Monday, May 7, 2018

Jones Creek

Yesterday was work party day at Bull/Jake.

I got good sleep, got up early, ate some Waffle House, and made it up to the Jake lot well before 9AM without getting stuck in any construction traffic.

When I got there, there were already a dozen cars in the lot, 2 horse trailers, and Debbie's equipment trailer. However, there was no one in sight. Nobody on bikes, nobody on horses, nobody manning the sign-in sheet at the trailer.

I thought I heard Debbie's voice though, so I walked down the road to investigate. Turned out that most of the horse folks had camped out the night before and were still in the campground. They'd brought 6 horses, 2 mules, and 8 panniers for hauling gravel.

That was the main plan - haul gravel. The exit on the north side of Jones Creek...

Jones Creek Exit

...hasn't been fiddled with in who knows how long, and to get it done right, it needs a ton (probably literally) of gravel, and the only viable way to get it down there is by pack animal.

It's a lot of work though: Fill buckets to a line with gravel. Dump each bucket into a gravel bag. Put the bag in a pannier. Lift 2 panniers at a time, one on each side of the animal and hook them over a special saddle. Ride down to the creek. Cross the creek. Unhook the panniers. Get the bags out. Pile the bags up. Ride back out. Repeat.

In the lot, the horses can be tied to the trailer, but down at the creek, it's helpful to have 2 guys down there that can unload the gravel so the riders don't have to dismount and tie up the animals or otherwise try to manage them.

Unfortunately, there was only one of me. The other guy that showed up ended up going off with Stan to cut out some trees. Well, at least I could make it half as difficult.

And, while I was waiting on the horses, I could work on that rolling dip I'd wanted to build on the hill.

So, I hiked down to the creek and relaxed until the first group arrived.


Jones Creek


There was a total sausage fest of Tiger butterflies down there. 100 dudes, flying back and forth over the water, showing off for the ladies, of which I didn't see a single one. Poor guys. They were like: "Check me out! I hope you can see this, because I'm doing it as hard as I can!"

All day.

No ladies.

The group arrived shortly after I did. I was surprised how quickly, actually, considering they had to load all of the gravel. I guess the horses just walk faster than I do.

Crossing the Creek 1 Crossing the Creek 2

We talked about what to do for a while. One of the guys there, Bobby, has a lot of experience managing horse trails and knows a lot of techniques that I wouldn't even think of because they don't come up on bike trails. They basically want to build a long step... Put in a timber down near the creek, then another one up higher, right where the ground flattens out, level the soil between them, and fill it with gravel. The gravel will be nearly level, so it won't get pulled downhill into the creek. I recommended armoring the lower timber with rip-rap on the downhill side to keep it from getting undercut if the creek comes up.

So, that's the plan. Now all we need is a ton of gravel and some timbers.

Me and a guy named Ronnie unloaded the gravel into a pile be a tree nearby, and everybody else headed back to the lot.

I headed up the hill to start working on my rolling dip.

First things first. I needed rock. Big, huge, chunky rock, and a lot of it.

I scoured the woods uphill of the spot, but all I found was this chair.

Chair I Found in the Woods


How in the world did that chair end up in the woods, 30 yards off of the trail, halfway up this super steep hill? I eventually ended up dragging it down to the creek so I'd have it to sit in it while waiting.

There was no rock though. Way downhill on the trail, near the creek, there was more than I needed. And, there was also a great deal of rock off trail, directly downhill, on a 45 degree slope.


Anyway, I got started.

Step 1 - Dig down to the depth of the original dip, before it got backfilled. Keep your dirt.

Rolling Dip Half Dug

Step 2 - Sculpt and finish the hole.

Rolling Dip Fully Dug

That's as far as I got before having to run down and unload more gravel.

Actually, several times I heard people down at the creek, thought it was the horses, ran down, and found guy on bikes instead, and had to walk back up. Eventually they did arrive though, and after unloading the gravel, we filled the panniers with rock and they hauled it up the hill to the dip for me!

Step 3 - Use the dirt to build a mound downhill of the hole. I've had good luck (so far) making that mound 85% rock, and even better luck when about half of that rock is gigantic slabs that you can barely move. Like 80+ pound chunks. On bike trails, it can be dirt, ideally clay, but on horse trails, dirt gets worn away pretty quickly.

Rolling Dip Half Built

It's like a layer cake. This one was a 5 layer cake.

Rolling Dip Fully Built

Those big slabs on top were from down that 45 degree slope. I ended up replacing the rocks to the right of them with another slab too. I felt like Sisyphus getting them up the hill and I almost gave up on the biggest one.

Step 4 - Cover it up and pack everything down.

Rolling Dip Covered

At that point, I had to run down and unload more gravel. Debbie had also brought me lunch. Ronnie brought his mule Francis up the hill one more time too with another load of rock and we placed it in the trench that had started forming below the dip.

Trench Mitigation

Some of the dirt that makes up the mound, and some of the dirt that I just packed into the trench will move downhill eventually. Depending on how much rain we get, it might happen quickly. But, all of that rock in the trench should catch a good bit of it. I might come back later and add even more rock to it, once that has started to happen. Meanwhile, the rock that gets exposed on the mound will armor it against further erosion, and after it packs down and gets exposed, it shouldn't weather much more for a long time. Also, the exposed rock should influence riders to go around the mound to the uphill side if they don't want to ride directly over it. If they don't mind riding over the rock, then that's fine too. It's rock.

That's how the dips on the Whoops have been performing. We'll see how this one does.

One funny thing... Ronnie has a horse named Zach and a mule named Francis, and they're best buddies. When they were tied up, they'd sometimes face opposite one another and lean on each other, like a horse hug. When they were separated, they call to each other, and both of them are nervous and twitchy until they were back together. It's sweet, but it made Francis difficult to control when we had him carrying rock up the hill by himself.

Another thing... I must have been passed by 20 guys and girls on bikes and about half that many on horseback (including this lady Kelly that I knew from a work party last year), and it was intuitive for most of them to cross the mound right where I wanted them to. So, ha!

Before hiking out, I ate most of that lunch I mentioned earlier. All I'd had since breakfast was Cliff Blocks, so it tasted really, really good.

On the way back to the lot, the trail was covered in more horse poop than I'd ever seen in my life. You couldn't go 20 yards without running into more of it. I guess that's what happens when 8 horses ride the same 2 miles 6 times!

It was 4:30 when I got back to the truck. That's a 7.5 hour day. Almost a full work day of backbreaking manual labor. Or, at least, backbreaking for an IT guy that sits around typing all day. I can only imagine how hard a man has to be to dig like that all day, every day. I'm definitely not.

I grabbed some Zaxby's on the way home, but I could only eat half of it. Later I think we went to Newks or something. I can't remember. I just remember that I slept like the dead that night.

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