I’m back from vacation and ready to start working the trail. The summer was intolerable. Rain every day and high heat and humidity. Brutal. The temps area little cooler now and the afternoon storms are a little less intense. I started mowing last weekend and I continued this weekend. I believe I can get it all mowed next weekend. Yesterday the mower quit on me so I came back today to try to get some more done. I was well on my way when it started thundering pretty loudly. I stashed the mower in the woods and headed for the car. The Trail Trimming Tritts helped out yesterday be cutting back brush. 5 hours last weekend, 4 hours for me yesterday and i think 5 hours apiece for Jason and Candice, and 5.5 hours for me today. There’s a Wounded Warrior hunt scheduled for January on the Juniper Creek Primitive Area. They cleared a chunk of land near Junebug but the thankfully avoided the trail. I guess they are planting a feed crop? Anyway the trail will be closed for one weekend in January for the hunt.
I can’t believe I haven’t posted since September. Dang. The trail is rideable but needs lots of trimming now that spring is here. I did some quick trimming for the time trial but it wasn’t enough so I went out and did some more after. It’s not anything like it was last year but it’s still a good alternative to UWF.
September finally arrived and it brought some slightly cooler weather and traditionally I’ve started doing trail work the first weekend in September. I gave up back in June because we weren’t making any progress against the machines and it was incredibly hot with the reduced shade. I didn’t ride the trail all summer and I don’t think anyone else did either. I rode by the trail head several times and it didn’t look used at all. So last Saturday David, Greg and I hit the trail to get an idea of what needs to be done. Greg and I did a rough cleaning of the Red Rock Trail before hooking up with David on Serpentinas. We got that portion rideable but where we stopped the trail was still rough. Friday I went back out and started back at the other end of Serpentinas. I pin flagged a long way and removed a lot of deadfall so I think it’s rideable all the way through. It still needs a lot of grooming because where the ground was torn up the vegetation has taken over. A mower and/or a weedeater will be the next course of action.
I made another attempt at trail reclamation today. I got pretty far but I didn’t finish as it’s so hot and slow. I started on Serpentinas and went clockwise for maybe 3 miles. The trail was missing in a few places so I pin flagged a new route. Mostly it was cutting and dragging trees off the trail. I need a new blade on my handsaw. I’m surprised i didn’t catch anything on fire trying to cut through some of the dead stuff. Next weekend I should have the whole loop back open just in time to start on the actual trail maintenance. I was noticing an area that they cut that went way down to the bottom of the hill into the flood plain of Juniper Creek. It was hot and I was tired so I went exploring to see how far the went. I don’t know if it was intentional or not but they cut a swath all the way to the creek. Yeah! I hopped in and cooled off and I felt a lot better after that. The route they cut would be a mess if it rained because there were already boggy areas but maybe it will be designates as a camping area that must be hiked to get to. They created a road that runs all the way to the bottom of the hill so they must have been cutting intentionally. 5 hours.
So yes I think they are done logging. Last weekend it looked like all the trucks and tractors were gone. Today I still didn’t find them so I pressed ahead with some trail reclamation. It was hot and I was tired and hung over so I only managed 3 hours of work but I got the trail open from the trail head all the way to the dirt road. I pin flagged some sections that were hard to follow. I didn’t spend any time doing trimming, just clearing the path of the brush that got knocked over on the trail. Next weekend I plan on working Serpentinas.
No, they aren’t done cuttin’ wood yet.
Barbara’s friend Sally from Athens, GA is in town for a few weeks and today they headed to Gainesville to see some friends for a couple of days. Barbara had a horrible week with her laptop crashing with a bunch of stuff she hadn’t backed up, twisting her ankle, trying to get health insurance at the last squeaking minute and attending a meeting at the beach. Barbara and Sally are both large personalities so I’ve been looking for any excuse to get out of the house. Barbara said they were leaving at 11:00 so I waited until 11:30 then hit the road (they didn’t actually leave until 3:30 which to me would mean waiting until tomorrow). When I got to the creek, the parking area was full because they were doing baptisms today. When I got out of the truck I heard them singing ‘Amazing Grace’. Upon listening a little I decided they actually sounded pretty good, being backed up with guitar and dobro and some harmony thrown in. At first I thought it was like karaoke with a boom box but it was actual people playing and singing. Of course by the time I started riding the music had stopped and they were into the dunking part of the ceremony but had they continued I might have stopped to listen a little. ‘Oh, Brother Where Art Thou?’ kinda music.
