Monday, September 13, 2010

An (amazingly unofficial) Secret-Lamoille Trail update

I'd not set foot on the new trail since they threw me under the bus earlier this year, for a variety of reasons. And none of the folks running the show have been talking with me, that's for sure. But snow up high, coupled with a desire to get some exercise prior to ski season, got me thinking about going for a dayhike, even with the extremely inviting "keep off" sign at the trailhead. It wasn't my intention to do a blog update on my findings, but what I saw up there changed my mind.

All I can say is that the incompetent hack running the show these days has pretty much needlessly squandered a LOT of money accomplishing very little. They've worked all summer long and have less than a mile of trail completed. Not kidding.

I'm not denigrating the work done by the Americorps kids, at all. They're busting their asses and have done some truly beautiful rock work. The thing is, though, that the overwhelming majority of the work they've done has been done needlessly.

When Greg Mazu from IMBA/Singletrack Trails originally did the design for this trail, he routed the section out of Lamoille Canyon with an eye towards construction costs. It was patently obvious that costs for that section of trail could go through the roof because of the huge number of rocks we'd have to work our way through if he wasn't careful. There was no question that there'd need to be rock work done with Greg's design, and we all knew it - but he'd put a lot of thought into how to lay things out to minimize it. And - we intended to use a lot of community resources to get that rock work done for free or close to it.

After they took away control of the project from the community, though, they threw out Greg's design - as well as the majority of the trail built by community volunteers - and rerouted the trail right through the areas we were trying to avoid. They're probably doing five times more rock work than we'd originally envisioned, driving costs through the roof. Not only that, but they're clearly building a Class 3 trail, rather than the Class 2 trail that was budgeted. That means the trail is much wider and much more smooth than we'd envisioned... more like a sidewalk than the kinds of trails you see around here. Again, more money wasted.

And - here's the truly ironic part - they're building this project in the middle of a mining community, where thousands of people earn a lot of money every day safely moving and reshaping millions of tons of rock. Several people from the community who were involved in the project previously have decades of experience doing exactly that. Modifying a five-ton boulder to accommodate a trail would have been an afternoon's work for these folks. Instead, the hack running the show has these kids doing this work with their backs and rock bars. Unbelievable.

I talked yesterday with one of the community volunteers who was working a pulaski on Trails Day. He's a mining engineer at Newmont, and just shook his head at what these idiots have these kids doing. He described a method to me of using a drill and some chemicals to break rock almost effortlessly and very, very precisely. Instead, these kids have been working like slaves all summer - or, more accurately, like people in the Himalaya who don't have access to methods developed in the civilized world over the course of the last century or two. All because the Powers That Be wanted to push the community out of the project. It was easier to just let the hacks take over.

And, lastly - this was supposed to be a MOUNTAIN BIKE TRAIL. That's why the community paid for a trail designer from the International Mountain Biking Association, to design and build a MOUNTAIN BIKE TRAIL. The grant funding that we won was specifically to build a MOUNTAIN BIKE TRAIL. So - these idiots threw out the MOUNTAIN BIKE TRAIL design and put in a series of short, stacked switchbacks right out of the gate, with a big bunch of hairpin turns, nearly unrideable and certainly not fun. Switchbacks were inevitable given the terrain, but Greg's design gave riders a chance to rest between switchbacks, as well as switchbacks that were, in fact, rideable. At least, if they'd built them according to his design.


In any event, here's what's up there these days - as I said, some really beautiful rock work as well as some rock work in progress. If you're at all curious about how the CCC built trails back in the day, including big chunks of the Ruby Crest Trail, go up and have a look for yourself. If you're a trail geek it's really cool to see.

Once you get past the end of the construction, you can hike for another mile and a half or so to the end of where the NDF guys and Ruby Mountain Hot Shots did their work back in May. They made a really nice trail line - as nice as or nicer than most of the trails in the Rubies.

The cleared path ends in a tangle of aspens about 3.25 miles from the trailhead - a really nice short dayhike, lovely this time of year, and well worth doing.


  1. That really is a shame the thing is getting botched. -d

  2. Well, we'll see how it goes. They clearly aren't going to get it done for anything resembling the cost-effective project we had envisioned, but they're up there working again now and hopefully will get some decent mileage knocked out this summer. If we're lucky, money really will grow on trees for those guys and they'll come up with the cash to pay for their mismanagement. No matter how they get there, it's a beautiful route and will be a beautiful trail, and in 50 years nobody will give a rat's patootie how it got built.