Service gets mountain bikers to the best trails

Bob Mishata first rode the Monarch Crest Trail in 1988: “Oh man it was exciting, the ride of a lifetime.” Back then, Mishata said, the trail was “half deer trail with some single track” with large boulders to walk around and many fallen trees. “The trail is one thousand percent better now.”

Mishata estimates that he’s ridden Monarch Crest more than 200 times since 1988. While age has slowed him down a bit, he still rides the trail from time to time and said he’s looking into purchasing an e-bike to soften the ride. “E-bikes are the future.”

Mishata opened the High Valley Center in Poncha Springs in 1978. He opened the High Valley Bike Shuttle in 1994. While he recently sold the center, he kept the bike shuttle.

“I like it because it’s three to four months a year. People are fun and full of energy, everyone comes with a smile. There are no bad attitudes.”

Mishata’s phone rings constantly (five times during our interview). When he owned the store, he had employees to help, but now it’s just him.

“This trail is getting so popular, it’s unbelievable. I’ve seen more first-timers (this year) than ever before. They are from all over ‒ from Maine to Florida to Europe. The trail is in the top 10 in the USA, and it’s ranked first or second in Colorado.”

In 1994, Mishata was awarded 100 user permits from the U.S. Forest Service. They increased his permits every year by 10 percent until 2017. This year and last Mishata was given 1,650 permits. He is then given an additional 10 percent as a buffer. But if he goes over that amount he jeopardizes losing his permit. On Aug. 16 he had 150 permits left, four days later he had none.

“I called 75 people to say I couldn’t take them. I don’t want to lose my permit.”

This is the earliest Mishata has ever run out of permits. Last year he ran out Sept. 10. Part of why he ran out so soon is because he started early, June 10. Since there was little snow, he got a three-week jump on the season.

“We wait for the snow to melt, but there was no snow this year,” he said, also recalling one year, maybe 15 years ago, when his first shuttle of the year was the end of May.

“(The Forest Service is) trying to limit the use of mountain bikes on the Crest. Hikers and backpackers don’t want to use it because of mountain bikers, (who) are rude. We’re low man on the totem pole. (Mountain bikers) need to step off for everyone, and they don’t.” He also said the Leave No Trace movement has picked up steam, and mountain bikers are the main culprits for making new trails to avoid puddles and avoid switchbacks.

Mishata and his employees give pep talks to their riders about trail etiquette, but you don’t have to shuttle with Mishata to ride the Crest.

“I tell them it’s an intermediate to advanced trail – you better know what you’re doing.”