So I headed up the road to the trail and they’ve started clearing on the Red Rock Trail but they’ve left it pretty much alone. I can’t say that about the tortoises but with a little clearing on it and Lupine, that section will be good to go. Serpentinas is way torn up but only in one section I think. I rode around on the road they’ve cut and it takes out a good section. They are clearing a lot, way down the hill to the railroad bed and even across it in some places. They will probably finish about the time it gets to hot to do any work. I started off feeling kinda queasy but I left in a better mood after seeing how they’ve tried to avoid the trail. Once done I headed back to the car to lube my chain. The church service was over and the redneck/tattoo crowd was back. I headed up the road going northeast. Great ride, I got in 30 miles in 4.5 hours with lots of exploring thrown in.
Work continues at the trail. I rode part of it last weekend and it didn’t seem too bad, just a few days of clearing would have it back in shape. The view is incredible. The whole railroad bed is now visible and there is some great micro terrain in that area that can be exploited. I rode about 20 miles up towards Bear Lake on the dirt roads. A super nice ride plus I found some new sections I hadn’t ridden before but I forgot the GPS so I’ll have to get it next time. Later I heard that Serpentinas was pretty messed up by the tractors but the portion I rode seemed fine. I saw two whippoorwills or whatever their cousins are called.
Today Candice and Jason and I did 6 hours each clearing June Bug and Porc Chop. The tractors were still working out there but it was up closer to Red Rock Rd. There was one short section of Porc Chop that was missing and it looked like a chunk of Serpentinas was gone but since they were driving around we chose to not explore. The old entrance looked pretty beat up also but I couldn’t really tell without getting out and looking. I will say that this whole trail building experience has been less than satisfying with the constant setbacks but I saw someone out riding and some fresh tracks so at least it’s getting some appreciation. I hope that when all the clearing is done that there are several years of calm and maybe some good enhancements allowed from the forestry department and maybe some donations from them as well.
So last weekend I did a 30 mile ride around Blackwater starting with the Red Rock Loop. Actually before I did the ride I sunk two posts in the ground near the trail head, one for a trail head sign and another for maps and such. Then I loaded up and went for a ride. I did the loop backwards (Seprentinas first). The shaping of the trail was a huge benefit when it comes to riding through the turns. The first ones I cut were starting to look aged like they had always been there. The others worked very well. They are subtle enough that the aren’t intimidating to the casual rider. The further back I went on Serpentinas the more of the clearing I saw. It isn’t bad, just different and I think it will only take a weekend to get the trail fixed where the crossed it or inadvertently knocked stuff onto it. The burned areas were stark (after the rain this week I figured they would have disappeared but they were still visible today) but they should green up quickly. I did a casual loop and then headed up the road to the intersection of Pleasant Home Rd and Red Rock Rd. They did some fuel wood cutting there so I wanted to see how it looked after the fact. They created a nice road that runs maybe a half mile with several finger roads into the forest. It looks ravaged but it will be different in a year. I don’t know that it would be worth looking into a trail there but it is nice and open. I headed up Sandy landing road and took a new fire break that had recently been cut. It just made a loop around some private property but it rode nice. It looks like they used a small bulldozer so maybe next trail I can rent a bobcat and build a trail in a weekend instead of a year. Then I just roamed northward looking at the dogwoods and pine forests. There are a lot of beautiful roads that just dead end. It would be sweet to tie them together somehow. I saw two fox squirrels, one tan and the other black and one largish snake. About 25 miles in I stopped for lunch which consisted of a Nutella sandwich and a coke. I was hoping to continue on afterwords but I felt instantly weak and sore. Maybe all the sugar or maybe too much sun and antibiotics. Either way I headed back to the car. I felt fine the next day but I definitely got more sun than I needed.
On Wednesday we broke with tradition and instead of going to sleep in front of the TV at 9:00, we went to see Robert Earl Keen at Vinyl Music Hall. I can’t say it was worth the $90 we spent on tickets and beer but it was a really good show. His band was tight and the crowd was enjoying the show. He covered a Grateful Dead song (Rider?) and Bob Dylan’s ‘Tangled Up In Blue’. We stayed up past midnight.
