Tag Archives: trail work

Last Trail Day of the Season for Flagstaff

Recently we had a chance to volunteer for the last day of trail work with Flagstaff Biking Organization this season.  Flagstaff is cooling off quickly and before long we will have snow.  On this particular Saturday however, it was wonderfully warm and the ground was soft from recent rains.  A perfect day for digging a new bench cut trail to try to finish out a missing link of the Flagstaff Loop Trail.

The segment we were building was just west of the Campbell Mesa area.  Even through we built more trail than expected that day, the loop remains broken and it will take some Forest Service or ACE crews working in the off season to keep the trail work going.  I can’t wait until the Flagstaff Loop Trail is complete!

First Trail Building Day of the Season

Trail building mascot

Saturday was a beautiful day here in Flagstaff and a great one to start off the summer trail building season with Flagstaff Biking Organization.  Saturday’s event included support from the US Forest Service, American Conservation Experience, Absolute Bikes, Run Flagstaff, Fratelli’s Pizza, and Kickstand Kafe.  With all of that community support, it’s no surprise that there was a great turnout.

The crowd on Saturday seemed like a cross section of the active involved folks of Flag.  There were families with kids from age six to sixteen, young men that live for adrenaline and are part of the Gravity Riders group, couples who were enjoying a chance to work side by side, and older adults who showed the rest of us what hard work really looked like.  On their website, FBO encourages people of all ages and ability levels to come out to a work day.  The FBO rep (pictured below) reinforced this message by letting us all know at the beginning that shovel leaning was acceptable.  He said that some people come out every month just to lean on their shovels and chat and that that is perfectly ok.  Trail work days are as much about building the community as they are about building the trails.

I was really impressed how FBO took the lead in organizing the event, but then asked the volunteers who came to step up and form small groups with an experienced trail builder leading each team.  Jay and I each had the opportunity to lead a small team, though as the day carried on and all of the volunteers got familiar with the techniques we all just spread out and worked where we were needed.  With so many volunteers, the line of trail builders stretched out over at least a quarter mile.  In all we probably completed over a half of a mile of brand new trail.

The trail we were building is an important connector segment of the Flagstaff Loop Trail.  Once complete, the Flagstaff Loop Trail will be a 42 mile route that circumnavigates Flagstaff.  It will provide connections and access to many other important trails in the area, including the Arizona Trail, Forest Service singletrack on Mt Elden and Campbell Mesa singletrack.  Where we were working, the trail follows US Forest Service land, but in all it crosses many different boundaries, covering land owned by the City, County, US Forest Service, and even ADOT.  There are great maps showing the proposed trail and how it connects the city.

FBO has planned trail work days every month from now until October and almost every month we will be working on the Flagstaff Loop Trail.  If the attendance at trail days can stay at this level or grow, we should make very significant progress on the trail this year.

The next trail day is scheduled for National Trails Day (June 2nd) and we will be working on the Loop Trail near Ft Tuthill.  The National Trails Day event is sponsored by REI, Absolute Bikes, and Specialized and is sure to be a big and fun event.  I hope to see you out there!

If you want to see all of the photos from Saturday, check out this online album.

Meeting the IMBA Trail Care Crew and Re-Routing Trail in Sedona

Jenny and Jake being interviewed for a local new story

This weekend we had the awesome opportunity to attend a full weekend of events in Sedona presented by the Suburu IMBA Trail Care Crew (TCC), Jake and Jenny.  The Verde Valley Cyclists Coalition brought the TCC to Sedona, where they have a passionate mountain biking community and a lot of gnarly trails.  I have just started riding in Sedona and I really enjoyed the opportunity to meet other local riders and get another perspective on the trails.

The local land manager, Jennifer, addressing the volunteers before we started our trail work

Jake and Jenny presented three workshops, Club Care, Land Manager Training, and Sustainable Trail Building.  IMBA has devoted a lot of time and resources to identifying the best practices in trail design, building for sustainability, and club development.  They train two TCCs who then travel the country spending almost every weekend passing on that knowledge to club leaders and land managers.  As many of our regular readers know, Jay and I are applying to become the next TCC.  Not only did we learn a lot this weekend about Sedona singletrack, we also had the unique opportunity to see a TCC in action.  It was busy and tiring weekend, but we definitely ended the weekend hoping more than ever that we are chosen as the next TCC.

Jenny giving instructions on how we are going to start a new section of trail

On Saturday, after a morning classroom session on designing and building sustainable trails, we actually had a chance to re-route a section of the Slim Shady Trail.  The Slim Shady Trail was built by locals and was not part of a planned system.  The Forest Service, who manages the land, has been evaluating these unauthorized user built trails and deciding where, when, and how they can be incorporated into the trail system.  In this particular case Slim Shady serves as an important connector from the Village of Oak Creek to Sedona and therefore the Forest Service decided to find a way to adopt it.  In order to incorporate this trail, some sections needed to be rerouted because they had the potential to damage cultural sites or protected wildlife.  We had the opportunity to re-route one such section.  With the help of the TCC the new trail was laid out along the contours of the hillside and was designed to have some fun natural challenges to keep it in character with the rest of the trail.

