With the weather this weekend it seemed like a good time to remind people about when not to use the trails. Our trails hold up well to the amount of use they get and because they get so much traffic they tend to be very compressed and shed water well, especially with the 1000’s of drainage features we have installed and clean out each year. Because of this my rule of thumb is after it rains, if the roads in town have dried out, the trails are good to go. That comes with some caveats. Another thing I look at is the total rainfall, usually 0.3 inches of rain in a 24 hour period is what the trails can handle before they get saturated. So if it rains hard 3 days in a row the trails might be muddy for a bit longer. Then when you throw colder temperatures into the mix things get tricky. When there is a good freeze thaw cycle each day the trails tend to be good/frozen in the morning, followed by a thaw period where the top frozen layer of dirt gets really slimy, you know that kind of mud that sticks to everything. Then if its sunny, by the afternoon they tend to dry out and be at a good tacky consistency. With all of this use your own judgement and be aware of what activity you are doing on the trails. While you may be able to use a trail on foot or bike shortly after a storm, riding a horse may have more impact and it may be better to stay on the roads where the surface is more compact and rocky. In general take the time to look behind you and see what type of tracks you are leaving and think of the poor trail workers who have to fix those foot prints, hoof prints, and tire ruts. So get out this afternoon while its nice and if you’re looking for a rainy day project on Saturday morning come out to Wyoming Public Lands Day and volunteer at one of the many projects around the valley.
Over the last 2 weeks we have been busy taking care of a bunch of small projects including clearing trees off of the Skyline, Game, West Game, and Wilson Canyon trails. We have been brushing, fixing signs, looking for signs (if anyone knows the whereabouts of the Lithium sign I would very much like it back), and helping Jim Verdone and Evans with the Old Pass Road paving. The partnership with Jim and his work on maintaining the OPR over the years has led to amazing improvements to make sure this valuable piece of pathway remains usable for the future. Evans crews paved the upper section from Crater Lake to Teton Pass over the last 3 days. Additionally we have been working on the next batch of improvements for the Blair Dr. Bike Skills Park.
Finally something we have been working on for the last 5 years is data collection on the trails and pathways. We have been using EcoCounter units that have a small beam that counts travel in both directions and we have been working to get a solid number for how many people use the trail systems on Snow King and Teton Pass each day. The numbers above are from our summer counts (June 1 – August 31) and are an average of the past 5 years. Each counter gives a total count and shows a percentage of people going in to the forest and out back to the trailhead. Since the overall percentages are almost equal to 50% in and 50% out you infer that almost everyone is entering and leaving the forest on the same day. This means if you divide the total count by 2 you get the number of people using the forest each day. We have been using old monitoring data from the BTNF that showed while the 130 miles of frontcountry trail systems that Friends of Pathways maintains only make up 18% of the total trail mileage on the Jackson Ranger Distrcit, they see 84% of the use. The numbers we found from these counts indicate that percentage might be even higher. The trails around Snow King within the circle formed by Cache Creek and Game Creek saw 1,526 users per day while the Teton Pass trail system saw 910 users per day on average over the summer. This is why Friends of Pathways contributes $250,000 a year to the maintenance of the frontcountry trail system, to try and provide maintenance equal to the amount of use the trails get. If you enjoy the great access we have to high quality trails consider donating to Friends of Pathways at Old Bill’s to help us continue on the 20 years of trail work we have done with the Bridger-Teton.
The last 2 weeks were busy ones. The youth trail crew finished up their season by clearing trees off the ridge trail with Randy, then they cleaned all the drains on the Big Rocks trail. After that they built a turnpike in Black Canyon, braced the kiosk at the Trail Creek trailhead, and shored up the center support on the Crater bridge. They also worked with 2 volunteer groups to extend the Blair Dr. Kids Bike Park singletrack and add some fun skills features. We were sad to see this great crew leave to go back to school, this has left myself and Mike Piker on and we spent this week clearing trees off the Skyline, Hagen, Phillip’s Connector, and Arrow trails. We have also been working diligently to collect trail use data at all the trail access points to the Bridger-Teton around Snow King (23 access points) and Teton Pass (13 access points). Hopefully when compiled this will give the BTNF a better picture of how many people use the national forest trails each day and hopefully result in some more trail funding for these popular areas. Hope to see everyone out on trails this weekend, swing by either the Bikes, Baskets, and Brews event at JHMR or the Pass Bash at the Stagecoach!
