Talking Trail Talk

Building trails is an art and science

William Kemsley Jr., founder of Backpacker magazine
Posted 6/27/19

Public land trails need upkeep and public land agencies don't have enough staff to get the job done. So the agencies rely heavily on trail volunteers. Recently, the Bureau of Land Management and …

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Talking Trail Talk

Building trails is an art and science

Posted

Public land trails need upkeep and public land agencies don't have enough staff to get the job done. So the agencies rely heavily on trail volunteers. Recently, the Bureau of Land Management and Enchanted Circle Trails Association joined forces to train two dozen volunteers in trail maintenance. They began triage work on 60-plus miles of their two most-loved trails in all of New Mexico - the South Boundary and the Rift Valley Overlook trails.

Their trail work is a shared stewardship interweaving two federal government agencies and a consortium of biking and hiking volunteers groups.

Heading up the hiker and biker organizations, Carl Colonius, director of the Enchanted Circle Trails Association, said, "Without [the] volunteers it would be impossible to maintain our trails in usable condition in both the Carson National Forest and the North Río Grande National Monument."

Rangers agree, since their slim staff has responsibility for clearing winter deadfall and repairing water damage on more than 600 miles of trail in the Carson National Forest and a few hundred miles more in the North Río Grande Monument National Monument.

The trails association is always looking for volunteers. Find out more at enchantedcircletrails.org.

Trail builders have their own lingo. Here's a few words and phrases to know:

Back cut - The vertical part of the bench cut that's blended into the backslope.

Bench cut - A semiflat trail tread created by digging down to mineral soil in the hillside.

Backslope - Slope on the uphill side of the trail.

Berm - The ridge that develops on the downhill side of the trail.

Crib wall - A retaining wall that raises the trail significantly.

Knick - Shaved-down section of trail, about 10 feet in diameter, with an exaggerated outslope.

Sheet flow - A dispersed flow of water that minimizes erosion.

Sill - Stone or timber supports that keep bridge stringers from contacting the ground.

Singletrack - A trail so narrow that users must travel in single file.

Social trails - Paths created by people who wander away from set trails.

Texturing - Placing natural features, rocks, logs, etc., back into the tread to increase technical features.

Tight and technical - A trail design that includes tight turns, natural technical features and mandates slower bike speed.

Tread creep - A contour trail sagging or sliding down the hill.

Turnpike - Trail-building technique that uses a combination of gravel, soil or other filler material to make the tread higher than the surrounding water table.

-- William Kemsley Jr., is founder of Backpacker magazine

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