It Ain’t Gonna Build Itself!

Currently, it is weathering outside, and I am loving it.

When I say “weathering,” I mean the weather is doing anything but shining sun or starlight or moonlight. So, it could be cloudy, rainy, snowy, drizzly, or foggy. Pigs could even be flying around and it would fit my definition, so long as they were flocking thickly enough to blot out the Sun.

Or flying deer? Oh deer…

Yeah, I’m a weird one… I look forward to the “inclement” weather, and get mildly depressed when the clouds pass by and the Sun comes back out. But water is life, and the storms are its herald.

Come on rain!

Anyways. Have you ever wondered how trails get built? A lot of times, by volunteers, donating their time, blood, sweat, and profanity to build a winding noodle of packed dirt through the great outdoors, giving you a path to take to be closer to nature. A lot of work goes into the trails we use, rock retaining walls, drains to keep water from pooling, building on contour to keep erosion minimal, considerations for anticipated users… and all this after extensive studies, analysis, and paperwork. Most people just see the dirt on top, few see the time and effort.

What you see: Dirt on top. Underneath, a few tons of rockwork to keep the dirt in place.

And then there’s the maintenance. Trails have two main enemies: Water, and users. A well planned and constructed trail will last years with minimal maintenance to clear drains and break down berms. A poorly laid out trail might last a season before it erodes into a trench.

A lot of the trails around Flagstaff need help. Either through poor layout and execution, or just plain use and neglect. New trails are also in the works. We have volunteer trail day events, where anyone can come out and help work on the trails, and it is a great way for the community to get involved, and see what goes into the trail system. But, it’s not enough.

Enter the Volunteer Trail Crew, a.k.a. The Flagstaff Trail Faeries. An autonomous group working to repair current system trails, and build new ones, with approval from the Forest Service. Right now it’s sort of a pilot program to work out the bugs, but so far, things seem smooth. We’ve had a few work days already, on Secret and Sunset, fixing erosion issues, re-building turns, pulling stumps, and closing cheater lines.

Rock armoring a technical turn and drop, bypassing a section of trail that was eroding out after not even one season.

I’ve been doing trail days for something like ten years now, and I’m excited to be part of a program to work on the trails on a bit higher level than before.

So, next time you’re out on the trails, and you see a group of folks working on it, give them a high five and a thank you! Especially if they’re wearing a bright green Trail Faeries shirt!

Rider laying tracks on freshly completed construction.

Flagstaff Trail Faeries (Public Facebook Page)

Flagstaff Trail Faeries (Flagstaff Biking Org page)

That mountain, from another mountain. The view from Hobbit’s Forest, Mt. Elden.

Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.
~ John Muir

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