Saturday We did trail work at UWF. I made it 6 hours but we got so much done. Sunday Barbara and I took the dogs to Blackwater to look at the trail and play in the creek. Beautiful weather and it looks like there are people riding the trail in spite of the work and the fire. Barbara found a native azalea in bloom down by the trestle. The creek was cold and the Schnauzer is getting old so we didn’t go far. There is a lot of fuel wood cutting going on in the forest. Must be a money maker.
So Saturday I had the big plan to load up the road bike, my rear wheel off the mountain bike, and my trail tools and head up to Milton for the Saturday Blackwater ride. I arrived at the trail head ready to go and shortly we were off, destination and distance unknown. I got to chat with several people I hadn’t seen in a while and I got to ride in the beautiful springtime weather. I’m sorta out of shape plus I did two hard days on the mountainbike last week so the 50 miles we rode was pretty tiring but I hung in there and finished up around 11:30. I changed out of my wet clothes and grabbed my rear wheel and took it over to Victor to get him to restring it. It should be ready this coming weekend so I get to repeat this weekend again. Next I grabbed a burger and fries from the quickie food stand at the trail head. I sat and enjoyed it at the picnic table where all the other riders were lingering. I can’t believe no one else got a burger as it’s all I could think about. As I sat there I saw four different sets of touring bike groups. Pretty amazing as I’ve been looking into (just reading lots of blogs, no real effort) doing some bike packing or touring. Soon I was on my way to do some trail work. As I passed the main gate I noticed they were doing some work out there and I assumed they were fixing the road since it’s pretty washed out. I grabbed my tools and backpack and headed out into the woods where I worked two turns and instead of discarding to dirt, I piled it on the trail creating some ‘water bars’ in a poor imitation of the Munson Hills trail. The mounds will mellow after the first good rain and a few people ride over them. It was labor intensive and I only put in 4 hours. After I finished I went to check out the construction of the road. What they were doing instead of road fixin’ was fuel wood cuttin’. A large swath of land around Porcchop was mowed down. They pretty much gyrotrac and then cut down anything that’s not a pine tree. It wasn’t pretty but I did see where they worked around the trail, leaving a 10′-20′ buffer on both sides. So the trail is safe except for a few places they cut across but it isn’t the same as before so be prepared. The road going in is a large sandpit that will have to be addressed by the Forestry Department. I’ll see how much they cut this weekend when I head back up.
Steve and I finally made it over to Tallahassee to ride at Tom Brown Park and at Munson Hills. I wanted to go help out last year when Trail Dynamics was doing a major reworking of the park but I got sick and missed out. They are back again but I have so much to do while the weather is nice. Anyway we hit the Magnolia loop and the Cadillac Trail. They did a great job of taking a confusing and choppy trail and making it fun and flowy. There were some sections missing but I thing the county has taken over some areas for new buildings. I didn’t miss them until after we were done riding. We ran into a local and he told us that there are many greenways around town with trails that can all be connected together for 60-80 miles of riding. Sweet. They might try to do an Ididaride type event in the near future.
Next we headed over to Munson Hills which is a trail in the Apalachicola National Forest. I had heard it was flat and sandy and not worth the drive but Trail Dynamics had been working on it and it’s pretty much the same type of terrain as Blackwater, pines and wire grass. The trailhead was easy to find but we were under the impression that you had to ride down the St. Marks rails-to-trails about a mile or so to get to the actual trail. Well I guess the new plan is to start at the parking area where we were and follow the orange trail through the woods. They have created a red clay causeway that rode like pavement and was constantly changing with banked turns and small rollers. Lots of fun.A lot of work went into making this trail nice. And a lot of red clay. We did part of the Munson loop, then hit the west connector that took us to the Twilight Trail. They haven’t done hardly any work on that section so it was just a trail through the woods. I was getting tired by that point so it wasn’t very epic but I think it would be a great after work aerobic workout. The Twilight Trail makes a big loop back to the west connector. We hooked back up with the Munson Trail and rode the sweetness back to the car. They still have a lot to do but what they had done was amazing. And it’s an all skill levels trail so you can creep along taking in the sights or go wide open and flow through the woods. We ran into Ed of Trail Dynamics and he got a picture of us and we tried chatting him up some but his riding buddy had diarrhea of the mouth and wouldn’t shut up so I’ll just email him any questions I have. It’s a great trail but not real diverse. I’ll check it out again next year and see what they’ve accomplished.