The rock armoring when it was all finished

For the actual trail work we had a large group with several experienced trail builders.  We were able to divide up into small groups and work on small sections of the new trail segment.  I got to work on a lower section where the trail transitioned from large juniper trees with a base of duff to a sandy dip.  As the trail dipped into the sandy drainage we decided to reinforce the low point with rock armoring.  I really enjoyed working on this challenge with the only other female volunteer, Jodi.  Together we found rocks that were the right size and shape, dug out a hole for them and fit them together like a jigsaw puzzle.  This was Jodi’s first time doing trail work and I think she appreciated the chance to see that trail building is a good mix of problem solving and playing in the dirt.

Jodi doing some finishing work

A rare picture of me (in the pink shirt) cutting a dead log to use as a check dam on the old trail segment

After classes on Thursday and Friday and trail building on Saturday, we finally got to actually ride our bikes on Sunday.  I am used to riding alone or with Jay, so this group ride was intimidating at first.  Not to mention it’s Sedona, and as Jenny and Jake pointed out, an intermediate Sedona trail is a black diamond advanced trail most other places.  Luckily, Dave, a local mountain biker and former mountain bike instructor at Whistler, was acting as the sweep and therefore as my personal support system.  Dave was not only patient and encouraging, but he was also a great teacher.  I probably learned more in a two hour ride with Dave than I learned in the past six months biking alone.  Note to self: participate in more group rides and look into classes.

Jay coming out of the last turn on Mescal Trail

Overall the weekend was a huge success.  The TCC visits serve as a catalyst for mountain bike clubs and land management agencies to gather together.  Connections were made and important conversations were started at this TCC visit that will have a lasting impact on Sedona.  We were thrilled to be a part of it.  Thanks Jake and Jenny and IMBA for this opportunity!

The Sunday group ride crew

Jake and Jenny and Jay and I in front of the decked out Suburu

Lost Arrow Trail (Phoenix, AZ) Now Complete

Jay riding Lost Arrow

Since Sharon and I are staying in Phoenix for a little while, I took the time to contact Paul Paonessa, a city of Phoenix park ranger and friend.  I have known Paul for many years; he was my mentor for my Eagle Scout project.  Paul gave me the low down on some trail work happening very nearby in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve.  What a fun new trail segment!  Paul is very skilled at trail layout and design so it’s always great to learn more from the master.

Dan riding Lost Arrow

There is a small and dedicated team of volunteers who did the bulk of the work on this segment. I was able to quickly join their ranks and help bust out some trail.  The trail is called Lost Arrow because the original 1970’s master plan called for an archery range in the area, which never happened.

The trail twists and turns a lot, following the contours quite well with only one switch back in the segment. The segment is a little over a mile.  It has a couple wash crossings with one including some rock armoring.  I am looking forward to riding on the new trail again now that some much needed rain has had a chance to soak it.  This should make the trail tread much harder and make for some faster riding.

Repairing Trails in the Largest Municipal Park in the U.S.

South Mountain Park

South Mountain Park, where Jay started his epic mountain bike ride last week, is the largest municipal park in the country.  It has over 50 miles of primary marked trails, and 100 of miles of social trails, many of which shouldn’t be there.  The park is home to natural and cultural treasures with rare flora and fauna and historic petroglyphs.  Surrounded by residents of the city of Phoenix, this park is very heavily used and in desperate need of some TLC.  Last Tuesday and Wednesday we had the pleasure of working with Volunteers for Outdoor Arizona to work on the Pima Wash Trail and Beverly Canyon Trail.

Jay and Sharon standing on new section of the Pima Wash Trail

Jay and Sharon standing on new section of the Pima Wash Trail

Using hand tools like the Macleod shown above, we fixed drainages, rehabilitated social trails, and rerouted a few sections of trail that were not well designed.  Surprisingly enough, water plays a huge role in trail sustainability in the desert.  It might not rain very often, but when it rains it pours and it doesn’t have a lot to slow it down in terms of vegetation so it just runs across the landscape, taking rocks and deadfall with it.  There were a few sections of trail where the path that the water follows and the path that the hikers follow were the same, creating deep ruts and wider trails where people tried to go around the rocks and ruts.  In these sections we worked to find a new path for the line that would be more sustainable.  In the sections that we re-routed we also had to rehabilitate the old trail so that people would know to use the new one and so that the desert could start to reclaim that previous path.

trail work on Pima Wash Trail

Volunteers creating a new more sustainable section of trail

Jay and I really enjoyed working on the reroutes, because you have a lot of room to be creative and you get to see a vast improvement in a short amount of time.

Jay carrying cholla balls to place at the beginning of the old trail to deter people

Our other main work involved using rocks to reinforce drainages.  By digging out a path for the water to go beside a trail and then layering it with rock, we hoped to keep the trails intact.  Rock work is always challenging.  In this section you have lots of great rock to work with, but hiding under almost every rock is a creepy crawly.  You learn to turn over rocks away from you and with great care. I saw more scorpions in two days than I have in at least the last year.  Once you have gathered the rocks it can be fun to build the drainage, because it is a lot like working on a puzzle.

For really large rocks we used a blanket so that we could carry it with two to four people

We really enjoyed working with Mike and the other crew leaders from VOAZ.  They have been doing trail work for many years and have developed some great techniques for building great trails and for working together safely and effectively.  I hope we have the opportunity to work with them again in the future.

petroglyphs in South Mountain Park

petroglyphs in South Mountain Park