When i’ve looked into it, almost every memorable trail that i’ve ridden or hiked has been the result of an organic bottom-up process – Grassroots if you will.
Dismiss me as crazy, but I think this bottom-up process is how single-track trails as a group have evolved a depth of character and range of intuitive solutions. I also think qualities like that, when possible, are far preferable to imported engineered solutions. Such complex qualities enrich and differentiate our riding and hiking experiences in a manner cookie-cutter designs can’t. The problem is that getting these grass-root/bottom-up processes working takes time and creativity. This problem is particularly obvious when in place processes are compared to the ready-made solutions floating around that are often straightforward and reassuring to certain agendas.
Some people love the ease of top-down solutions and will happily bulldoze with large equipment to create a monolith of soporific trail and sure, these “meat and potato” processes are great news when you’re engineering the 401(a type of trail in a sense), but when gazing at such creations you wonder if they fit in a forest. Certainly their smooth modernity contrasts with a place sculpted by the whims of evolution. Given the current state of things one must admit that the bottom-up process of creating a trail(or rather allowing a trail to “create” itself) is a luxury. Even with something supposedly as simple as maintaining trails in a forest we find ourselves pressed by deadlines and struggling to find our own solutions or to hybridised versions of the ready-made answers.
When relied on too heavily these standardised solutions tend to beige-wash any trail’s character and worse can sew disenfranchisement from the character of a forest. In a respect this makes us quite lucky here in the Agreement Forest(and Hilton Falls) as you’d have to travel over the horizon to find another place that has trails with as much character as those you find in the AF. In some sense the Agreement Forest’s meandering and labyrinthine trail system is one created before the reign of experts and standardised solutions.
All this talk about cookie-cutter designing isn’t to say every standard solution is awful and they do have a place in our tool kit.
Such a case for the standard solution occurred when the bottom-up process going on at Island Run needed to fix it’s increasingly boggy attitude. For certain lengths of the year a dismount on Island Run often meant you were coming out looking like the swamp thing or missing a shoe. Every rock that could be reasonably sourced had slowly been placed in the muck, in the hopes that one might tip-toe down the trail, but the muck slowly swallowed up those rocks. Thus it was that many summers ago, after a particularly wet spring, somebody from the forest community decided a “dimensional lumber” intervention was the only way out of the Island Run pickle. Operating alone there was little to no cash for any materials. Rumour has it the construction materials came from a resourceful person’s reused cedar deck. It certainly looked that way with drooping edges and rocking planks. Some called it a boardwalk and I suppose it sort of qualified.
After a decade of decay that so-called boardwalk was simply garbage sitting in the woods, so one sunny Saturday in November 2016 a group of thirty odd like-minded people decided to volunteer their time to help Island Run stay open and safe.
They were treated to a spectacular fall day, not too warm, not too cool and lots of sunshine. Shortly after 10am they hiked toward the coffee donated by a local Starbucks on 20 Market Dr(Hwy 25/401) and the free donuts brought to site by board member Rob. Between the parking lot and the coffee was their stash of lumber(Generously provided for forest users by the Region of Halton), so on the way to site everybody grabbed a bit of lumber to help speed up the relay process already going on with a borrowed trailer.
Once they had moved a small pile of lumber from the secluded storage area to the staging area volunteers began to transport it into the work site. This trip was over a bridge and down single-track. Being the AF there were rocks on the trail so the process was a fairly tedious one. The bridge got pretty crowded at times as it is really only wide enough for one person. Thankfully no one ended up in the creek.
Meanwhile at the boggy area on Island Run a team of volunteers was busy putting together the sub-framing for the boardwalk and laying it into the uneven terrain. This was not an easy task as some fairly large boulders are buried in the tread and had to be wormed around as best as possible with the 8ft long runners.
By about 1pm the lumber had all been transported from the staging area, sub frames were in place and joining/decking was underway. However a short intermission was required as everybody had worked up an appetite moving the lumber and laying the sub-frames. The organisers had planned ahead for this eventuality as a hot sausage(is that street trail meat?) was included to keep any “hangry” volunteers at bay.
After lunch the decking continued until every battery on site and in sight had been drained. The board spent a few more evenings that week putting the remaining screws into the decking and it’s now a 100% finished project forest users are enjoying with mud free tires and feet.
The Region of Halton Forestry Dept, through a contractor, will be engaging in a silviculture operation during 2016/2017. The first step of the operation is to widen the double-track and place gravel down so machinery can gain access to the section of forest that will, in the fall of 2017, be logged of softwood species so that native hardwoods can be allowed a chance to replace the pines.
Check out the map if you are interested. Please do not replace the boardwalk, HAFTA will take care of this.
Looking for a way to celebrate a summer of great riding HAFTA decided to host a ride and BBQ on September 18th.
Judging by the colour of your lawn you’d be forgiven for thinking 2016’s wasn’t a great summer, but the lack of rain that brought near drought conditions to Ontario also gave us a record number of dry trail days. The lack of rain also limited that ponding water the infamous AF mosquitoes love to breed in. The combination of both of these facts lead to exceptionally pleasant conditions in the forest. It was quite the summer and we hope you took advantage of it!
