Tuesday, July 5, 2011

THIS mountain biker's view of the Secret-Lamoille Trail

I took a break from kid wrangling and road-bike training to take my mountain bike for a spin this morning on the Secret-Lamoille Trail. It's the first time I've been up since they started work this summer, and after the rave review I got the other day I figured I'd better have a look for myself.

The trail is clearly a work in progress, but it's super-fun on a mountain bike now and is going to be more so as they get things up to snuff.

Right now the trail is benched in to 3 miles. They re-routed it from the original design and now it's a bit of a grunt - 7.7% trail grade, certainly rideable but not the 5-6% cruise that was originally intended. The downhill has good flow - at least until you come up on a switchback - and hopefully will be even more flowy after the switchbacks are improved. The switchbacks are, by and large, not rideable at the moment; however, I understand that the trail crew is bringing up some timbers and will spend the summer improving the switchbacks to a reasonable (and hopefully rideable) standard. I also am given to understand that they're going to focus on getting these first three miles finished before moving the benching forward.

The trail dead ends on the line laid out by the original trail designer, and I hope that they decide to keep his design from here on out. It was a nice one. There is a very challenging switchback section coming up about 3 more miles in, and based on what I saw from this bunch at the get-go they're likely to throw Greg's work out and substitute their own. Hopefully they'll remember that this was, first and foremost, a MOUNTAIN BIKE TRAIL and will build those switchbacks accordingly.

The trail is clearly getting regular use. There were abundant bike, horse and hiker tracks (good to see the mix) and I ran into three hikers along the way. One of them told me that he was up there every other day or so - that he very, very much enjoyed what was happening up there.

All in all, it's an excellent short trip right now and is destined to get only better. It is showy with wildflowers at the moment, a beautiful hike or ride, challenging enough to provide good exercise, well worth taking the time to visit. There is shade along the way, but like any trail at this elevation this time of year, it'll be more enjoyable early in the morning or late in the afternoon. My in-laws will be in town tomorrow and this is certainly one of the places I'll take them. Just gorgeous.


  1. Sounds like a good site for a motocross event. Think I might try it with some friends.

  2. No it would not be a good place for motocross, as this is a wilderness area and motorized vehicles are strictly prohibited. If I saw ANYONE on these trails with anything resembling a dirt bike or ATV I would make it my mission to have you arrested.

  3. People, people....

    The first commenter is one of my regular stalkers. There is a small handful of folks who vehemently oppose this trail, primarily because it will provide access to Talbot Canyon. Pay him no mind, he's just trying to get a rise out of me. And of you.

    And, FWIW, it's not a wilderness trail. It's a non-motorized trail, yes - and has been so since it was first established in the 1920's. It would still be illegal for motorized users to use. But it's not wilderness, which means it's open to all non-motorized users.

  4. This is interesting stuff. The trail is to provide access and to protect the environment. It is not for motorized vehicles, but it is not wilderness and atvs and snowmobiles go into the Rubies all the time. The solution is simple so everyone can enjoy the area - giver hikers, horesmen, bikers, motorized users their own days and times of use, to prevent conflicts, and then have period when all can use the trail. What is the objection to motorized use of the trail, and can a snowmobile or atv go in the aame area off trail?

  5. There isn't generally enough snow up there for snowmobiles to use the area, which is part of what makes it attractive as an all-season trail.

    The trail is non-motorized because that's how it was originally designated (it was originally a 1920's-era trail and there was no such thing as a "motorized" trail back then other than a road) and changing that designation would be nearly impossible. Not only that, but there was an identified need for non-wilderness, non-motorized, lower-altitude trails.

    The Northeastern Nevada Stewardship Group, in cooperation with the Elko Convention and Visitors Bureau and the public lands agencies, held public workshops in 2003 and 2005 to find out what the public wanted to see re: recreational development. The take away came loud and clear: people wanted increased access to closed-off canyons in the Rubies, they wanted lower-altitude trails that could be used for more months in the year, and they wanted non-wilderness trails that could be used by all non-motorized users. The then-recreation planner for the Humboldt-Toyabe National Forest suggested to NNSG that they consider rebuilding the old Secret-Lamoille Trail as a potential way to address ALL of those concerns, which is how the reconstruction project was born.

    Any trail construction or extensive reconstruction requires a NEPA analysis be done before work can begin. Getting NEPA approval for a motorized trail is a HUGE undertaking, especially on an historic trail that already is designated non-motorized.

    And as far as alternating use is concerned - keep in mind that this trail reconstruction project was spearheaded by mountain bikers. All non-motorized users are enthusiastically invited to use the trail, but it is at its heart a mountain bike project. That's how the project was conceived, that's how the grants were written, that's how the trail was designed. Shutting mountain bikes out specifically goes against what was funded by the granting agencies.

    Trails can be and should be shared successfully if everybody can learn to play well together. Everybody needs to take responsibility for learning how to safely use the trail. Horsemen in particular are frightened about sharing trails in this part of the world, in large part because they've never had to. There is a very simple solution for those horsemen unwilling to learn to share - wilderness trails. Mountain bikes are prohibited from using them and we have hundreds of miles of them locally. There are FAR more miles of wilderness trail here than non-wilderness trail. Ride somewhere else - because the mountain bikers CAN'T. This is the only real mountain bike trail in the Rubies, whereas EVERY trail in the Rubies is open to horsemen.

  6. As far as your question re: specific objections to motorized users on this trail - in addition to the trail classification and the desire to create a non-motorized recreation experience, one of the first meetings I had when we were trying to get this project off the ground was with Steve Foree from NDOW. The Spruce Mountain project had just gone down in flames, largely because of objections from NDOW about how the project was handled. I wanted to make sure we didn't run into the same problems and so met with their local office right at the start. Steve told me that the trail ran through some important wildlife breeding grounds, but that as long as it was non-motorized NDOW would have no objection to the project. He told me that, had we wanted to put a motorized trail there, it would create major issues and we'd have a fight on our hands.