Meet THE Phil
When Phil Meglasson was working for the U.S. Geological Survey creating topographical maps in the early 1980s, he discovered an efficient way to go about his business.
“I was able to ride my mountain bike at work day after day,” recalls Meglasson, the “Phil” of the famed Phil’s Trail west of Bend.
Meglasson and several other Central Oregon mountain biking pioneers began riding deer trails and logging roads in the area, and forming them into biking trails.
Little did they know that their early labors would eventually turn Central Oregon into a mountain biking mecca, a place where today volunteers tirelessly build and maintain trails to which locals and tourists alike flock in droves.
And now those trails have become a centerpiece for major national events, such as the 2011 USA Cycling Mountain Bike Marathon National Championships, held here Saturday.
The 50-mile race was staged on about 40 miles of singletrack trails near Wanoga Sno-park southwest of Bend. Most of those trails did not even exist five years ago, a testament to the rapid growth of mountain biking and biker-built trails in Central Oregon.
When Meglasson and his friends Dennis Heater, Bob Woodward and (Hutch’s Bicycles own) Mike McMackin formed the Black Rock Mountain Bike Club in the early ’80s, they were simply looking for off-road places to ride their bikes.
“We would just pick a little,” Meglasson says, recounting the early days of trail construction. “We didn’t use tools.
We’d look and find the best route and throw the limbs out of the way. Sagebrush, we’d pull it until it popped out. Phil’s Trail was a mix of deer trail and doubletrack. We didn’t have to do much except throw the dead limbs off and ride it.”
In the late 1980s, Meglasson and his crew started putting more effort into building trails. Those efforts would lead in 1992 to the founding of the Central Oregon Trail Alliance (COTA), and to the forging of a crucial, long-standing relationship with the U.S. Forest Service.
More than 30 years since its inception, the Phil’s Trail network includes a variety of singletrack trails west of Bend in the Deschutes National Forest between Skyliners Road and Century Drive. The area is nationally known because of its wide assortment of trails — trails built by mountain bikers, for mountain bikers.
Still riding his mountain bike four times a week, Meglasson says he puts in 100 to 150 hours of trail work every year. He also maintains the Mrazek Trail, just north of the Phil’s network.
Looking back, Meglasson says maybe a dozen or so mountain bikers were pedaling through the woods near Bend in the early 1980s. Now, COTA estimates that more than 10,000 mountain bikers ride Central Oregon trails each year.
So, does Phil miss the early days, before his trail became a household name in Central Oregon and got crowded with bikers, hikers and runners?
“Sometimes, when you’re coming down (the trail) and you keep meeting people one after the other, you kind of long for the old days,” he admits. “But back then, we didn’t have a lot of singletrack.”
Now they have hundreds of miles of it — and countless COTA volunteers who continue to build and protect it.