In which Fiddle and I explore some eroded trails (and some good ones)

I used to ride at the "Bracken Tract" of the Pilchuck Tree Farm every week.  The trailhead is only 15 minutes away from our house via truck/trailer. 
This commonly used trail has been "armored" -- reinforced with roadbed rocks
Eventually, there will be trails from our house to the trailhead, but that will probably be YEARS in the future.  The land for the connecting trail is already set aside, but money for developing a heavy-use public trail is scarce right now.
Un-armored trail next to the creek.  This turns into a bog in winter.
 I haven't ridden at Bracken much in the past 18 months because almost two years ago somebody dropped a logging truck sideways on one of the bridges (ouch).  With the bridge out, there were only two trails open between the parking lot and the main "network" of trails covering hundreds of acres of woods, meadows and (you guessed it) swamps.
This trail is so eroded that my stirrups drag the ground on the sides when I'm riding Hana. Fiddle is taller, so the stirrups clear the dirt by about an inch when I ride her. 
The two surviving trails were not very well-designed to start; now they are now in very poor shape.  The trail tread is deeply dug into the hillsides, and at the bottom of each hill is a bog.
When your trail runs through a swamp, there's no way to build it so it will stay dry unless you bring in a LOT of rocks.
This trail  (above) is less-used.  The tread is wet, but not too muddy yet.  Another month of rain and trail users will make it very slick and mucky.
A trail on the side of a hill stays dry much longer. 
This one, however, has trees growing almost on top of the trail tread.
 Trails out in the "network" were in better shape, as they don't get used as much, and most riders travel this terrain travel at a sedate pace.

The trail (below)

"fall-line trail" <--cussing in trail-builders parlance
is built on the fall-line of the terrain, which means that water has no alternative to washing right down the middle of the trail.  Thus, the tread is completely falling apart, even though it gets very little traffic.
Overcrowded!  These trees will only get bigger!
Obviously, the trail (above) was put in when the trees were little seedlings.  Because this land is a Tree Farm, the owners of the property don't want young trees chopped out just because they interfere with trails, but merely "limbing" the trees won't be enough--in a few years, the trunks will impede the trail.  Ooops.
Sidehill trail in a wetter section of the woods.
 If the right side berm of the trail got knocked down, the water would drain out of the tread
 instead of running right down the middle of it.
 The trails near the bridge were in good shape, since they've been un-used for almost two years. 

Although this trail (below) looks wet because it's been rained on recently, the tread has about a 5% cant to lense right, so water doesn't puddle on the tread or wash down the centerline.
A little bit of slope to the trail means that water leaves the trail!
 The trail (below) has been armored and culverted because it crosses a swamp. 
Blackberry bushes on both sides of the trail...good erosion protection,
but it will need to be patrolled with weedwhackers...or blowtorches
If it hadn't been reinforced with Very Large Rocks, and if the blackberry bushes weren't slashed back a few times a year, this trail would disappear completely in less than 12 months.
This is a beautiful trail in good repair. 
The tread is sand, the berms are gone, there are no puddles. 
Gold star!
Former logging roads (below) are built above-grade (1-3 feet or more above the natural terrain) and are heavily armored so logging trucks don't get mired. 

Once the trucks move out, we are left with very sturdy "trails" to ride. 

We ride retired logging roads almost exclusively in winter--the natural trails are too muddy.
The common trail back to the parking lot shows damage caused by many hooves.
Fortunately, no matter where we go

it's pretty.

Life is good!


  1. Life is good indeed! Wish I was there to ride with you.

  2. That was a beautiful way to spend my time between calls :) I had to laugh though-as a crew member of many summers & hopefully by profession some day, I know exactly how the trails should look-and how much sweat effort is needed to make them look good! I never worked in that section of Washington, but it is always nice to know the work my crews did is appreciated!

  3. I enjoyed your trail photos. I ride similar trails, here in central California near the Monterey Bay, and face similar issues, though we get less rain than you do. But mud in the winter is a big problem here, too. Most of my favorite trails are long abandoned logging roads. I do have some trails on very sandy ground that I can ride to out my front gate that give me lots of winter rides. The sandy ground is very helpful that way (!) Thanks for the lovely photos.


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