- May '08 Trail Work -
           It Would be Called "Toby"

A friend had been lobbying for a trail in this certain area, and had even begun trying to ride one in. The pictures here should give you some indication that this is NOT a "natural" nor easy spot for a trail to go, particularly if you do not seek to do anything more than ride it into existence. I was not convinced of the effectiveness of the location, relative to connecting in a natural manner to other existing trails, but sometimes you just go with the flow. On the plus side, this is a very peaceful, tranquil spot that no one ever went to because it was fairly hidden and inaccessible. So yet again, the Ghost of the Forest plies the soil on a lonely and forgotten hillside. Peaceful, serene, soul-food.
It all began long before this, with mental effort. Many moments spent perusing the landscape, discerning  interesting features and shapes, sighting for lines that ebbed and flowed in concert with the topography. The art of trail building is contained within this time of contemplation as you ferret out the essence of the route. It is obviously far less physical, but no less important. Fairly crucial, for poor design leads to a failed trail. I don't build those. The Old Souls that inhabit  Jones would not be impressed.
to separate the upper layer of organic material from the clean soil. Then the organic matter or "duff" is broadcast down the hillside. The finishing touch to the bench is to clean up the uphill side of the soil that is exposed with a "backcut." This grading averages and evens the uphill portion of the cut to improve esthetics and to reduce ground water velocity.

The steeper the slope, the more digging you are in for. This one took a fair bit. Yet, from a plot that was not particularly useful for anything, one can create a memorable experience and new discovery.
Beasts of Burden. Some time spent scouring the creek bed for suitable materials quite fortunately yielded many fine candidates in very close proximity to the work site. The Trail Gods were clearly on our side! Initially, we all kind of laughed at the little sled made from a few 2x4s and flimsy Masonite. That thing was DA BOMB. It worked amazingly well to skid these huge stones across the distance from the creek to the corner to be. Fairly brilliant!
Your intrepid Trail Warriors.
And so, out of nothing save for an idea, sweat, and desire, a trail was born. Named sometime shortly thereafter, as it happened, in memory of one man's best friend, who had been there for its creation. A special place on many levels.
The payoff. It's pretty cool to ride something you've built, and feel the flow that was once only of your mind, now under your own wheels. It's even better to see other people enjoying it. To hear comments from people who marvel at what you have created. Who look and see an incongruous little spot with this really neat trail running through it. To note the vertical distance traveled from afar, and yet realize you don't even notice it when riding it. It doesn't even seem like a hill! Those that get it provide a great reward. A good-for-nothing hillside transformed into a destination!

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My detail manager and I, where we like to be. You can't beat having a sweetie that gets it!
The technique is called Bench Cutting. Literally, cutting a "bench" or trail tread into a hillside. Above, the first cut of the bench is made. Then it is raked
It would be most fitting for the guy who agitated for a trail in this challenging spot to put in a little effort to see it through, and that he did. In fact, it turned into a very satisfying and rare little group effort.  Many hands made the work no lighter, but it sure got done a lot faster!
Yes, this was a pretty ambitious undertaking for a trail that takes mere moments to pass over in its entirety. There had to be one grand switchback somewhere along the line, as I envisioned it, in order to take advantage of all of the features that I wanted to incorporate, and that switchback had to come from out of nothing. Creating a 180* turn on such a steep slope is not feasible by digging alone, and so we sought the materials to create the platform for it. Those materials came from the adjacent creek - always ready to give of its ever changing bounty - with no little effort expended to acquire them.