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!