Giving Back: Mountain Bike Trail Building

If you haven’t already heard it through the grapevine, the Lunch Loop area in Grand Junction is expanding in a big way!  Over 100 acres of property east of the current area will be modified in the next few years to create more hiking and biking trails. Mesa Land Trust purchased the property, called The Three Sisters, which was then deeded to the City of Grand Junction.  It is now protected through a conservation easement that will preserve awesome views and allow for trail building.

The Three Sisters area is located east of the current parking area and trails.  Three large hills make up Big, Middle, and Little sister and will provide an additional 130 acres of terrain for recreational use.

This past weekend I was fortunate to take part in a trail building day in the Three Sisters area.  Last fall a short beginner trail, “Hop, Skip, and a Jump,” was built just east of Curt’s Lane.  Our trail would branch off from that and up onto a bench between the Big and Middle Sisters.

Big Sister is just barely visible in the top right corner; our trail work went around the edge of this bench and then cut across and up toward the saddle.

I’ve never participated in a trail building event before and really didn’t know what to expect.  Probably what I least expected was for someone to hand me a McCloud and say, “Here, you take a stab at it.”  What?  Me?  What if I do it wrong?, I thought.  It turns out that in the desert, when the flags have already been placed to represent the trail, trail building isn’t too difficult!  Wait, let me rephrase that:  our stage of the trail building process was not as complicated as I thought it would be.  Basically we worked from flag to flag scraping off the top layer of soil, weeds, etc.  We made sure to allow for water flow across the trail and left a few rocks here and there just to make things interesting.

Flags represent the downhill side of the trail and a volunteer slowly makes his way along the path, scraping away dirt as he goes.

I have to say, trail building is something any biker, hiker, or trail runner should experience–and all three groups were represented this past weekend.  I worked side-by-side with a hiker and a man in his late 60s who trail runs at Lunch Loop every day.  Learning that bikers aren’t the only ones volunteering at trail events was exciting; it made me realize that here in Grand Junction, we’re all willing to get out and get dirty in order to create new recreational opportunities.

A group of volunteers works to smooth and pack down the last bit of trail we completed Saturday.

We worked from 9am until about 2pm before heading back.  Over the next twenty minutes or so as we hiked out, we packed down the trail we’d just created and marveled at how much things had changed in just one day.  Our “intermediate” trail had come to life.  It was there; I was walking on it.  In the morning it had just been raw earth with flags and now it was an actual trail.

While we were busy working on easier portions of the trail, another group, the “rock crew,” was modifying another area.  On our way out it was clear the rock crew had certainly been busy altering one section of trail.  That morning as we scrambled through a boulder-strewn area I thought, there’s no way this will ever be rideable for me!  But walking out I found myself amazed–the whole section had been transformed into rock ramps and ledges.  I can’t wait to go ride those!  Eventually we caught up to the rock crew; they were busy re-doing an old rock bridge on “Hop, Skip, and a Jump.”  Watching those guys lever rocks into place was probably one of the highlights of my day.  The vision they have to take rocks and fit them together like puzzle pieces is pretty cool.

The rock crew at work.

On Sunday Adelle and I rode at Lunch Loop and, at the end of our ride, headed out “Hop, Skip, and a Jump” and rode right across that very same rock bridge.  I have to say those guys did a spectacular job on it.

If you’ve never had the chance to help build a trail, make a promise to yourself to do it this year.  The next time a local group announces a trail building day, be the first one to sign up.  You won’t regret it.

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