Thursday, April 29, 2010

Mark your calendars - National Trails Day June 5

National Trails Day will be celebrated on June 5th, and that will be a great opportunity for folks interested in the Secret-Lamoille Trail Project to get out, roll up their sleeves, and get to work! Americorps volunteers from the Nevada Conservation Corps will have been out for a week or two at that point, getting some ground work done - but there'll be a very real need for folks from the community to come out and help us with some rock work. There are a number of switchbacks right off the bat that are going to need to be completed to a pretty high standard. The nice part about having community volunteers do these switchbacks is that - when you walk or ride the trail, you'll be able to point to it and say "yep, I helped build that one!" Pretty cool if you ask me.

We're also going to be developing a volunteer calendar for the summer so that we have crew leaders on hand as needed to be sure that our volunteer crews are being used to their best effectiveness. I'll post that calendar here and will e-mail it to those of you on the Friends of the Trail list. And - if you have a group at work, your church, your club, etc. that wants to schedule a group volunteer day, let me know and I'll get that on the calendar, too. We want to make sure that you have a good volunteer experience, and we want to make sure that, if you make a commitment to help us with the trail, your work goes to the best possible use.

We're hoping to bust out 11 miles of trail this summer - it's a big job but, working together, I'm confident we can pull it off.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

PSA - Fears, Tears and Beers

OK, so it's not *strictly speaking* about trails in the Ruby Mountains of Nevada. This is a kind of a "bigger picture" deal.

The Great Basin Trails Alliance is hosting the fifth annual Fears, Tears and Beers MTB Enduro in Ely June 12th.

If you love trails and/or love riding mountain bikes, this is a don't miss event. I mean, come on, they route the ride through the Jailhouse Casino. How often do you get a chance to do that?!?

The race itself is an enduro format, which means timed sections of flat-out downhill racing looniness are interspersed with a whole lot of social riding in an amazingly beautiful area. Some people (*ahem*) are so serious about the racing portions that they enjoy an adult beverage or two along the way.

But there are folks who really are serious about getting good times. More power to them. Makes for good pictures.

The event raises money to build more trail in this part of the world. And - I like the Great Basin Trail Alliance's philosophy - this is an ALLIANCE. Everybody who loves trails is invited - whether you ride a bike, ride a horse, ride a dirtbike, ride an ATV, ride the soles of your hiking boots. Come one, come all, lets work together to get some great stuff done. How can you not support a group like that?

Anyway, riders and volunteers are needed. Check out their website at for info and entry forms.

With friends like these...

Yesterday's great conversation with Colleen Memeo at Stewart Title reminds me that I really need to highlight some of the help we're getting from folks in the community. It's been amazing.

Northeastern Nevada Stewardship Group - Where the project came from. The Recreation Pod of the Stewardship Group, led by then-rec pod chairman Duane Jones from Cedar Creek Clothing, asked the community what they wanted to see happen with recreational development. The community told us - lower-altitude trails in the Rubies, and *much* more access in the Rubies. This entire project sprang from that series of conversations and from the connections with the mines, agencies and local recreationists made in those meetings.

Barrick Gold North America - came to the rescue when this project was just a twinkle in my eye... we went to them with the idea, told them we needed to pay for a trail designer, and with pretty much nothing more than that they said - OK! Gave us a five-figure grant to do it. Talk about a leap of faith! That's Dave Ashby from the USFS in the picture, as well as Duane Jones from Cedar Creek Clothing, then-chairman of the NNSG Rec Pod, and Lou Schack from Barrick.

Backcountry Horsemen - We gave a presentation on the project in its early days to the national board of directors of Backcountry Horsemen. We needed to demonstrate to the Forest Service that we could not only build a trail, but that we could maintain it. No maintenance partners, no trail. Backcountry Horsemen responded to the request with an enthusiastic "HELL YEAH!" Not only that, but they gave us the idea for using draft animals to build the trail. This could end up being a huge labor-and-money-saver as the project progresses, especially in the wilderness.

Elko Velo Bicycle Club - Same story. We presented to their board of directors and they came with the support, too. They're hugely enthused about the project - finally, some real mountain bike trail around here!

