Monday, April 18, 2016

Trail Day

I keep pulling the photo up and staring at it.  I made it my desktop background at work.  I’m really proud of what my trail crew did.  And it wasn’t because I hounded them and cracked the whip over their heads.  Some knew what to do and the rest quickly picked up on trail building techniques.  At one point I looked up to see how far ahead the leaders were and saw a nice smooth, finished trail.  That brought a smile to my lips.

We built two hundred feet of bike optimized singletrack on a steep sideslope that looks incredible and rides smooth.  Not so long ago I was told that you can’t build trails like this in the Red River Gorge.  I argued with a land manager that IMBA standards were the way to go.  He argued that a 25% fall line climb was more sustainable that what I proposed which would have looked something like this:

I feel somewhat vindicated even though that land manager will likely never see this trail.  I’m downright giddy because of the outcome of the trail day I organized.

As for that trail day…I could not have done it without my wife.  First, she was patient and understanding as I’ve spent time over the winter working on getting the trail to this point.  True, I did take the kids with me more than a few times.  And I tried to maximize the times I was in Flat Hollow working so as not to feel the urge to go more and more often.  I tried to break it up so I wasn’t eating up every free moment with a Rogue Hoe in my hand.

Last week I took her and Bean to Flat Hollow for a late walk-through before the trail day.  I needed a last look at the project so I could strategize for when I would have a group of volunteers with tools in hand.  Mandy offered some good suggestions.  And she offered to make lunch for everyone.  Like I said, I could not have had a successful trail day without her support.
A lot of people were instrumental in getting the Flat Hollow Arch Trail to the point it is now.  After the Johnny and Alex Trail Day (JATD) last summer everything was in limbo for a couple of months. The aforementioned land manager and I absolutely did not see eye to eye.  He seemed to not want me to be successful in building mountain bike trails on the Climbers Coalition land.  But then he resigned.  The new land manager is great to work with.  And we’ve hashed out a good plan for trails in the Pendergrass-Murray Recreational Preserve (PMRP). 
Once I had his okay I began laying out and then working on the Flat Hollow Arch Trail, to try and complete a moderately easy mountain bike trail to Flat Hollow Arch.  I was able to get Dave involved.  And Kris and his son Andy from Estill County came out and helped as often as they could.  Progress was slow but steady.  Then Brad showed up.  He’d helped at JATD and spends a lot of time in the area climbing.  And now benchcutting.  Brad advanced things quickly.  He has a lot of energy and more free time than the rest of us.  He works, but he doesn’t have all of the family obligations of the rest of us in the core group.  And that’s okay.  He’s been a dynamo that has helped me to stay motivated and inspired to stick with the project.
And so, a month ago, the trail was basically complete to the bottom of the last hill before the arch.  It is a 900’ section on a steep sideslope.  It switchbacks twice, though the switchbacks were located so as not to demand a lot of labor or time.  And because of the use of the terrain to natural redirect the trail where needed we were able to stretch it out and gain the elevation needed gradually and without tricky turns.
Then one Saturday I was able with Brad and my nephew Ty to get about 200’ of trail pushed up the slope.  All the way to the first switchback.  That left us about 700’.  Then Brad worked over the next couple of weekends and pushed the trail another hundred or so.  On trail day we were looking at about 600’ feet of trail remaining to close the loop (minus reroutes on the older upper section of the loop).
I’ll admit I was gnawing my nails to the quick not knowing how many would show early in the week.  But by Friday I knew I would have 10-11 showing up for sure.  I was confident we would make a dent in the remaining unbuilt trail.
Twelve showed.  Three left at lunch, but we were able to cut a hard 50’ of trail before then, and work in the second switchback turn.  So after lunch the 9 that remained pushed it a little farther.  I would estimate that we built 200’ more feet of new trail on Saturday leaving 400’ to finish the project.  All of the really hard work on the climbing section is finished.  What’s left is some moderately hard bench cutting with no turns.  It’s just us against the roots.
A group from KYMBA Lincoln Trail came.  Vince and Christine and Eric have a lot of trail building experience and they lended it to our effort.  I can’t thank them enough.  Kris, my main partner in crime on this, and his son Andy hauled the tools and worked hard.  We had a couple of guys from Lexington who came out to see what we have going on.  That was huge.  I’ve been struggling to build interest in the Lexington mountain bike community to get more help.  It’s been working, and I appreciate those guys so much.
And we had three ladies from Beattyville come help.  Dedra is the county tourism person and she works hard to promote Lee County and has been involved working with the Coalition and my efforts all along.  The other two ladies were a mother and daughter who were interested in finding out what was going on in their backyard.  They hike in the Gorge and were happy to see trails closer to home.
It was a great trail day and a huge success!  I can’t wait until this trail is completely finished and folks are out on it enjoying the fruits of our labor.  I have another trail day scheduled for May 14.  I hope by then we can actually move on to other projects.  But I have a feeling it will be focused on totally finishing the loop.  And that’s okay.


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