Saturday, November 21, 2009

Tele-Turner on the team!

I had a great meeting yesterday with Lee Turner, an avid mountain biker and telemark skier who brings a wealth of trail savvy to the table. The guy is a walking trail resource! He's offered to support our trail designers in flagging the route, and will be joining JBR Environmental in helping us with the necessary biological surveys for NEPA approval. Not only that, but he'll be supporting me in writing the EA's (environmental assessments) for the balance of the project. What a tremendous guy to have on the team!

For those of you who've ridden MTBs in the Reno area, Lee and his fellow Poe-Dunks have done a tremendous job with trail advocacy and trail construction on Peavine Mountain. That is phenomenal close-in riding for Reno denizens and is a tremendous resource for motorized and non-motorized users alike. Lee has a lot of experience working with IMBA crews, with the agencies, and with volunteer teams and, with his fellow Poe-Dunks, has a track record of getting good stuff done efficiently.


Gar Abbas, district ranger for the USFS Ruby Mountains Ranger District, invited me to present at the All Employee Days meeting for the Humboldt-Toyabe National Forest in Reno on Wednesday. The project was extremely well-received and I think everybody was impressed with the coalition we've been able to build. It'll be nice, going forward, to have the rest of the folks from the HTNF behind us.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

So, what are we waiting for?!?!?

Getting impatient? Me too. But these things just take time.

Right now we're waiting for the folks from the Forest Service to complete the work required of them by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA was passed back in 1969 in response to negative consequences to the environment from offshore oil drilling in the Santa Barbara Channel, among other things. While it was certainly well-intentioned, NEPA's effect was to bury the agencies in paperwork and slow recreational development to a crawl.

NEPA requires that all government agencies conduct studies of any potential environmental impacts of proposed actions on public lands. Makes sense, as far as it goes. The challenge comes when you realize the numbers of studies thus required - for everything from moving a fenceline to putting out a drinking trough to building a gold mine to building a trail. Every, single thing done on public land requires a NEPA analysis of some level... Every. Single. Thing. You could just about mow down every tree in every national forest in the country just to keep up with the paper it generates.

I can categorically state that I could never work for the government after watching what these people have to go through to get anything done. I'd strangle people. I really would.

Anyway, the folks from the USFS tell me that we're very close to having it all done. They want to make sure that every T is crossed and every I dotted, which is an attitude I can appreciate. It just takes SO LONG....

Anyway, once the NEPA is done for this first part of the project we can get up there and start doing prep work for the trail construction. Stay tuned and hope the good weather holds!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Great meeting, great input from Elko County Commissioners

AND - we have a new member on the design team!

Long-time Lamoille denizen and Ruby Mountain explorer Sharon Reynolds has offered her GIS talents in support of the project. Up until now, we've done the majority of the work in consumer-grade GIS software... but at some point we were going to need to get real about our maps and satellite imagery so that the pros designing and building the trail had the tools they need. Sharon stepped up and told us that she was our girl - and heck, she was suggesting all kinds of amazingly useful stuff that hadn't even occurred to us. Great to have a GIS pro on board!


We were on the agenda this morning for the Elko County Commissioners to give them an update on the project - and, frankly, to dispel some misinformation I think they may have been getting about what we're up to. They were appreciative AND they came with some great questions and suggestions that are going to help us make the project stronger.

Warren Russell was looking for quantitative numbers on projected trail usage. That's a very valid question and once we figure out a way to answer it, it'll significantly help our fundraising efforts down the line. We've already started tossing around ideas... perhaps to do some sort of survey next year at the Ruby Crest trailhead in Lamoille Canyon. Those of you who have opinion survey experience are invited to chime in. Demar Dahl was very interested in our pursuit of horse-drawn trail construction techniques, and offered some equipment he had back at the ranch for our usage. How cool is that? We have a lot more to learn in this regard but if we can make that work it'll be a real win not only for this project, but for other potential projects down the road.

All in all it was a very positive meeting - three members of the Friends of the Trail were there in support, and it was great to have them at my back. A good day for the project.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


To heck with all these words - here are some pictures!

These are from Greg Mazu's blog - he is one of the trail designers working on the project, and laid out the absolutely exceptional route on the first segment (Lamoille Canyon to Talbot Canyon). He did the original layout in a December 2007 blizzard - amazing work, especially considering the ruggedness of the terrain.

Here's his blog.

And here's Greg up skiing with me near the first segment route - he's a quality guy in all respects.

While we're sharing pictures, here's Bill Wolf, a good friend who's managing the project for Great Basin Institute, having lunch on a GREAT ski day up above the first trail segment:

Secret-Lamoille Trail compared w/Ruby Crest Trail

During the scoping process for the Secret-Lamoille Trail project, one of the very few folks who spoke out against us asked "Why do we need another trail? We already have the Ruby Crest Trail!" Well, to my mind, there are several reasons:

1. The Ruby Crest Trail is internationally known for its scenic beauty and for the amazing backcountry experience it provides to users. And, because it's internationally known, it's starting to get more and more traffic. When I was a kid, it was rare to see anybody on that trail past Lamoille Lake, two miles in from the Lamoille Canyon trailhead. When I was in college you'd see folks camped at Liberty Lake. And then Favre Lake. And then North Furlong.

These days it's a rare trip that you don't run into other people along the length of the trail. That's not a bad thing - they've universally been pretty cool folks. But that experience tells me that the demand is there for more trails of that length, beauty and remoteness here in the Rubies. The reconstructed Secret-Lamoille Trail will give those folks an opportunity to visit a completely different part of the range while enjoying the kind of rugged Ruby Mountain experience for which we're rightly known.

