THIS WEEK'S HIDDEN GEM: RANGER
This week's gem has been a popular riding choice to many for the past few weeks. I have had the opportunity to have a good chat with HMBA's Trail Coordinator, Kevin Myles, and hope it will be a testament to just how much goes into adding trails to our amazing trail systems.
Location: Happy Creek Trail System, connects EZ Lookout and GS.
Description: Like a Ranger patrolling the bush, scouting trails, scanning for wildlife, and keeping quads off protected areas, so too can you experience HMBA newest singletrack!
A pedally 2.4 kilometer trail that connects the EZ viewpoint with the GS trail in the greater Happy Creek trail system. Ranger has a different challenge depending on which direction you ride it with something new around every corner. As the trail is still new, your keen tracking skills will be useful for navigation and looking for flags on important corners.
Built with the help of the Alberta Junior Forest Rangers in the summer of 2014, Ranger is a fitting tribute. Also, if you’re into geo-caching, look for the cache that the JFR’s created near the EZ viewpoint.
Directions: There are two main ways to access this trail. The northern trailhead is found off the spur trail for the EZ Lookout, a favorite lookout spot after going up The J. The second connects from Halloween and a fun downhill extension with the GS trail.
Q & A with HMBA's Trail Coordinator
HMBA: How did you decide to build where you did?
Kevin: In talking with Tim Trahan, the previous HMBA Trail Coordinator, during our master trail plan meeting about the potential GS connector and how the EZ Viewpoint is such a good spot. Normally you climb to the EZ viewpoint, take the Halloween connector and then rely on the pipeline/cutlines to link together with the other trails. It made sense to consider a new trail using the interesting terrain below to connect a longer perimeter style trail with the other dead-ends. The next step was to get TFA (basically permission to build) from AESRD. Tim guided me through the proposal and I gathered a rough trail location using map imagery, submitted the legal land coordinates and a description of the trail type, features and purpose and it was ultimately approved.
HMBA: How did you pick the route?
Kevin: Just started walking in the bush, looking at terrain, drainages, forest types, existing game trails, etc. Walked different sections and flagged what made sense. Tried to use side hills and elevated areas to maximize the terrain and stay out of wet/low areas. Linking tricky sections together, usually the hardest part, especially when there is no obvious route. Trying to minimize disturbance, avoiding cutting green trees, sensitive areas etc. Using natural terrain features and grade reversals for good water drainage and staying within the IMBA guidelines as much as possible.
HMBA: Did you do a lot of re-routes?
Kevin: Not really, there’s still a lot of cool terrain to work with though. I want to link to a new viewpoint and fix a few T corners. Tim provided good feedback, like avoiding high-traffic game trails, hiding sightlines etc.
HMBA: What were the biggest challenges?
Kevin: Running out of time with the end of the season looming and without volunteer support to dig the trail down to mineral soil. Having to rely on people riding it –which is great in the short term but may lead to more maintenance later as roots expose and corners and hill challenges get beat up. More chainsaw work was needed to remove potential deadfall to lessen potential future maintenance.
HMBA: What was the best part of building this trail?
Kevin: The best part is yet to come! More speed as it hardens up and we get familiar with the route.
HMBA: Tell me about the volunteer support
Kevin: The unsung hero is Gabby Lyons: she gets dragged out to work on every on-going HMBA project (sometimes willingly haha) and a normal ride will mysteriously turn into trail maintenance. Like after building Vigilante last year and having to hike out as many tools that we could pack or carry out in the snow. Also had a few organized trail days attended by HMBA members and the odd trail fairy clear a section of trail. Then of course the involvement of the Junior Forest Rangers -more later. So much more happens than what appears on Facebook.
HMBA: Which way should we ride it?
Kevin: Both ways. From Halloween and down GS, it continues the downward grade to the pipeline. Then steady mixed terrain and gradual climb to the viewpoint. The ride from the EZ out to GS is a bit more of a grunt on the last section. The goal was to have this trail link together with other trails back there and utilize more terrain and avoid using cutlines and pipelines. It makes for better loops, tying into Vigilante or longer rides along the perimeter.
HMBA: How were the Junior Forest Rangers (JFR’s) involved?
Kevin: The JFR’s were the big motivation for the trail. They have approached HMBA for several consecutive years now requesting projects where the JFR leaders can work and learn. So the building of the GS extension was the perfect fit and we organized 3 days of work on the extension (and one day on Jack’s). The JFR’s used this project to learn how to use GPS’s and maps to navigate to the site. They hiked from the beaver boardwalk in full nomex coveralls with tools and packs. They learned about the history of HMBA, our partnerships with land managers and the importance of outdoor recreation and tourism to the area. They Learned trail building techniques and got hands-on experience with tools such as polaski’s and mcleod’s. In total the JFR crews put in approximately 300 hours on this trail this summer on the first 0.5 kilometer of the trail. In total, over 400 hours was spent building Ranger!
HMBA: Why "Ranger"?
Kevin: After many hours of discussion over trail names with Julie, HMBA's VP, and whittling down some of my crazier suggestions, "Ranger" seems to be the most appropriate. A bit ordinary maybe, but there needed to be a tie-in with the Junior Forest Rangers. They contributed hundreds of man hours so I think it's a decent connection to their contribution (and hopefully on-going partnership).
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