A picnic table with a bike rack nearby. A sign with a name unique to a family member who was gone too soon.
These are things that mountain bikers, snowshoers, hikers, runners and outdoor enthusiasts will find when visiting Four Bay in Payson Canyon. And to the visitor, those things may mean nothing more than what they are to the eye. But to the people, and in turn the family and friends that each landmark represents, there is so much more to the story.
It was on St. Patrick’s Day in 2012 when trail creator Carey Pierce lost his younger brother, Shawn Pierce, to an accidental overdose of painkillers at the age of 43. According to Carey Pierce, his brother was a friend to everyone.
“Shawn was the middle son in our family of three boys,” Carey Pierce said. “He was born with charisma that attracted everyone. He never married, but he was the favorite uncle to all his nieces and nephews. He served an LDS mission to Thailand and went to Dixie State College to become a massage therapist, and he was really good at what he did, and people loved him. At his funeral, so many people came up to us to say how they were Shawn’s best friend. I never knew someone who had so many best friends.”
Even with how happy Shawn Pierce was, there was pain in his life that caused him to suffer greatly.
“Shawn had a back injury that caused him to need pain killers that he became addicted to,” Carey Pierce said. “It was so hard to watch him suffer because we didn’t know what to do to fix it. He was the type that whenever we would ask him how he was, he would always turn the question back on you, asking how you were. He didn’t want people to know he was hurting, so we didn’t know how to help, and we lost him.”
At the time, Carey Pierce was in the process of building a mountain bike trail system in the Four Bay area up Payson Canyon, and he decided to build a trail for his brother, and call it “Little Shawny” after him.
And while the trail he built loops around trees, past rivers and streams doesn’t have any particular characteristics that remind him of his little brother, Carey Pierce says that each time he sees the sign, “Little Shawny,” he can’t help but remember the years they spent together.
“Little Shawny is a name that is unique to my brother,” Carey Pierce said, “A friend of ours gave him the nickname although Shawn was a pretty sturdy guy. We all just called him Little Shawny, and seeing the sign reminds me of him. Riding on the trail gives me a quiet place to remember him.”
It wasn’t long after building the trail for his brother that Carey Pierce started building a trail for kids to ride on. While doing so, he heard that the owner of Noble Cycling in Spanish Fork, Ryan Cook, lost his 4-year-old son Ezra in a drowning accident.
When he heard about the accident, Carey Pierce thought to name the bike trail after Ezra. And according to Cook, it was a wonderful gesture that has helped his family heal.
“Ezra loved to ride bikes,” Cook said. “When Carey asked me if it would be OK to name the kids’ trail after Ezra, I told him that I would be honored.”
Cook said that the trail has been a great gathering place for their family to remember their son.
“Every year on his birthday, we go up to the trail, bring our bikes and have a party for Ezra at the picnic table,” he said. “Occasionally I will ride it myself just to have a moment to remember him. It’s so nice to have a place in the mountains doing what we love, where we can also remember our little boy.”
Cook said that he enjoys when other people talk about the Ezra trail because it keeps his son’s memory alive.
“Most people have no idea when they see the sign that it was named for our son,” Cook said. “Ezra’s impact was very limited because he only lived four short years, but it’s so neat to hear people say his name. I enjoy taking my kids there to ride bikes because it is the perfect trail for kids, and represents Ezra so well.”
“I realize that naming many of these trails for people we have lost may seem a bit morbid to some,” Carey Pierce said. “But when you lose someone, you sometimes need a place to go and remember them, and the great outdoors is a great place to do that. I hope that when people visit and see these signs and places like the picnic table, that they will be respectful. Naming them after loved ones just brings another element of respect above the respect that should be shown anyway.”
Other trails in the Four Bay trail system named for loved ones lost are Kaya for Carey Pierce’s friend who lost a daughter, and K. Launi for trail builder Darce Trotter’s daughter who passed away in 2015 to a brain tumor.
The Four Bay trail system is located up Payson Canyon between the third mile marker and Maple Dell Scout Camp.