HAFTA gets asked
- Is it free to ride in the Agreement forest?
- Am I allowed to cross into Hilton Falls?
- These trails are too difficult, do people really mountain bike all this?
- Do people really ride all winter long?
- What is the big deal about riding or hiking in mud?
- There was metal lathing on my favourite skinny, what happened?
- I rode and made whatever I wanted for years, why can't I just keep doing what I want to?
- I heard there are endangered plants and animals in that forest, is it true?
- No studded tires or crampon shoes, is that actually a thing?
- Are there Ticks, poison ivy or other dangers?
Is it free to ride in the Agreement forest?
There is no charge to come and ride, but nothing is ever exactly free. HAFTA is all about spreading the stoke and wants to see continued mountain biking opportunities in the Halton Region forests, unfortunately we can’t do it all by ourselves and need rider support so that our volunteer-run not for profit can afford to engage in official trail maintenance. Know that when you come to the Agreement forest and use the single-track trails that Halton Region does not maintain any of them and will not in the near future. The work to keep these trails trails open is the product of thousands of unpaid volunteer hours accumulated over decades. Great trail networks don’t grow on trees, but under them with the support of a community. Please give back.
Am I allowed to cross into Hilton Falls?
Not unless you hold a Conservation Halton season’s pass. Conservation Halton has invested money in creating and maintaining infrastructure in the park. Things like well stocked fire-pits, toilets, bridges, snowmobiles, trucks, chainsaws, signs and emergency help cost real cash. Hilton Falls requires visitors to have a purchased day or seasons pass. If you possess either of these then by all means crossing between the two areas is acceptable. It is possible to avoid entering Hilton property(watch for signs or trees painted red) while riding the AF, but you’d miss Bent Rim, relaxing at the fire-pit, watching the waterfall and have to ride a lot of double-track. The AF and Hilton Falls go together like peas and carrots, we are better off with them! Help them thrive and we will too.
These trails are too difficult, do people really mountain bike all this?
For riders who have travelled, we’d classify our trails as intermediate, with some advanced sections. If you’ve only ridden local places like Albion Hills or Kelso you will find few beginner trails here. Our trails are mostly an oddity in Ontario and a consequence of rocky escarpment geography. Mountain biking is a sport that relies on skill and technical intricacy at least as much as it does on your fitness. The unique terrain of the Agreement Forest makes pairing this eminently apparent.
“Most enjoyable activities are not natural; they demand an effort that initially one is reluctant to make. But once the interaction starts to provide feedback to the person’s skills, it usually begins to be intrinsically rewarding.”
People may feel it unfair and frustrating that the courses in the Agreement forest are a step more technical than typical Ontario riding, but when you become bored with other Ontario offerings you’ll love it. The spirit of these trails is wilder and more rugged than most.
“The task must be made difficult, for only the difficult inspires the noble-hearted.“
Please don’t install handicaps, flatten or modify the trails by yourself. There are plenty of other riding styles that can be had in the area, starting right across the 401 at Kelso. Once Agreement Forest trails are within your skill level you’ll be hooked and glad there are places like it to further help you hone yourself.
Do people really ride all winter long?
It’s true! In years past winter riding opportunities were limited, but with the recent surge in popularity of the eponymous “Fat” bike, that can have tires up to five inches across, the Agreement forest has seen quite an increase in winter visitors. Of course not all trails are travelled in the winter as keeping a trail sufficiently packed down is a moving target. Many riders will cross-country ski and snow-shoe when the snow is fresh and then move to their bikes when the trails are compact. The trails in the forest are quite flat which makes for good winter riding and they seem to get the right number of riders to prevent significant ice. We definitely recommend carrying a spare winter jacket in your bag in case of mechanical and extra socks in case of wet feet. Swapping to a water bottle or Thermos helps prevent your drink from freezing and stopping by the fire-pit is a must if you’re just out for some fresh air. Pack a snack and something to sit on, warm your hands and remember the fat bikes are not always necessary!
What is the big deal about riding or hiking in mud?
When the trails are muddy, most peoples tend to ride or walk the edge of the trail to avoid the deep parts and getting their bike really dirty or ending up with wet feet. Over time their action begins to substantially widen the trail. When things finally dry the single-track trails looks more like double-track and its not as fun to ride or hike. You may have noticed also the AF trails have a lot of rocks on them. If the trails are ridden when muddy, the boots and tires squish the mud out from around the rocks, eventually causing them to be more exposed and become loose. Normally the dry mud cements rocks in place. With enough traffic those loose rocks become a nuisance on the trail, especially when they roll out of place leaving an exposed hole.
The same applies to tree roots! When users see the exposed slippery roots or round rocks, they tend to go around them(As opposed to over when they are dry) thus increasing the footprint of the trail. When the land managers and biologists see this, they cringe. Erosion and widening is a negative impact. Even though erosion is a natural phenomenon, we need to insure that it occurs slowly and naturally. Not accelerate its process such as by removing vegetation on the land or redirecting water flow – which rutted and widening trails can do. We need to remember that as users of the trails we love, we also need to respect the them as they don’t really belong to any one of us. The goal of the Region and CA is to preserve the forest as a natural resource and a sanctuary for local wildlife. By proxy these are HAFTA’s goals as well. We want to sustain these trails so that they can be enjoyed by future generations. We want the trails to have least impact as possible and that includes not riding muddy trail.
