Sunday, October 13, 2013

Autumn on the Secret-Lamoille Trail

We are in the throes of a stunningly lovely fall here in Lamoille, one of the most beautiful in recent memory. I'm not sure why we got so lucky this year, but the leaves started turning up in the Rubies several weeks ago and are showing an absolutely wonderful propensity for hanging on. That may change at any moment, of course, depending on weather. Today's snowfall up there may well have sounded the death knell for Fall 2013. I hope not, but you never know.

I've been doing a little hiking recently, gearing up for ski season. There's nothing to get me out on the trails faster than fall temperatures, golden leaves and the sure knowledge that my primary ski partner is working his butt off getting in shape. If I don't want my ass handed to me even more so than is usual, it behooves me to get out there and walk uphill pretty regularly.

I hadn't been to the end of the Secret-Lamoille trail project since spring, and so decided yesterday to walk to the end of this year's construction and see how far they've gotten. The answer - not much farther than they were at the end of last construction season, but they're moving through rough country and are doing a decent job with it. They have a snowfence closure at 3.96 miles, and the roughed-in trail ends another .22 miles past that. Their closure was at 3.68 miles this spring.  There's a dead doe at the end of the roughed-in part who caught her foreleg in a pile of rocks and died of entrapment... let's hope she finishes decomposing before the city kids doing the trail work get back up there next spring. I didn't see a lot of point in stepping past her and enveloping myself in an aspen tangle bushwhack. I did that back when we did the NEPA survey for this trail, and that was plenty, thanks.

They'll be at approximately the half-way point in another half mile, as well as the most viable camping spot on the trail. That is a very sweet place to pitch a tent, with a drippy little spring nearby and endless Great Basin sunset views. The trail right now averages a 7% grade - aerobic but quite doable on a mountain bike and a whole lot more kind than the other hiking trails in the Rubies these days.

Right from the outset it's clear that this trail is getting regular use from hikers and mountain bikers, which made me happy to see. I've seen a lot of horse trailers parked up there this summer, too, which means the horsey set is out enjoying the new trail as well. Multiple-use... so nice to see everybody getting along.

They've gone back in and fixed a few old problems with the trail, although the switchbacks by and large still don't come close to meeting specs for a Class 2 equestrian trail (5' turning radius). It's a good thing there's no reason to take a pack string up there right now... that will change, though, when the trail gets to Talbot Creek. Personally, it doesn't make sense to me at all to build something wrong when you can build it right the first time, but so it goes. Based on what I'm seeing up there they have some folks on board now who have a clue, so hopefully they'll go back and bring those things up to spec down the road. We'll see.

The first few miles of the trail are settling in nicely, and weave in and out of some lovely drainages and through some beautiful little aspen groves during the initial climb. What a difference from when we had to bushwhack through that for the NEPA survey! So beautiful and such nice walking and riding right now.

The views out towards the Lamoille Valley are stunning, and they really give you an appreciation for the local ranching community. Without their passion and tenacity this whole area would be built up... covered with pavement and housing. Views like this one show the difference in our landscape the ranchers make, and I for one am very glad.

The portion of the trail that they worked on this year is a little rougher than what they finished previously, but based on what's been happening on the trail thus far I imagine they'll go back and polish it up a bit next summer. I was really glad to see that they fixed this asinine area... a couple of summers ago the brain surgeons running the show had the kids put in a couple of non- horse- or- bike- friendly stairs right here rather than taking the fairly obvious step of routing around. Fortunately, they went back in and fixed it and hopefully the screwed up part will fill back in sooner rather than later.

Some of the nice rock work on the new section... the rock work is worth taking time to examine all along the route.

Hopefully Ma Nature will give them a hand this winter, and break a little rock on this outcropping by freezing and thawing their drill holes.

All in all, it's a very enjoyable hike right now, as well as a great trip on a horse or MTB. Just remember to play well with others. I ran into a local rancher out walking up there a couple of days ago, and he commented on how much he was enjoying the trail. I did have to laugh to myself when he said it, remembering some of the comments from the yo-yos who so vehemently opposed the project. "It's ugly!" they said. "Nobody will ever use it!" They were wrong, and it gives me pleasure every time I'm up there and see all of those visitors' tracks.


  1. The family and I finally took an off-the-cuff afternoon hike up the Secret-Lamoille Trail today. With four kids four and under we managed making it a mile up. Important thing was we all enjoyed it.

  2. Glad you did, Matthew! It's a pretty nice hike, no matter what time of year. I was up there on snowshoes a couple of weeks ago... the winter views are stunning. Glad to hear you're starting those kids out right!