Single-track mind

by • June 5, 2017 • Highlights, Single-track mindComments (0)4

New trails ready for riders in far north Eagle River/Chugiak

After the snow melts and the leaves begin to bud, June can’t arrive fast enough for mountain bikers. For people in the Eagle River/Chugiak area, June will mark the opening of 2.5 miles of new singletrack built last fall (Coast September, 2016, article) and finished this May by Chugach Mountain Bike Riders (CMBR). The trails are just the first phase of trail building for the group that formed three years ago, and when I spoke with them in May, they were in the final steps of preparing the trails for riders.

 

I had an opportunity to walk some of the new trails with Adam Muggli in early May. By then, some sections were hard packed and dry, but others were still soft and saturated allowing my boots to sink several inches into the mud. As I tried to repair a hole with my boots, Muggli told me not to worry; this was a section that would be addressed by trail crews later in the month and was the result of one of the challenges of building trails in Southcentral during the fall: rain.

 

Some of the design principles to which trail builders adhere are to follow the contours of the land, to out-slope the trail surface to allow water to drain off to the side, and to not make gradients so steep that water flows down the center of the trail. In essence: think about where the water will go. During the planning process, designers take these into consideration by flagging the best possible routes, but that’s just a start.

 

Every trail has its surprises that are only revealed once the organic layer of soil has been peeled away. In the case of the Mirror Lake trails, those surprises were rock formations. When the mechanized trail builders found boulders in their path, they could move them or go around. But sometimes they could do neither, because they had hit bedrock and there was no alternative route. Those became features.

 

The rock features and the terrain of the Red Trail that winds along ridgelines around a bluff formation give the trail a character that is different from the trails built in recent years in Kincaid or Far North Bicentennial parks. Like much of the Anchorage Hillside trails, this terrain is in glacial moraine, but at lower elevation and with kettle lakes you can view from the trails.

 

After walking the trails, I spoke with CMBR volunteer and ski coach Will Taygan about the soft trails and work yet to be completed. Because the trails were being built during the rainy season, and because water can’t be packed out of the trail, upon freezing the surface heaved and crumbled. Once the ground thawed, the water remained, leaving the tread with an oatmeal consistency that couldn’t hold up to boots, bikes or moose hooves. Once things dry enough, volunteers can reshape and pack the trail, making it ready for a season of use.

 

Both Taygan and Muggli were preparing for the final details prior to the June trail opening: tread repair, signpost installation, root and branch lopping, and getting approval from the municipality. If all goes as planned a new youth mountain bike program will hit the trails on June 6. With CMBR’s dedicated volunteers, I am sure they will meet their goals.

 

More information can be found cmbralaska.org/

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