Sunday, October 13, 2013
Autumn on the Secret-Lamoille Trail
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.
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.