This week the crew worked on rebenching some switchbacks on the Ferrin’s Trail and breaking off the corner of the Ferrin’s Rock. After a hearing more stories of bike crashes there (handlebars are getting wider right?) and having to try and shore up the half bench trail that dips under the rock on a steep side hill several times over the last few years we finally let loose the raw energy of the youth trail crew on it. Turns out a half dozen people sledge hammering on a boulder can break off a foot or two of rock in a few hours. The crew then reenforced the cribbing and leveled the trail out with all the rubble and dirt so the whole corner is much more sustainable now.
The crew then moved to a section of braided trail on the KC trail and closed and rehabbed the lower trail which had eroded into a gully. They then added check dams to the lower trail to prevent erosion, tilled up the old trail, reseeded it, and covered it with erosion netting made from shredded Aspens. Then they rebenched the upper trail and added drainage features to make sure it won’t form a gully like the old one.
Next the crew moved up to the History Trail to clear a large tree and build a turnpike on a boggy section of trail. The crew extended the turnpikes that the Boy Scouts built in 2008 and channeled the water under the trail in a culvert and dug a large Y ditch to catch the water seeping from above. They finished it off by peeling guide logs, staking them in place, and filling the whole thing with gravel to raise the level of the tread. The crew finished up the week by working on the new East Table take out trail. This new trail was built to replace the old take out trail that was on a very steep side hill that was slumping.
Also this week the new layout of the Big Munger trail was connected by the members of DIRT who are working as Crosscut Trails and Forestry. The 4 new reroutes on the southern leg of the Big Munger trail removed the 30-45% eroded sections of the trail that went straight up the hillside. When myself and Tim Farris laid out the trail we did so with the sustainable grade of the soils at Munger Mountain in mind. This also means the new trail is much more accessible by Mountain Bikes and specifically E-Mountain Bikes which are allowed on the Munger trails from July 1 to September 9 each year. The project will continue to touch up the trail and rehab the old eroded sections of trail and will move the the northern leg of the trail next year to make the loop to the top of Munger Mountain much more enjoyable by all. Head out that way this weekend and enjoy the new section of trail!
This week the crew worked with another great volunteer group from the Beckett YMCA for 2 days on the West Game trail. They built a turnpike and a small reroute at a seasonal runoff between bridge 3 and 4. They also built a causeway to raise the approach to bridge 3 above the creek which has formed a small oxbow bend right beside the trail in recent years. The crews split and cleared some downfall on the Hagen Highway, Black Canyon, Arrow, and Ridge trails from the winds that blew through over the weekend. The Black Canyon crew also cleaned 98 drainage features on their hike to help get water off the trail and prevent erosion. They also got to practice crosscutting while clearing the Goodwin Lake trail up to Jackson Peak with one of the Wilderness Rangers. The trails should be in great shape with the rain from last night. Be sure to get out to the Rendezvous Hill Climb at JHMR on Saturday and stop by the Pass Bash at the Stagecoach afterwards.
This week the crew built a turnpike on the Phillip’s Connector trail and worked with Randy and Cam to buff out sections of the Ridge trail. Their main project this week however was closing and rehabbing 38 short cuts on the Sink or Swim trail. I’ll start with some history, the Sink or Swim trail was a user created trail adopted by the USFS in 1995. Early maps of it around that time show it labeled as the Old Man Flats trail denoting where it crosses the ski run of the same name on Snow King. There were several variations that went up or down depending on where people hiked or rode their horses, these were consolidated into one trail around 2003 and to the best of my knowledge these ups and downs were the origination of the “Sink or Swim” name. More recently numerous short cuts have evolved for what I see as one of 3 reasons. To be clear, while hikers and horse riders cause their fair share of trail issues, this appears to be solely caused by mountain bikes. They seem to be caused by:
1. People who want to go fast in a straight line. To this I say there’s a sport called road biking you might like. If you want to improve your Strava time, improve your skill, don’t bring the trail down to your level.
