Getting Educated on Trails

Last year I wrote about building Kiss of Cactus and Fenceline trail on our land. I learned how to build those from years of hiking and riding trails. I also read a lot of websites and watched some Youtube Videos talking about design and technique.

In June I talked about how my local trail group, Mancos Trail Group, had organized a volunteer adopt a trail program on the Mancos Spur Trail for 2020. Last summer I spent a few days going out to pretty remote areas to work on the trails. It was very satisfying work and I had a great time. The problem was I had very little confidence in my trail building and maintenance skills.

I know I did not harm the trails but my larger concern was how much wasn’t I doing? Without any real world training on how a trial should look and work I was probably doing a lot less work than the trail needed.

This year the Mancos Trail Group announced a training program, in coordination with Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, to help give the adopt a trail participants more confidence. The training was done in coordination with a community college so there was a decent online education portion.

The culmination of the training was a 1 day in field seminar with highly experienced trail builders and maintainers. That day was today and I spent over 7 hours on trail asking questions and doing trail work that 1 year ago I would have passed up. It was a great experience.

17 volunteers, 3 instructors, and Chris from the US Forest Service, social distancing was adhered to and it was pretty windy out.

We did some safety talk covering how to handle an emergency with a plan, as well as how to use various tools for trail work. Once that was done we headed out on the trail and spent time just walking the trial and learning how to identify issues. After lunch we worked on a variety of features and even built some new ones.

Learning how to maintain a water bar. Most of trail maintenance deals with getting water off the trail to prevent or reduce erosion.

The biggest takeaway I had was that its ok to make an improvement to a trail. You just need to understand how to make that improvement correctly and with confidence. It was also nice meeting more locals in my area and seeing what drove them to be in the woods and working on our local trails.

In person training is second to none and I was able to ask questions when I had doubts. It turned out that my instincts were pretty good about when a trail needed help. The online and real world training helped me feel confident about my decisions.

This summer the adopt a trail program is back and I have my assigned segment. Its a new to me section of trail so I am excited to see a new area and also give the trail some lovin!

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