Friday, August 19, 2011

Kendall Creek

I mentioned Kendall Creek in my last post - the one muddy spot on the entire Fool's Gold route. We'd been asked to do something about it prior to the race, but the trail and creek are both on National Forest land so it's got to go by the book or everybody goes to federal prison.

I'm kidding about the federal prison part but I did have to get approval before doing anything.

I was pleasantly surprised this morning by a call from Dave Kuykendall of USFS fame. He had pursued my request for approval to build a bridge or otherwise mitigate the situation and was getting back to me, with plenty of time to execute. I didn't get approval to build a bridge, but I didn't expect to. I was however, approved to stabilize the crossing with rock and gravel, lay down matting if I had it and use hay to mitigate the impact of the work. If there happened to be an old culvert there, I could just dig it out too.

I grabbed some hay, or technically wheat straw, at Home Depot on the way out of town and met Eddie in Dahlonega. He'd camped up there last night, but forgot to bring a lighter or any other means with which to start a fire. Poor guy. Camping with no fire doesn't count as recreation, it's just having to sleep out in the woods.

We drove to the spot, put down two bales of hay across the outlet of the stream and assessed the situation.

If there was an old culvert there, it was well hidden. Digging it out didn't look feasible, and with my luck, I'd dig for an hour and it just wouldn't be there.


We checked to see how deep the mud was. It was about 4 inches in the middle, a little shallower upstream and a little deeper downstream. Underneath though, was a solid, gravelly roadbed. The mud was just sitting on top of it. Further examination revealed why.

At the edge of the road on the downstream side there was a dense tangle of branches and logs damming the flow. Water hits the dam, pools up and drops its load. My guess is that the road had gotten rutted out in either direction, rain began washing more and more sediment down into the creek and somebody piled up the branches and logs to keep it off the property below. Clear water began trickling through the dam but a bog built up on the road and even about 10 feet back up into the woods above it. The bog is now gravid and every disturbance sends mud downstream.

It's a classic problem of standing water. One of the first trail-maintenance rules I ever learned: eliminate standing water.

Ideally, now that the road has been regraded, I'd think that the built up mud should be disposed of, the dam should be opened up, the water should be allowed to run across (or under) the road unimpeded so it can't leave anything behind and the road should be sufficiently hardened to keep the water from taking any of it away too. A culvert would accomplish this, but so would sufficient rock and gravel armoring. More importantly though, the road to either side needs to be stabilized permanently. It's been regraded, but that'll only last so long, given it's location.

I was reticent to take the dam apart. It's right at the edge of the road, I wasn't sure precisely where the forest boundary was and the landowner wasn't present. Certainly, there would be an onslaught if we took it down, and even if it was temporary, it's that kind of thing that we were looking to prevent.

We did, however, dig up the liquid mud that was covering the road.

 Clearing the old mud

We distributed it over the neighboring slope uphill of the road where there was plenty of debris between it and the creek, then we covered it and mixed in leaves and debris.

Eventually we had an evenly solid surface and our footprints were shallow anywhere we'd step.

Next, we headed back toward Lance Creek to gather up some rock. We tried to gather rock evenly along the length of the road. We took a little from the creek, on the inside of the bend, and a little more from the old campsites, but mostly we climbed up over the ledge on the edge of the road and gathered it from the open woods beyond. We didn't take any out of the road itself. That would be robbing Peter to pay Paul.

 Hauling Rock

My little Outback did all right hauling all that rock. I was singing My Posse's on Broadway the whole time: " muffler is dragging, my suspension's getting weak..." but in actuality there were no such problems. It's not like having a pickup, but it met our needs.

We placed the rock along the route we'd seen the water follow earlier. It was like putting together a jigsaw puzzle in the dark. At the head end you could see the rocks, but downstream they were under water. This is good though, we needed to preserve the slope of the creek.

We built a path about 2 feet wide, gathered more rock and expanded it to about 4 feet. There was almost nowhere in the puddle that we could walk without walking on rock.

But we weren't done, the entrance and exit needed to be armored too. We gathered gravel from the pile at Moss Branch. Again, I was surprised by how well the Outback handled the load.

I did manage to get stuck though, turning around. It was embarrassing. I got hung up backing over a log. Fortunately it was short work to get free and with my weird differential, I didn't even spin a tire.

We filled until we could walk from solid ground to solid rock without leaving footprints. I even drove back and forth across it.

It might be good to put down more gravel, but I didn't want to take too much and we can always add more later.

I learned today - a bale of straw costs $3 and a ton of gravel costs $50. I would never have guessed either cost that little. I was thinking more like $15 for straw and hundreds for gravel. Shows what I know. I've shoveled a lot of things but I've never had to buy much of what I was shoveling.

To finish, we covered all wet soil with hay and placed the two remaining bales on the downstream side. Ideally they should be further downstream but I didn't want to leave them on private land without permission.

 The Finished Product

All that took about 7 hours.

Not having taken down the dam, I'm still concerned that we'll have a puddle going forward and mud will eventually build up on top of the rock and gravel, but riders shouldn't leave ruts across the creek this weekend and we can talk about taking down the dam in the future. I'm also a little worried about the straw running down and clogging things up if it rains, but I've seen straw used this way, so I assume it will be OK. Worst case I can go back and rake it up later. My only other concern is that hay bales or not, the work we did will likely cause some amount of sedimentation and there's no good way to discern work-related impact from race-related impact until next year, assuming we don't do any more last minute work then too. "Worry's been on my mind since the day I was born."

We drove back to Montaluce to meet Nam. She'd been waiting for FedEx to deliver the Fool's Gold T-Shirts all day and just arrived. Somebody had to sign for them and they wouldn't let her just go pick them up. Ha.

They had work to do and I had to wash my truck so I headed home. I ended up spending like 8 dollars to wash and vacuum it and it's still dirty, just less so.

I hope everything works out with the creek. I've seen lots of seemingly well executed endeavours fail and plenty that looked ridiculous work out just fine. Which will this be? All that's left to do is wait and watch.

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