There was metal lathing on my favourite skinny, what happened?
Some individuals have taken it upon themselves to install this material. HAFTA is not doing this and you shouldn’t ride stunts that have this material on them.
A simple fall on it can leave you with a nasty wound that looks like you ran cheese-grater over your skin it will also tear up your favourite shorts, t-shirt or gloves. Often the nails used to hold lathe in place are installed in the hundreds willy-nilly and represent a hazard as they are not flush. If you don’t bail on the lathe, then you should know it is extremely hard on your tire tread or sidewalls. Really the only place you see this stuff is in the temperate rainforests of B.C. where the forest is constantly wet. It is not needed in the Agreement Forest! If the feature isn’t dry please just stay off it. We’re working to modernize all the features in the forest, but everything is ride at your own risk. We assume no responsibility implied or otherwise if you ride these trail features.
I rode and made whatever I wanted for years, why can't I just keep doing what I want to?
Back in the day Milton’s population was in the tens of thousands, today it is nearly 5 fold higher. This increase has positives and negatives for everybody, but one thing it means is the old status-quo won’t work. There is now increased pressure on the limited resources offered by the Agreement forest and as a result more official over-sight is the new norm. Back in the day you’d be lucky to meet anybody as you travelled around the forest, but nowadays you can run into fifteen different bikers and hikers on a given Saturday. Hilton falls is typically bustling with families on the weekend. If mountain bikers continue to open unauthorized trails and erect features they will be seen as a risk by the managers of the forest. The results of that aren’t positive and will increase the odds of trail closure. By unifying we can give our sport a strong voice. Together HAFTA will work in a professional capacity to increase our local rider’s positive impact, self-respect and reduce the odds of closures. This sport has a lot to offer anybody who wants to take it up and it would be a shame for any one individual to take those benefits away from another because of inappropriate feelings of entitlement. The forest is a common area that belongs equally to all of us.
I heard there are endangered plants and animals in that forest, is it true?
There are at least two endangered species that occur in the region. The first is the Jefferson Salamander(Ambystoma jeffersonianum). The second is the Butternet tree (Juglans cinerea). There is also a wild flower called Green Violet (Hybanthus concolor) that although not endangered is recognized as rare by botanists in Ontario. All of these species are not endangered or rare because of mountain bikers, but due to a loss of habitat and other selective pressures. Despite not being the direct agents responsible for endangering them, mountain bikers dutifully play an active role in attempting to preserve the remaining populations of these lifeforms. In the past we’ve closed favourite trails and constructed board-walks with our free time when species became recognized(as lately as 2011) as endangered. We give thought to how sensitive areas can be given considerable leeway.
If you want to know more, follow the links above. Please stay on the trails, leash your pets and use the board-walk where possible.
No studded tires or crampon shoes, is that actually a thing?
We prefer you don’t.
A few years ago it was brought to our attention that winter equipment which uses metal spikes and studs to overcome ice had been affecting rocks and tree roots. At HAFTA we are always looking for reasonable ways to minimize the impacts of uses and generate sustainability.
“Who cares if I scratch up a bunch of inanimate rocks and roots, we are talking about my safety”
HAFTA isn’t an environmentalist group, but it has tried for years to encourage riders and hikers to consider how they affect the trails and forest they benefit from. We try to educate people that metal studs offers no increase in grip on snow, break-loose and nibble through soft limestone rock and eat into tree roots. We tell people our trail network is peculiar for Ontario, in that it’s almost all rocks and roots; that the impacts of studs are cumulative and therefore powerful over a sufficient time-scale.
Our policy, which is that we prefer you don’t, leads that of the land managers in Halton Region and Conservation Halton. This policy attempts to lower the impact of recreation on the forest.
Given the meteoric rise of fat-biking in recent years we find ourselves in new, uncharted territory in regards to studded tire impacts. Particularly when the snow-pack is shallower with rocks and roots totally exposed there is a disturbing trend for riders to continue using studs; leaving behind a streak of gouged rock and stressed-out trees.
HAFTA asks you to think about your effect on the trails and to tread lightly.
Are there Ticks, poison ivy or other dangers?
Poison Ivy grows in limited areas, patches are known to occur at the pines and at the 10 side-road double-track. Avoid handling tires and learn how to identify it.
Ticks are in the forest as well, maybe even ticks that carry Lyme Disease, if you find a tick attached to you be extra cautious as it is a possibility. Luckily the type of forest that ticks seem to thrive in(grassy fields) does not compose the majority of the Agreement Forest’s land.
In general, the best way to avoid these things is to stay on the trail. Staying on trail is important, not only because you could step on a sensitive plant or critter, but because there are plants and vines out there that will make you wish you hadn’t. Other hazards in the forest can include widow maker trees and debris such as loose sticks and old fencing If you venture far into Hilton falls there are areas with significant exposure to a fall.