Monday, April 15, 2013

What mountain bike dreams are made of...


My instructions were simple: "Stand where I tell you and keep the flag on your downhill side." Simple. A child could do it. A reasonably intelligent monkey could do it. A stick could do it. And then it hit me - "I'm a human surveyor's rod." At first I said it to myself, but then I said it out loud and Jim Horton, of Horton Design and the trailboss designing the trail being put in at Zack's Fork, said, "Yeah, pretty much."

The job was simple and complex. As we tromped through the woods, Jim eyed a route that would take us from one section that had already been laid out, to a flag that signaled the start of another section that had been laid out. What the job entailed for me was to serve as the reference for Jim to measure incline of small bits of trail to make sure that he didn't deviate from a + or - 10 degree incline. This keeps the trail beginner friendly, insuring that no climb is too steep or descent too scary and maximizes the fun factor as you end up with a fun, flowy trail.

In a 3 hour long trail design tutorial, I got to see how an artist lays out a mountain bike experience upon the highly variable canvas of a landscape. Nuggets of wisdom like what trees to avoid routing a trail to close to (Pine trees with their wide spreading root systems that are right at the top of the soil require tons of work to route trail near as the routes have to be removed.), how a trail should maximize space but not be so stacked upon itself that you just go back and forth seeing the trail you've been on and the trail you're headed to, how trees are used as "choke points" to control rider speed going into S-turns, and much more. My favorite gem of wisdom was that dogwood trees basically fall over "as soon as you put a survey flag beside them."

Over the course of 3 hours, I got to see the trail that we have talked about and dreamed of for many years taking shape. Views emerged that I had never seen before as we tromped through the woods. I was struck by the idea of not only how much fun this trail will be, but by how pretty it will be as well. I simply can't wait now that I've seen the sketch on the ground!

Yesterday Golden, Owen and I went to explore the Boone Fork Recreation Area trails. Primarily horse trails, the potential for the area is incredible, but poorly designed trails coupled with neglect has made the need for trail maintenance very high. We, of course, chose to ride a route that is best avoided by mountain bikes at this time due to the incredibly damaged and poorly routed nature of the trails. We managed to stay clear entirely of the two trails that Jeff recommended to me (the green/white flashed and orange flashed trails) and opted instead for the blue/green flash (avoid), and the yellow flash (very fun at the end, but didn't make up for the tremendous amount of hike-a-bike).

 Owen got to perfect his steep descending technique with a tutorial from his mom. Hands on the brake levers, eyes forward, butt way back off the saddle, he dropped down some long, steep chutes and ruts like a champ. We sang songs ("I like big ruts and I cannot lie"), we dubbed sections of trail "rut-o-rama"s and generally had a great time. But this turned into a fairly typical Moore family excursion in which one of us (usually Golden but this time me) suggests some ride that is far more than what we bargained for. With Golden, it typically starts with something like, "Well let's just see where this trail goes. We've got plenty of time." What typically follows is some over the top route that takes us deep into the early set up of a survival tale and ends with us running low on water, or energy, or daylight (or some combination of these) and emerging way farther away from our car than would generally be advisable, but persevering and surviving nonetheless. 10 rugged miles and 3 hours later, Owen joined the family tradition by surviving with flying colors his first Moore Family Sketchy Backwoods Adventure.

Butt back, jersey unzipped.. pure focus.



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