Ken Jones, Lamoille rancher - The old trail alignment crossed private inholdings over and over and over again - one of the reasons the trail was allowed to fail in the first place. It just spent too much of its length in private property. Even with the re-route, though, there was one place where the trail simply HAS to cross a little piece of private property. Ken Jones, a long-time Lamoille rancher and the owner of that property, agreed to grant us an easement, allowing the project to move forward. Had he chosen to do so, he personally could have stopped this project in its tracks. Mr. Jones, however, believes in public access to public land and was great about helping us out. His importance to this project can not be overstated.

Bob Morley, High Desert Engineering - In order to get the easement ownership transferred, we needed an accurate map and legal description. Bob was great about knocking these things out for us.

Stewart Title - Colleen Memeo has put her resources at our disposal, taking care of the paperwork necessary to get this easement on the books.

JBR Environmental - Rich Weber - One of the biggest stumbling blocks for a project like this is the NEPA process - the cultural and biological surveys required, the public scoping, the reports... the USFS just doesn't have the staff resources to tackle a project like this. Rich stepped forward very early on and offered his staff's assistance in getting the surveys done. Help like this is going to be key with getting this project approved.

Lee Turner - NDOW - Same deal. Lee is a botanist and a huge trail fan, and jumped at the chance to help us conduct these surveys. Not only that, but he's going to help us write the NEPA documents going forward - significantly speeding the process of getting the project approved.

Sharon Reynolds, Tetra-tech - Sharon is a GIS professional, a long-time Ruby Mountain explorer and a big trail fan. She's helping us create maps for the project, which again will save us time and construction costs. And - since it reduces pressure on the overburdened USFS GIS staff, it will help speed things along.

Elko's local media - KENV, KELK and the Elko Daily Free Press have been amazingly helpful in getting the word out about the project.

Elko County Commissioners - Crucial to getting the project paid for - not because they're paying for it, but because their support is necessary for us to get grant funding for the project. No commissioners = no grants. No grants = no project.

USFS Ruby Mountain District - If these guys didn't believe in the project, there'd be no project. David Ashby got the ball rolling on the USFS side. Doug Clarke, Nancy Taylor and Gar Abbas, particularly, have been persistent about keeping it rolling. In addition, Dan Morris, formerly of the Ely District and now of Carson-Bridgeport, gave a lot of early guidance about outside-the-box methods of getting something of this scope off the ground.

Nevada Division of State Lands/Nevada's voters - OK, so they're not local - at least, not all of them. But when Nevada's voters approved the Question 1 bond, they made this project and others like it all over the state possible.

Great Basin Institute - This project was being managed out of their Ely office by Bill Wolf, although with budget cuts they've had to close that office and now work out of headquarters in Reno. But they've been great partners - helping us secure funding and keeping the bills paid, helping us with the nuts and bolts of getting the project built. They manage the Nevada Conservation Corps volunteers that will be doing the lion's share of trail construction.

Friends of the Secret-Lamoille Trail - I saved the best for last. We have more than 100 folks on the Friends list now - people who are offering up their skills to get this party going. They've written letters in support of the NEPA process, are helping us with pre-coordination, and when the time comes will get out there themselves and help with the building. Great bunch of folks.


There are a lot of other businesses, individuals and groups just waiting for their chance to jump in. Don't worry, it will come - and when it does you can be certain we'll highlight those contributions here and elsewhere. This is a big project and we're years from being done with this. But we're started - and these folks are the ones who got the ball rolling.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I love living here - redux

Just got off the phone with the folks from Stewart Title. They offered to help us with some necessary real estate paperwork around the easement we've negotiated across a small bit of private property.

The support we're getting from the Elko business community is truly humbling.

More Pictures!

Can't believe it's been this long since I posted pictures! Slacking off, I guess.


The trail takes off from the first pullout at the mouth of Lamoille Canyon, above the Powerhouse Picnic Area. Eventually, we'll look at building a trailhead parking area here, but for right now parking will be at the pullout.

These photos are from last summer's biological survey trip.