2. The Ruby Crest Trail provides an alpine mountain experience. It crosses 10,000' passes, wanders around jewel-like alpine lakes, lets visitors see bristlecones and marmots and mountain bluebirds in their natural habitats. What it DOESN'T provide is a lengthy window for would-be visitors, nor does it provide much of an opportunity to enjoy lower- altitude plant and animal communities. You can't reliably get a horse over those passes before July 4th unless you're willing to tear up a lot of ground (I'm not, and neither is anybody with any sense in his head.) And once the snow flies you're done for the year.

The Secret-Lamoille Trail is a different animal altogether. Its high point of 8300' is lower than the 9000' Ruby Crest Trail trailhead in Lamoille Canyon. It will be open significantly earlier in the year, and portions of it near the Secret Pass trailhead will be suitable for year-round use in dry years. It wanders through lower-altitude plant and animal communities - pinyons and mahoganies and serviceberries and such - and in that respect beautifully complements the mountain experience provided by the Ruby Crest Trail.

3. For the most part, the Ruby Crest Trail is a Point A to Point B experience. That's not a bad thing - in fact, that's one of the nice things about committing to the trail, you know you're going to be there for a while.

The Secret-Lamoille Trail can certainly be a Point A to Point B experience, as well. The finished trail will be 50 miles long or so. BUT, when you start looking at maps, you can see a lot of other recreational opportunities made real by this trail - loop dayhikes and one- day horseback rides. Overnight out-and-backs to mountain lakes. Shorter multi-night trips than what you can easily do on the Ruby Crest Trail. The Secret-Lamoille Trail opens up a LOT of country and crosses a LOT of other trails - its reconstruction creates a multiplier effect that increases recreational options far more than what a Point A to Point B project would provide.

4. The Ruby Crest Trail is a wilderness trail. That's a GREAT thing for folks looking for a wilderness experience. However, people who ride mountain bikes can't ride in wilderness. Ever. And they like trails, too.

Much of the Secret-Lamoille Trail is non-wilderness, which means that it'll be available for mountain bikers to use. It will be the FIRST trail constructed specifically for use by mountain bikes in Elko County. That means it will be more enjoyable, more sustainable, and more user-friendly for mountain bikes than the very few riding options available here. Not only that, but bringing mountain bikers into the local trail fold means that there'll be more people out there willing to work to build and maintain the trail for the long run. It is my heartfelt wish and goal to get mountain bikers, horsemen and hikers together on trail teams to build and maintain this trail. Only by learning about what other groups want and need can potential trail conflicts be averted.

And - those who WANT a wilderness experience are served by this trail as well. Much of the trail's second segment, between Conrad Canyon and Soldier Canyon, is wilderness. And it is REMOTE. It goes through beautiful country that hasn't been publicly accessible for decades. It crosses trails that lead into some of the Rubies' least-traveled alpine areas. You don't HAVE to take "the (trail) less traveled-by", but it's there if that's the experience you're looking for.

I guess the bottom line for me is not "why do we need this trail," but rather "how did we ever get along without it?"

How to post a comment

I have had a couple of people tell me they've been having difficulty signing in. Sorry about that!

I've changed the settings so that people can comment anonymously. You don't have to sign in to ask questions, make comments, etc. It gives you the option of giving your name, but you don't have to if you'd rather not.

Hope that helps!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Secret-Lamoille Trail Project Maps

These are the working maps of the project. Keep in mind that trail design work is still underway on the 2nd and 3rd segments - we'd like to use existing trail as much as humanly possible to minimize construction costs. Our designer is spending a lot of time on the ground figuring out what's there already and how to link it all together - there are a lot of old trails already up there that have been closed to public access for years.

The really fun part comes when you start looking at some of the backcountry options that this trail opens up when combined with some of the old trails already up there. Some of those trails need maintenance work, obviously - since there's been no access maintenance has been on the back burner. But with access open there are some fun possibilities available.

Here are a few ideas, some suitable for dayhikes/after work rides, some suitable for backcountry overnights. Non-wilderness routes are bolded and open to mountain bikes. Wilderness routes are open to hikers and horsemen only. Keep in mind that the trail to Verdi Lake is NOT currently in good shape for MTBs - it's open, but it won't be suitable without some work. By rebuilding some switchbacks above Talbot Creek, though, the trail would be quite enjoyable to the 8500' mark.

From Lamoille Canyon trailhead:
Overlook/spring - 9 miles RT
MTB loop - 27 miles RT
Verdi Lake - 14.18 miles one way
Thorpe Canyon - 18.34 miles one way
Soldier Canyon trailhead - 31 miles one way

From Soldier Canyon trailhead:
Ridge overlook - 8.08 miles RT
Cold Lakes - 8.77 miles one way
Robinson Lake/Cold Creek loop - 11.81 mile loop
Ross Creek loop - 15.57 mile loop
Secret Pass trailhead - 17.5 miles one way

Secret-Lamoille Trail Project Overview

This is the published overview of the Secret-Lamoille Trail Reconstruction Project. It gives the project's history, an overview of what is entailed with each project segment, and a project timeline.

Welcome to the Ruby Mountain Trails blog!

If you're interested in trails in the Ruby Mountains of Northeastern Nevada, this is your blog. If you're interested in helping to get MORE trails in the Rubies, this is REALLY your blog!

We've established this blog to help friends of the Secret-Lamoille Trail Reconstruction Project stay in touch, keep updated about volunteer opportunities, and let their friends know where to go to get more information. And, since most of us are regular users of the Ruby Mountain trail system already, it's a place to share ideas about destinations with other folks who might be interested in visiting our version of Paradise.

Welcome - more will be forthcoming shortly.