Get Out! Building a trail is an eye-opening experience
If I’m being honest, the first reason I decided to volunteer for COPMOBA’s recent trail building day was to alleviate a sense of guilt.
I write about trails, I bike trails and I even run trails sometimes, but have I ever helped build one? Nope.
I’ve donated money, but never my time, so I decided last Saturday would be the day to change that. Hey, a little push from guilt never hurt anyone.
I arrived, bright and early, to the Lunch Loop parking lot. REI had set up a table of bagels and snacks, so after registering and grabbing a few snacks for later, I stood around talking to a few familiar faces.
I had no idea what was in store and was a little nervous.
After a safety and tool briefing, we divided up into groups: there was a “rock” crew that would work specifically on some rocky areas that needed finessing to make them rideable and then the rest of us were the “trail” crew.
We headed for various crew leaders, grabbed McClouds and shovels, and started the hike in.
It took about 20 minutes to get to the area we’d be working on, somewhere between Big Sister and Middle Sister, so conversation naturally sprung up.
You learn a lot about people when you’re out raking dirt for a trail. I discovered that not only do bikers volunteer for trail building, but so do hikers and trail runners!
Kids volunteer with their parents, people (like me) who’ve never done trail work show up to help, too, even if only for a few hours. Representatives and volunteers from Mesa Land Trust and Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado were there.
After giving us a brief demo on using the McCloud to just rake off the top layer of soil by the indicator flags, our team leader, Gary, turned us loose.
It’s funny, the thoughts that go through your mind as you’re out there working.
“That rock will be a great place to practice pop-ups,” I thought as we left a large rock smack in the middle of the trail.
“I hope I’m not screwing this whole thing up,” popped into my head more than once throughout the day, though it seemed to be unwarranted.
Mostly, though, I kept thinking, “Wow! We’ve built a lot of trail!”
Before I knew it, we’d reached our stopping point.
We turned around and headed back down our new trail, packing the dirt and gathering flags as we went. The whole time I was thinking, “I can’t wait to ride this!”
As we made our way back through one of the areas the “rock crew” worked on, my mouth just fell open.
In five hours, what was once just weeds and a jumble of rocks was transformed into rock ramps, leveled and secure. An interesting path now, the section glides across and down another large flat rock before hitting the dirt again.
As my two fellow trail builders and I made our way down the already-built Hop-Skip-and-a-Jump trail toward the parking lot, we met up with the rock crew filling in a gully.
We watched them create a rock bridge.
This was the icing on my first trail-building-experience cake. The guys levered a huge boulder from its position just uphill from the bridge location and watched it flip twice before landing squarely in the middle of the designated area.
They dug out under it, stopped, examined its flow with the trail on either side, and readjusted.
They used rock bars and a sling to move another rock into place and then filled everything in with dirt. By the time they were finished, what had been a gnarly ditch to cross was now a fun, exciting section of trail.
As we crested the hill back to the parking lot and dropped off our tools, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment.
Sure, it sounds cliché, but we just built a trail! To all those folks who volunteer once, twice or every time there’s a chance to build a trail, thank you. You truly do make a difference to all of us who love to get out and bike, run or hike on local trails.
To COPMOBA, the BLM, Mesa Land Trust, the City of Grand Junction and everyone else involved in making the Three Sisters purchase happen, thank you. This great extension of the Lunch Loop area will not only add to the recreational opportunities for locals, it will also bring new visitors to our valley to bike, shop and discover western Colorado.