2. People avoiding a difficult section of trail. While I can empathize with this more I still say don’t bring the trail down to your level, practice to bring your skill up to the level of the trail. This ethic is similarly applied to climbing, skiing, and mountaineering.
3. People trying to create jumps or features. Remember this is a multi-use trail and the USFS wants to see development like this only in the resorts or on the approved Teton Freedom Rider trails on the pass that have a dedicated trail crew to make sure these features are safe and well maintained.
We looked at each short cut and chose to keep the one that was the most sustainable. This usually meant the one that had a grade reversal where water could drain off the trail naturally. Sink or Swim has no drainage features because of the many ups and downs on the trail compared to say Black Canyon which is almost all down and has 128 drains that the crew clears every year to keep water from eroding the trail. If both options were sustainable we chose to keep the one that slowed users, again looking at the multi-use trail and trying to make sure user groups get along. We closed each by digging it up, re-seeding it, putting down erosion netting made out of shredded Aspens and biodegradable netting, the secured large logs in place, and covered the whole area with green limbs where they weer available. Hopefully this will be a solution that works for everyone and if you have any concerns please feel free to reach out to me. Hope everyone has a fun weekend and enjoys the Teton Pass Hill Climb and the Teton Food Tour!
This week the crew teamed up with a great volunteer group from the Beckett YMCA to build 2 bridges on the History Trail. These are a continuation of the Teton Bridge Project from last year bringing the grant total to 17 bridges built or replaced on the Teton Pass trail system. The dimensional lumber bridges go together quickly but require many hands to carry all the lumber and tools needed into the field to construct them. Randy and Cam cleared some trees on Phillip’s Canyon and Chris got a few on West Game that fell during all the wind this week. If you see a tree down on the trails give us a shout and we will send one of the crew or ambassadors out to get it. The crew also fixed a turnpike on the History Trail and built a new one on the Hagen trail at a wet spot that developed over the winter. The Hagen trail is in prime condition right now, especially if you are a horsefly so be sure to go early in the day or keep moving on your adventure.
All the front country trails are good to go! After a slow start tot he summer the warm weather has melted back the snow and its a prime time to get out on your favorite trails. This week the crews finished a turnpike in Cache Creek, improved all the drainage ditches around the Crater bridges, fixed bench on the Ferrin’s trail, buffed out sections of the Ridge trail with Randy and Cam, and started on 2 bridges on the History trail that we will build with a volunteer group next week. The Cache to Game race is going on this Saturday morning if you’re looking for a fun run or hike to start your weekend. There will also be some closures on the Phillip’s Ridge trail starting next week as the USFS continues their fuels reductions project. Please heed the closures as crews will be chainsawing and dropping trees along the trail corridor. Read the information on the kiosks and they will be in different areas each day but will be done by 4pm each day and are not working Sundays.
Well we made it to the 4th of July with some patches of snow left on the Arrow, Black Canyon, and Lithium trails due to a pretty good snow year and a cool spring. Everything is passable out there with a little bit of walking over the few remaining drifts. Crews cleared the Ridge, Phillip’s Pass, and Black Canyon this week as well as fixing a hole in the Arrow trail where an avalanche tore out a tree and roots across the middle of the trail. The crew also shored up the bridge at the end of the Arrow trail, improved the switchbacks on the eastern side of Skyline, and cleared and opened Skyline for the year. We also worked with a great group from Teton Science Schools who helped to build a turnpike on the Cache Creek trail. Have a great holiday weekend!
Chris P likes to say that the Teton Pass trails are always good to go by July 4th, and it looks like it’ll be right down to the wire this year. Snow drifts remain in shaded north facing areas and ridges and while passable provide some difficulty. The Cache Game area and Munger Mountain are in great shape and our youth crew was able to install several turnpikes on Wilson and West Game this week to improve it before the Cache Creek Mountain Bike Race. The Snow King Hill Climb running race is this Saturday and the Cache to Game running race is also coming up on July 13 if you’re looking for a fun run or hike. Next week the crew will be working on clearing Blacks and Ski Lake to Phillips Pass as well as clearing and opening the Skyline trail for the season on Monday July 1!
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