It was blue skies, green forest and a fresh spring breeze for HAFTA’s first “Ride and Maintain” event this past Saturday the 20th of May.
Our plan was to ride a circuitous loop through the dry sections of trail inside the Agreement Forest. Each rider would bring along a small pruning tool in their pack and at some point we’d stop to trim back some of the ever advancing vegetation that (without our insistence) would easily swallow the trails. Riders brought hand pruners, tiny hatchets and folding saws. These tools are great for the majority of problems one encounters, but as soon as we left the parking lot we realised the previous week’s intense band of thunderstorms had left us some larger surprises!
Trimmed off the sharp branches and gave ‘er – our chainsaw guy will be back for it.
Without the availability of larger tools we limbed this downed tree to make it as safe as possible and headed onward.
As it was only the organizers who showed up, we decided to turn this ride into more of a maintenance event than a ride. Myself, Barry and Rob headed south on Stunt trail to verify trail conditions in the areas worst hit by floods. Trails this direction had been underwater for a few weeks previous and were just beginning to dry before the “rainpocalyse”. We were curious what had happened since that rainstorm as at that time B.C. Rocks had an impromptu river running through it.
We arrived at the spot on B.C. Rocks where the impromptu river had been flowing and the river was gone – In fact the soil was dry! There was even some new life growing. In general the Stunt Trail and B.C. Rocks were in great shape, but conditions took a turn for the worse on HammerHead trail. Here is what they looked like on April 7th:
This photo was just snow melt and a few weeks afterwards we had the massive rain event. When we arrived at the bottom of HammerHead we were greeted with a mess. Many riders had been using it despite our efforts to communicate with them about the potential for damage. The result of their eager use is that the trail is much wider and rutted now. Things did not get better as we headed down The Southern Edge with many rollers having ruts 4″ deep in their valleys and the rest of the trail tread chewed up and widened by people riding it while it was saturated and likely underwater. It will take a while for people to smooth this trail out if doesn’t turn into a series of permanent puddles/mud pits due to excavation of material.
We found even more trees down on The Southern Edge.
We continued south down to Rottweiler trail and then looped north as we wanted to check out the Flow Trail which had also been underwater during the rainpocalyse. Unfortunately the issues created by certain riders on HammerHead were also present here.
Please “Ride Dirt not Mud” or we end up with trails that look horrible, are consistently muddy and suffer from prolonged ponding.
We popped out at the top of Flow Trail and made our way to Christmas Trail. Christmas trail is one of the very last sections of trail to dry out in the spring. We erected signs to let people know to just avoid it as the trail is currently a disaster.
After erecting the new signs we travelled north up Boundary A to ride the Gnome rock. We checked out the puddle on the very northern tip of Boundary A.
It’s really a pond
The “puddle” has since dried up, but we spent several minutes removing branches people tossed into the puddle during its intermediary drying stage. There is actually a small section of armouring here on the left side (This view) that can be ridden on when the puddle is there. However when the puddle is muddy you can’t see the rocks that would stop you from sinking. I guess we’ll have to fix this and make it more prominent at a later date!
We travelled back to Boundary B to ride the armouring we created during our spring trail day. It rides pretty darn well and the best part is no more mud! Stay tuned for our next ” Ride and Maintain” event. We’re currently sorting out ride leaders, but we’ll have one in June (Likely not the 4th, but we’ll see).
UPDATE: Our chainsaw guy has fixed the downed tree on Boundary A.
Another small request is please do not park like the drivers did on the far right, it obstructs people who are in the actual spots and if an ambulance need to squeeze in and through the emergency access gate it could be a problem – Ambulances are pretty wide and there is free parking at the Mohawk Raceway across the road.