The trail pretty quickly starts climbing out of the canyon, through some rock outcroppings and a beautiful pinyon-juniper forest. I'm thinking the shade will be pretty welcome in the summer.

It crests out in a gorgeous mahogany grove - really amazing valley views.

Once the trail hits the 7000' contour, it starts snaking along the front of the range, winding in and out of three steep drainages. This is really pretty country and shows off the best of the Ruby Mountains' lower altitude ecosystem. The NE aspects are full of serviceberries, currants, arrowleaf balsamroot, indian paintbrush... lots of low flowers and shrubs. There's a grove of scrub aspen in the centers of each that will make a cool, shady tunnel on the trail - and then you're back in the mahogany forests on the northwest aspects. Really, really nice.

Getting through these drainages without the trail in place is - in a word - ugly. It wasn't bad through the brush and mahoganies, but the scrub aspen groves are a real tangle. I was wishing for a machete right about here.

Back into the mahoganies again. I love mahoganies.

More valley views. I just couldn't get enough.

There's only one real campsite along the first segment - this little spur ridge about 4.5 miles in. That said - it is a magnificent campsite, with a little spring nearby and views that won't end. You feel like you're sleeping in a bowl of stars, and the lights across the valley are really beautiful.

Once the trail drops off the ridge it winds through Snell Canyon, and the only place on this portion of the trail where we cross private property. It's a good thing the trail is in a real tangle of trees at that point - not very likely that visitors will wander off the trail. It crosses Snell Creek just before hitting the private property - a good water source all season.

After leaving Snell the trail wanders through Jewett Canyon, and we start seeing signs of grazing. We were darned glad to see them, too - made the traveling much easier. My guess is that it'll make trail construction a lot easier, too.

And, here we are - Talbot Canyon! Closed to public trail access for decades, even though there's a Forest Service trail up to Verdi Lake at the canyon's head. Absolutely gorgeous.

I have some great photos of Talbot Canyon, too. Will post those for you one of these days.

Penny pinching and the planning process

Now that spring is here and the NEPA is behind us, we're getting a lot of pre-work done before we hit the ground on the first segment of trail. Job #1 as far as I'm concerned - continue tweaking to figure out how to get this trail built for the least amount of money possible. We're not willing to sacrifice quality, obviously - for a whole raft of reasons. But there are alternatives out there to hand-built trail, and we're looking hard at every alternative that could be suitable for this project.

One of the more interesting prospects is the idea of using draft animals to do some of the heavy work. The mule pulls along a piece of equipment that's kind of a cross between a plow and a box scraper, making the initial ground cut for the trail route. Hand crews then follow and finish with the tread. The process improves the efficiency by about half over hand-crew-only construction, thus reducing the amount of time needed and, obviously, the amount of money spent.

There's evidence that many of the old trails around here were built using this technique. Gerry Miller, a former Forest Service employee now with the NRCS (and Northeastern Nevada Stewardship Group) tells me that you can see one of these old trailbuilders rusting along an old trail in the Overland Pass area. Pretty cool if you ask me.

Another option that might work for us is using trail excavators - essentially a very small backhoe-looking thing to do that initial cut. One of these excavators increases the efficiency significantly from even the draft animal method. The nice thing about the excavators is that they, too, will leave only a 24" tread - a very important element for this project, as a wider tread will invite incursion by ATV users. Since this is a non-motorized trail it's important that we keep the tread very narrow.

We have significant side slopes for the length of the project - this is big country - and these techniques may or may not work for us. We have some professional trail builders looking at the project, though - if we all think it would work, they'll work with our Nevada Conservation Corps crews and our volunteers to get this thing built in the most efficient, cost-effective way possible.

My personal goal is to save enough money on this first segment to give us real seed money for getting the second segment rolling. With the economic situation the way it is, we're going to have to work even harder to come up with funding for this project. We need to be able to demonstrate to the granting agencies that we're building very high-quality trail - as efficiently as humanly possible.


Right now we have an on-the-ground meeting set for May 19-20 to get the trail centerline set. Once that's in, we'll be looking for volunteer help with the limbing/brushing that will need to be done. Watch this space.