Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Jake Mountain

Debbie emailed me a while ago. The October work party was coming up and it wasn't looking like she'd be able to make it. Could I lead the day?

Indeed. I believed so. And, I was flattered that she believed so as well. Maybe even a little more than flattered actually. I hoped to make her proud.

As the days ticked by, I got emails and facebook replies from several folks who wanted to help. We'd also gotten access to the USFS's Ditch Witch and JK was available to run it. Things were looking good.

On the day of, I'd coordinated with Debbie to get some tools and the work log out of the CTHA trailer, which she keeps at her folks' place in Dahlonega.

To describe their property as beautiful just doesn't really say it.

 Misty Morning

It's a reasonably large horse farm with rolling pastures, several forested acres and little creeks crossing the roads. With the early morning mist floating over the northern end, it just defined tranquility.

I'd brought Isabel with me. Sophie'd had a birthday party to go to.

Iz was up and pulling at 6:30 but when 8:30 rolled around, she was right back down again.


Man, she's definitely becoming a teenager.

JK and Humberto were there when I arrived. I talked to them a bit. The Jake Mountain trail still needed deberming from Its initial construction for about half of a mile north of Jones Creek. The hill coming up off of the creek needed a little attention too. They were going to attempt to tackle that with the Ditch Witch.

They didn't have time to hang around. Theresa was on her way with the machine and they had to meet her, though she was a little concerned about traffic. The KKK had applied to adopt a section of highway a while back and were turned down by the state. The ACLU is now appealing the ruling, and apparently there was a rally or something that morning, in Blairsville, which is where the Ditch Witch was.


The ground crew started arriving at 8:15 or so. We had a several old-school players including myself and the Iz, Kathleen Tokuda, Jeremy Bordelon and Cindy Groom from CTHA. But two new folks showed up as well - Gabrielle, who's last name I forget, but who lives in Rome and recently moved up from Florida, and Billy Pickens.

Technically, I don't think I can call Billy "new". This was the first time he'd come to a work party, but I've known him for probably 10 years now. We rode together A LOT in the early 2000's, through more adventures than I have room to detail here. I'd easily put him on my list of best friends ever. He had to finish school and get his career started for several years there, but now he's back riding and generally picking up some of his old preoccupations, and man it was good to see him!

Around 8:45 we gathered up the tools, I gave the standard safety briefing - circle of death, snakes and bees, head protection, and so on. Moments later, we loaded up the vehicles and headed north.

Provided JK and Humberto were successful, finish work should be done for all of the Jake Mountain and Moss Branch Trails.

Beaver Pond and Black Branch remain, but they don't have nearly as much work to be done as Jake and Moss. With any luck, we'll be done with the finishing work on all the rerouted trails in the next 6 months or so. I hope so, at least.

We headed down to Beaver Pond.

The first half mile or more uses the original trail, or old roadbed actually. It wasn't rerouted. It's relatively flat, but there were a dozen or more old-school turnouts that needed clearing. Also, the vegetation at ground level in that section had been encroaching all summer, but up higher, at I'm-up-on-a-horse level, it was worse.

Cindy tackled the brush. Jeremy, Kathleen and Isabel comprised Dig Team Pro and me, Billy and Gabrielle comprised Dig Team Noob. I joke, of course, there were no names, but I did give Billy and Gabrielle some short tutorials on what to do and why.

It's not really that complex though, and they picked it up easily.

We leap-frogged, clearing turn-outs for probably an hour before finally getting into the new trail, which was blended into to old so subtly that I didn't even notice where it had been done, and I was looking for it.

The new trail needed finish work, meaning that after the initial wear-in, which has occurred, the nicks at the bottom of each grade reversal needed to be re-established, and where necessary and permitted by the downslope, we needed to deberm the trail.

I don't know exactly why, I guess from a combination of temperature and precipitation, the soil was remarkably easy to work.

We debermed several long sections of trail.

This time, we made sure to practice very gentle deberming. It's important not to to widen a trail, but with horse trails, in particular, it's also important not to narrow it either, which aggressive deberming can do.

We were very conservative in our approach.

 Gentle Deberming

We took off the loose edge, and in some cases, we has to dig into the trail, but we carefully avoided digging through and narrowing the existing trail.

We tested all of our work with the soccer ball, and in a few cases the ball didn't roll off immediately, but I think this is ok. Something I've noticed on Jake for a while now is that taking off the loose edge seems to encourage traffic near the downslope and this slowly packs down that outside edge, naturally improving the outslope. I'm not sure if this phenomenon is unique to horse trails on clay substrate, but it definitely seems to happen at Jake. So, as such, we were less aggressive with our digging.

We still worked hard though.

 Gabrielle and Billy

Really hard.

 Iz, Billy and Kathleen

Around 11:45 we all headed back.

At the Jake/Bull Connector, we stopped to patch up the chute leading up to the trail from the road. Two weeks earlier, I'd ridden up that way with Tim and it had been so dry for so long that nothing could hold the gravel in place. Even just walking up the hill displaced it. We raked and shoveled it all back in place and packed it down. We'll just have to do that from time to time, I think. No biggie.

Looks good now.

 Fixing the Bull/Jake Connector Entrance

Post-dig we all met back at the lot. Cindy had made lunches for everyone, including sandwiches, those honey granola bars and 100 grand bars. Mmmm. Sweet, delicious candy.

Me and Iz couldn't hang around though, we still had to return the tools and work log to Debbie's folks' place and Iz had something going on later, but I forget now what it was.

We did all that.

JK and Humberto were still out on the trail with the Ditch Witch when I left so I'm not sure how they fared, but if it had been eventful, I'd probably have heard about it by now. Hopefully that's the case.

Well, time will tell, but it seemed that the day went reasonably well. I hope the next few will be just as successful. If they are, we'll be done with this finish work pretty quickly.

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