Sunday, May 20, 2012

A quick conditions update

I drove up to Road's End yesterday for a very quick hike up to Island Lake.  One of the things I love about these mountains - if you're training for a big climb somewhere they provide lots of options for training terrain.  Right now I'm teetering around in mountaineering boots carrying a 50-lb pack, getting ready for a trip to Alaska this summer.  I look funny, of course, but then I always do...

Anyway - the snow line on east aspects right now is at about 9600', which on the Island Lake trail means that it's clear all the way to the lip right below the lake.  That trail is pretty much dry, with a few spots where melt water is running down the trail.  The Ruby Crest Trail on the way to Lamoille Lake is snow covered starting at about 9200', with a lot of mud and running water right now.  That route is, by far, much easier to hike at about 6AM before the snow softens up and it becomes an adventure in postholing.  The Stock Trail will be clear much earlier than the regular trail will be, although there is a lot of running water crossing that trail right now.

The Secret-Lamoille Trail is, of course, open as far as they have it constructed.  The gate at the bottom of Soldier Canyon is open... I haven't been up there yet but there's no question that it's open to the end and that the trail is likely open for much of its length, too.  I'll do a real report in a few days.  If you're heading up to Ruby Dome on the Hennen Canyon Trail, you'll hit snow below Griswold Lake.

The lakes are thawing but they are not clear yet.


This provides a great opportunity to talk about how NOT to cause damage while you're up there hiking in the spring.  It's our responsibility to take care of these mountains.  They are beautiful, and they are fragile. Watch your feet!

If the trail is blocked by snow or gushing water, you're going to be very tempted to leave the trail and walk around.  Think very, very hard before you do.  You're likely to be walking on mud and tearing up plants - the beautiful stuff we go up there to see.  Just say no to walking in mud!  Stay on the trail if there's any way you can do it.  It's there for a reason - to protect the mountains from resource damage done by people up there to enjoy them.

You CAN get around up there without doing resource damage if you're careful.  Don't be afraid to get your feet wet by walking on snow.  Snow is the best stuff up there to walk on if you're not going to be on-trail, because you can't hurt it.  If you think you're likely to be walking on snow, start very early in the morning - at dawn or before - to get up there before it thaws.  It's an excellent walking surface when it's frozen.

Your next best option is rock - there are lots of very conveniently placed rocks up there that provide good, safe footing wherever you want to go.  Make a game of it - pretend you're a kid crossing a creek.  You probably won't have to pretend much with that one because you WILL be crossing creeks and looking for  rocks!  Rocks are your friends, and what's more, they're the mountain's friends.

If you can't find snow or rocks to walk on, go for gravel.  Gravel isn't as durable a surface as the previous two, but in all likelihood nothing's growing in it and it will prevent you from sinking in and tearing things up.

AVOID AT ALL COSTS mud off-trail and walking on plants, whether they're growing or dormant.  They have a hard enough time trying to get by up there.  We don't need to make it worse.  One muddy footprint multiplied by hundreds of people means damaged streamsides, damaged trails, dead plants and erosion.  Don't do it.  If you can't get around an obstacle without walking on mud or plants, call it a day and come back later.  The mountains will still be there next time.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

National Trails Day June 2nd

My favorite holiday is on its way!  No, not Christmas, although I'll admit that's how I often feel at the end of the day.

It's National Trails Day, June 2nd at a trail near you!

This year I'll be celebrating National Trails Day at the Elko SnoBowl Ski & Bike Park, five miles north of Elko on North 5th Street.  We'll be working on two projects - one, finishing some benching work on the beginner MTB trail up there, and two (really exciting to me) beginning work on a NEW cross-country trail system.  We'll be building a trail that leaves the SnoBowl parking lot and heads up to the saddle looker's right of the top of the lift.  It'll be designed for two-way bike traffic and will be perfect for hikers and trail runners, too!

If you live in or near Elko, come on out and join us.  We had almost 60 people out there last year... we got a lot of work done, enjoyed a great lunch, and played on the new trails in the afternoon.  If you DON'T live near Elko, then find a Trails Day project near you.  If you love trails, volunteer!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Travel management redux

This is a cross-post from my ski blog, Ruby Mountain Ski Days.  Read through to the end.

There's Corn in Them Thar Hills

The motorized user crowd is tearing up the land at the head of Lamoille Canyon, right now.  The snowmobilers aren't content to let their season end... no, they're driving their machines up the Stock Trail and over the willows to access the snow that starts hundreds of feet from the end of the pavement, creating a huge erosional mess in a very, very fragile area.

Where's the outrage, folks?  Why are we even TALKING about continuing to allow motorized off-road travel?  Oh, that's right, it's Elko County, where we grow 'em stupid and with motors.