An emergency contract found us in an almost impossible situation: building over 2 miles of trail within a month, to be used just a few weeks after that for the WVICL’s final race venue. I’ll go ahead and spoil the ending, we got the course done just in time. I’m a small builder, and that is an immense amount of trail for my resources. So I called in reinforcements and had Community Trail Designs come in and help with a half mile of really fun, tighter single track that has been described by league staff as “Colorado Alpine in West Virginia”. So with a core group of hardy volunteers stepping in for corridor and finish work as needed, we fired up all of the Appalachian Dirt machine fleet and dug our heels in.
An extremely rainy September (with two hurricanes sending rain up our way) did its best to slow us down, but with a couple special build techniques and some luck in soil conditions we were able to build all but one day of the month. This race course gave us several distinctly different trail sections: one long wide flowing trail set in an old pasture area with thick growth of autumn olive, one tight piece of single track nestled in some pines perched along the steep hillsides of the lake, and some open trail in the grassy infield area. Add in some existing farm roads, and we have the makings of an accessible race course with great passing opportunities. Time will tell how much fun it is, as the WV high school and middle school racing league is preparing to race on it this coming weekend. Good luck racers!
I was very grateful for the opportunity to work on a project just a couple ridges away, completing two goals for this year: building some gnarly rocky single track and to subcontract with IMBA Trail Solutions. A project at near-by at Deep Creek Lake State Park provided that opportunity. With a small amount of time available, my efforts were focused on a connector trail about 1400 feet long. Just enough trail to keep me busy for two weeks in that terrain. I enjoyed working with the IMBA crew and was proud of the funky flow that was uncovered in the glacial deposits we were working in. I think this project is a great step forward for the trail industry: mixing conventional building knowledge with an old school single track attitude. This project is going to be rocky and natural, and I’m really glad I got to work on it.
A large thank you goes to the Heart of the Highlands Trail for continuing to ensure a high level of quality on their trail build projects, by laying out years of maintenance ahead of time on all their new construction builds. Maintenance is a crucial part of trails staying in the best shape possible. The build on the Blackwater View Trail was wrapped up in 2016, but it continues to be a priority for the organization. Kudos to their foresight, and thank you for the work.
Our long ongoing local project, #greenflow, has been wrapped up and opened for use this year. A hybrid project combining machine rough in with volunteer finish work, was conceived on a phone call in the fall of 2016. The goal was to create a quality trail experience with a lower barrier for entry than other trails in the area were providing. Through creative fund raising strategies and a volunteer based finish strategy, seed funding for the project was achieved, and a redesign of the Thomas City Park Trails’ interior system was selected and started.
2017 saw construction start on the segments closest to the trail head, some signage and trail head changes, and a short loop from the trail head, optimized for strider bikes and short strolls through the woods.
2018 saw the project wrapped up with a total of 1.8 miles of trail constructed through beautiful and rugged terrain with over 200 feet of boardwalk bridging to complete the trail. It was opened in its entirety for use in September.
This spring saw Appalachian Dirt working on phase 1 of a local back yard bike park. A private bike park is a good option for the yards and properties of outdoor recreators, especially those with kids. After all, why put in a pool when you can build a pumptrack?
Phase 1 of this particular project saw the construction of a main track, consisting of 200+ feet of a timber track/pump track hybrid. A base foundation was leveled out and hard-scaped for ease of maintenance before installing wooden constructed rollers and berm-like corner structures. Progressive balance lines were also installed.
The future of this back yard bike park will see a boulder causeway transition line in the track, an elevated perimeter trail, progressive drops, and log-over area.
I had the pleasure of spending this past winter working on a project called the Mountwood Flow Trail, located in Mountwood Park just east of Parkersburg, WV on Route 50. Mountwood Park typically has narrow winding singletrack with lots of up and down undulation in them. Perfect XC spot! They wanted a more downward optimized trail out of this new project. Keywords were blended with the parks typical trail characteristics, ride-able for most users, bi-directional, and flowing. When the bid document says “we just want to best trail possible”, you know its going to be a good project.
The location would be spurring off of Gary’s Grind (which now creates a great start to this trail), wrapping around the face of the hill, and ending up at the bottom of the hill near a parking lot and pavillions. The site had great micro-topography and some really stellar positive control points: like historical oil casks and views of large boulder cascades.
I was there to provide help in design and the machine work to get this trail started. All the hard work will be done by the local volunteers: lopping, raking, compacting, re-naturalizing, and of course, flow testing. I implemented a new bucket into the project to help create some sections with a more natural feeling bench cut, and a technique to leave more roots intact. I focused on blending sections of more conventional earthen features with natural trail tread while undulating the trails rhythm to match that building style and the terrain. There is a feeling I get while riding the lower bits of the last descent (north end) on the North Fork Mountain Trail, and that’s what I was trying to find for this trail. It’s a feeling of carving edges of single track like butter. Flow in the curves, with lots of lateral bike body separation. From the preliminary testing, I think it worked! But I’ll have to let you be the judge of that for yourself. Finish work should be wrapped up this spring and riding by summer. Go try it out.
And remember, Flow is a feeling not a type of trail.
This summer saw Appalachian Dirt in the Alps. Allegra Trails of Switzerland was kind enough to bring me over as one of the sub-contractors to build on one of their projects. Work was focused on two main lines coming down from a high elevation of 3,200 meters: a Blue and a Red. It was 2 months of fine, high alpine building.
For the 2017 season, Thomas City Park Trails have been getting a system redesign with a multi part project, focusing on the creation of a new green level MTB trail. The season started with the project design, corridor clearing, and 1500 feet of fast and flowy trail being completed. Project construction resumed in the fall with a 1200′ surfaced portion of the trail, creating a close and accessible loop from the main trail head. A new trail head with kiosk, additional signage, and general maintenance on other system trails were also completed. Work will resume in 2018, pending additional project funding. Learn more about this project and donate at http://www.newhistoricthomas.com/bike-trail/
Look it up on Instagram with #greenflow
February through May saw the Tucker County High Schools Outdoor Club learning and building sustainable trail on campus for students to use. They were able to build a quarter mile with classroom sessions and field work. This trail has a high diversity of terrain, including switchback turns, boulder features, rugged rocky terrain, and fast flowing earthen tread.