If you’ve spent any time in the AF you’ll have come upon logs laying across the trail. In fact it wouldn’t be the AF if there weren’t a few logs strewn about. Lately the trend has been for certain people to cut out the log or build a massive “up and over” out of whatever wood scraps are nearby. At HAFTA we’re not down with that because those bits of wood placed near that log slowly get scattered allover the trail. Not only is it messy, but at the moment one of those bits breaks loose there is an added risk for a crash. When people keep making up and overs then regrettably the logs attracting them have to go. We really don’t like doing that. If you see cribbing and branches piled next to a log then pretty please stop and chuck them back into the bush.
Keeping logs on the trail provide benefits. Logs are like nature’s speed bump and help to keep rider speeds down (slower riders mean less conflict) while providing an opportunity for advancement of bike handling skills. They also discourage electric and gasoline powered users: There are no motorised uses permitted in the AF. We like to see good candidate logs (stable, not too high and somewhat perpendicular) lay around on trails for years until they are worn down into humus.
In order to save our logs from “up and overs” or people just sawing them out why not give the following techniques a try. Teach your friends how to do any of the following:
This picture shows the critical point of the move where you apply weight the front wheel, and as it crests the obstacle you begin to spring your body upward and forward as you finish your pedal stroke stopping when they are level.
This technique should eventually be part of every intermediate mountain biker’s repertoire. Remember there are no logs and will be none in the future at nearby Kelso or Albion. We don’t need a carbon copy of their trails over at the Agreement forest.
The stormy spring clouds FINALLY decided to briefly part and so our crew gathered in the Mohawk lot to make hay while the sun shone. We chose Mohawk Racetrack even though we would be working closer to 4th line and 10 sideroad as setting up at the latter would result in an untenable position given the ferocity of the flies. The fact is we were barely safe at the Mohawk track – ” Black flies! Black flies! Whatcha gonna do?”
Roundabouts quarter to ten our taste for donuts and coffee had expired, so we staged ourselves in the netting, bandannas, sprayed ourselves down with that deet, packed into the vehicles and peeled right up to 4th line and 10 sideroad. After arriving at the “deployment zone” we noticed there was another group of cars! More volunteers? Nope. A group of people calling themselves the edible hikers (or was that oedipal) were heading into the AF. Either way conditions would be a big surprise for them as a distinct lack of bug netting was noticed. Some people even had shorts on! LOL
After parking our cars HAFTA piled out and hiked to site. It quickly became apparent that trails are still quite flooded in areas as we had to backtrack around a section on Boundary Part A. Once our crew got to site on Boundary Part B the setting of armouring rock began as storms were forecast for shortly after 1pm and we had much to get accomplished.
Like the Romans discovered long before us, armouring or paving with natural rock is slow work. It will last forever, but it’s slow. Part of the chore is digging into the mud to find some sort of bottom for the rocks to rest on. If you don’t find bottom the rocks sink and settle in useless ways. The real bottom of a mud patch depends on how many people have hiked and ridden through it. Given sufficient traffic some mud patches become deep enough to swallow ATVs and tractors – A word of warning when approaching a new mud patch is to not take its depth for granted. Thankfully nothing so dramatic had occurred on the trail here or at least not yet!
In the past people had taken short-cuts in dealing with the mud by placing logs into the pit. That works for a while, but that solution is less than ideal as the typical logs placed are of such small diameter they’re more like branches. When those logs decompose they create humus which only deepens the mud pit.
Once the rotting wood cribbing/corduroy was removed we began to source rocks near the trail. Curt was disappointed there was not much in the way of amphibians around, but a few giant earth worms were discovered!
There were in fact three stretches of mud to repair and one sink hole just a bit further West.
Despite our best precautions the flies did take their pound of flesh, but that is life in the AF during spring. If you just sit around waiting for perfect conditions then nothing will happen – All in all the day turned out great and we completed our task!
Many thanks to the members who came out and gave back today, these are your trails! The club is going to buy some more spare bug netting so everybody who wants it can have access to it. Of course that won’t stop the ones that crawl up your pant legs – Please pass the calamine 🙂