In which I relate our adventures in trail building (and rebuilding)
Jim and I started hauling ourselves, our horses, and our trail tools up to the Renegade Camp for a week of working in 2005. The next year, we took the AERC-sponsored Trail Master class along with a bunch of friends, and we really started taking trail-building seriously.
This year, we had some major obstacles.
The chasm in the road (above) was caused by spring flooding that destroyed a culvert.
The road with the bulldozer-sized hole in it is, unfortunately, the major access point to 25 miles of the 50-mile loop that Gail has used for this ride for more than 10 years. Without a good road that trucks (and emergency vehicles and vets) can travel, the entire southwest branch of the trail was off-limits to us this year. We anticipate that the road will be fixed eventually...hopefully before fire season...but that wasn't going to help us this year.
We went out Saturday morning to scout the trail.
There were lots of blowdowns this year...and they continued to blow down until the night before the ride. We had to clear some sections of trail several times, which was really frustrating.
The creek crossing on the blue loop got damaged by the same flood that wiped out the culvert.
We sent Jennifer with some newbie trail workers to fix it,
and they not only repaired the ford, they held a wet t-shirt contest at the same time!
More flood damage (above).
This branch of the Little Naches River severely undercut the bank I stood on to take the photo. There was not much danger to a single human carrying a camera, but the repeated concussive impact of 70+ horse and rider teams trotting over it was an invitation to disaster...meaning we had to build a new section of trail to bypass the danger zone.
When building a trail for equestrians, you have to clear the trail...
...and the space beside the trail....
...and the space above the trail.
We use Fiddle and me as the "measuring stick" for the space above ground: if we can trot through the trail without getting our eyes or ears poked, it's clear enough.
There were other impediments to trail building:
biggify the picture (above) to see some prime examples of our gigantic vandals.
This year the elk were at exactly the right elevation on the mountain to allow them to "elk" the ribbons off the trail. We told riders that if they thought they were lost, they should look on the ground for chewed ribbons and look on the trees for lonely clothespins. Elk don't eat clothespins, as far as we can tell.
Fiddle is outfitted for a day of trail marking. She's got 50 trail ribbons in her mane, and another 250 ribbons bundled in her packs. That's about enough for 3-5 miles of forest trail, depending on the number of turns.
Three ribbons mark a turn...preferably, placed as high up on the tree as possible in order to get them out of the reach of elk.
Kayla carries tools, extra ribbons, and trail tools in her pack. She's so herd-bound to Destry that Gail doesn't need to pony her--she runs loose with the group.
Maddy borrowed Ryan's new standie mare Whiskey for a day of trail work.
We don't have to mark every section of trail on horseback. Some stretches can be marked by truck:
Other sections of the trail are easiest to mark on foot:
The quad will carry two riders, a bunch of ribbons, and the chainsaw. We can't use the quad on a lot of the trails, though--they're restricted to non-motorized vehicles.
Gail is a sane quad driver, thank heavens. She moves that machine through some hairy-scary trails, though!
Late in the week, other friends came to camp to help mark trails. Annette and her mare Snoopy have been marking the blue loop for years. Unfortunately, we forgot to tell her about the trail we re-routed to avoid that undercut bank, so we had to mark that section twice. Oops.
We try to make the trail markers as clear as possible, since endurance riders don't seem to get any smarter late in the day.
The payoff for all this work:
a beautiful trail!