Attendance was really solid for this inaugural ride and BBQ. What made the quantity of riders who joined even more exciting(Aside from their quality!) was the fact it had poured rain the previous night. So much rain that Sunday’s dawn saw streamers of fog rolling out the escarpment forest and evaporating into sunny skies. One thing was for sure, riders better have packed their “A” game because it was going to be an adventure out on the trails.
There would be three different types of rides setting out that morning: A women’s ride led by HAFTA sponsor Karen, a moderate ride and an advanced ride both lead by the HAFTA executives. Everybody’s ride was to be topped off with some BBQ eats and a raffle.
Due to a generous donation of space and admission for HAFTA members by the folks at Conservation Halton we were able to host inside Hilton Falls. Many thanks to the staff there as the use of facilities is what makes the numbers for this event possible.
So that riders would have an idea of what they were in for, the advanced and easy routes were laid out using the very handy Trailforks app. One might think the routes would be quite similar as they were approximately the same length(22 and 18km respectively), but that would only be as the crow flies. We encouraged riders to choose wisely.
Given the inherent risks all riders had to sign in, receive the legal preamble, decide if they’d like some lunch and collect their raffle ticket. The raffle prizes available were among the best we’ve had to offer riders. A generous carbon fibre RaceFace cockpit was donated by the guys at Staran Cycles, a wack of t-shirts and a tune up from The Bike Zone, a set of SPD pedals from ViaCiclante, a free tune-up from Spokes and Slopes, a different sort of tune up from Glen Abby Physio and goodies from Karen your Rock Riding Realtor. Thanks to our generous sponsors everybody who attended had a decent shot to win something.
After all the fussing over paperwork was done we asked our riders to split into their preferred groups. Surprisingly the largest group was the advanced group which consisted of about half the riders who attended. Pretty neat! Oh and I must mention our sponsor Speed River Bicycle donated a giant box of inner tubes – The tubes were immediately pressed into service as we headed out.
It was quickly discovered the challenge of the day would be for riders to clean sections rather than set any sort of record for speed. Due to the damp trail conditions it was a challenge to hike some things and if one gained a bit of speed on the trail they felt like they were riding inside a giant pinball machine. This resulted in broken bike parts before people adapted to conditions. The day’s first victim was Darryl with a nice flat, don’t feel bad though, there was no shortage of people offering him words of encouragement.
There were multiple displays of this riding group’s talent going down as we stretched out across the bent rims. The intensity of sketchy rock stepped down a notch on Bent Rim 2, but one rider had a crash and had to leave with his friend. His friend later rejoined the group at the top of Bent Rim 2 reporting all was OK. Tyler from Staran earned himself a nice pedal to the shin somewhere in Bent Rim 2 which was temporarily bandaged up and to make it even more epic somehow a nest of mining bees was disturbed in the Bent Rim 2 kerfuffle and unfortunately that resulted in a few stings.
Yes, it was an adventure to get everybody to the top of Bent Rim 2. Wet limestone is super challenging to ride on and when you add in the dirt 10 or 20 other riders have tracked on top it gets even more slippery! Everybody was tired but feeling accomplished having made it out at the top of the Bent Rims. We relaxed a bit at the Northern fire pit, but Paulo reminded us this was the advanced route and quickly put the spurs to the group because we had only just got the ride started!
With perhaps the most challenging sections of trail behind us and the sun working away at the morning dew the pace of the ride began to pick up. Although we would reenter the Conservation area we had currently left it to begin the AF(Halton Regional Forest) segment of the route. The advanced crew blasted west across the top of the AF in an attempt to make up some time and then dove south into the trails where we ran into Karen’s group on I Will Allow It(IWAI).
Even though the pace had quickened we were running up against the clock. Time really does fly when you’re mountain biking and stomachs were grumbling for some lunch. We would have to call the advanced ride early and cut out a few of the segments. One of the last technical challenges of the day was seeing who could clear the slippery Teapot Connector. Two titans of rubber battled it out, fat bike vs. plus bike – Who would clean this greasy climb?
After everybody had their shot on Teapot we were down Stunt trail towards Border Run, then into Hilton Falls on Wandering Lynx and over to the Finish line. Thankfully the other two groups had already returned to the BBQ, so the grill was hot and ready to get some burgers flowing. Lunch wasn’t anything too gourmet, burgers, chips and a cold soda pop – Not too bad for $5 though!
Speaking of added value once everybody had devoured their lunch we raffled off our sponsor‘s gifts. Some of the donated prizes were pretty generous and all of them help to benefit and promote the AF trails – Not to mention the individual winners!
So that is a wrap on summer 2016 and our little day. I say little, but a surprising amount of effort goes into organising and hosting these events, but we’re happy todo it for our riding friends. We hope you had a great time that day and to see you on our build days in November because we’ll need your help!