed this week.

Comfortably Numb is only the second Whistler area trail to receive Section 102 status – official recognition from the provincial government. The other trail is the Flank Trail.

"It is a big deal for us, more because it’s the first big partnership with WORCA, the trail builder, the municipality, developers and other interests," said Keith Bennett, the manager of parks operations for the RMOW. Markle already builds his trails to the highest environmental standards, said Bennett.

The developers of the B.C. Rail Lands off of Alta Lake Road contributed $10,000 to the project to compensate mountain bikers for the interruption of several trails on Whistler’s west side. WORCA has also contributed some money, as well as about 800 volunteer hours. The RMOW contributed the bridge, signage, paid for a Mt. Currie Work crew for a week and a half this summer, and handled all of the research and paperwork for the Section 102 accreditation.

Still, most of the work and planning was Markle’s.

"It’s pretty gratifying to see it all come together after so many years," said Markle. "The mountain bike community is amazing here, and I sincerely hope that people like it. It’s really open to everybody and anybody.

"I started this trail because I thought there was a need for an epic singletrack trail in Whistler – we have lots of trails, but nothing this long," he said.

"I wanted a cross-country trail that you have to commit to for a whole afternoon of riding."

Faster riders have done the trail in about four hours. Other groups have taken as long as six hours to complete the trail. The middle section is still pretty soft, but should move faster once it has been worked in.

Still, Markle hopes that people take the time while riding the trail to enjoy the views, including a panorama view of Whistler Valley, and Wedge Creek, and sections of old growth forest.

"On a lot of trails you’re so focused on riding that you never get to look around. I honestly believe it’s one of the most beautiful trails in Whistler, so my advice is to take your time," said Markle.

Markle wants to rework a few sections of the trail that were rushed, and said he still needs to build sections leading to and from the bridge.

For WORCA president Mike Watton, Comfortably Numb shows just how strong the mountain bike community in Whistler is.

"It’s pretty exciting to have this strong relationship with the municipality," he said. "I can’t think of any other community that has that going for it. You run into people on the trails and they can’t believe that the municipality is behind this. I ran into some people from Arizona the other day on River, and they were amazed that the trail was allowed. I told them that the municipality actually helped us truck in the lumber for this, and they were blown away."

Watton had strong praise for Markle, the work he has done and the care he has put into building Comfortably Numb.

"This is the kind of trail that’s going to put Whistler on the map for mountain biking, like the Porcupine Ridge Trail at Moab. The fact that the municipality and a local developer helped us to develop this, and there was such a contribution from the community, is even more incredible," said Watton. "These kinds of things don’t happen anywhere else."

To celebrate the opening of the trail, the municipality, WORCA and Chris Markle are hosting a bridge dedication ceremony and ride on Comfortably Numb on Sunday, Sept. 28. All are welcome to attend.

Meet in the Wedge Mountain Parking Lot at 9 a.m. to bike out to the bridge for the dedication ceremony at 10:30 a.m. Following the ceremony, people are invited to ride the rest of the trail back to the Lost Lake area.

It’s a long way, so bring lots of water, food, and warm clothing. Dress for the conditions.