Wells/Barkerville MTB Trail Project - Update and Progress Report

Feb 22, 2010 at 16:34
by Tom Schoen  
It's been almost 10 months since I've introduced the project here on PinkBike. 2009 has been a much anticipated summer and it did not disappoint. I wrote about my plans of working as a professional trailbuilder here on PinkBike in April of '09. May came and I was anxious to get started but it seemed like the snow would never melt. I finally couldn't wait any longer, hired my first helper, Pascal, and started on a section of trail with southern exposure and almost no snow. Immediately it became obvious, this is a little bit different than just working for fun. Our first job, part of the contract, was to move an old, existing out house. Not exactly what I had envisioned, but hey, if it leads to building MTB trails I can handle it.

Read on how my transition from hobby builder to MTB trails contractor went and find out where the projects stand right now.


And it didn't take us long to get started with the "real" work. All you trail builders out there in Pinkbike land know just how exciting it is to lay out a trail and then start digging. There's nothing as rewarding as looking back after your first day of work and seeing what you have accomplished. Everyday the trail grows in length and all you want to do is get on your bike and ride it.



I knew that over the next 5-6 months I would have to build dozens of bridges and north shore sections and I wasn't going to cut hundreds and hundreds of boards by myself. So in order to go on with the building I needed to train Pascal in cutting planks freehand out in the bush. Luckily he caught on rather quick.



Between the two of us we made good progress and built our first three sections of north shore bridges.



Pretty soon we finished our first section of trail, the snow was gone and we cleaned up some existing trails to tie them into a loop connected by our new trails. I hired more guys and we moved higher in elevation, building trails further away from town in the Cariboo Mountains around Barkerville and Wells. Access became an issue and we spent hours daily just getting to and from our actual job site. We used my Jeep, ATV's and still hiked for hours carrying heavy loads. However, the area is so remote, we could leave most of our tools behind at the end of the day.




Mid-summer we started the longest and most challenging part of our contract. An old ditch line, built in 1870 for the Cariboo Goldfields had to be opened up and transformed into a ridable trail. I'm usually a pretty optimistic guy, but when it took me almost a day to hike 5km's along the ditch line, I knew we were in for a challenge. Thick brush and willows, long sections of wash-outs and wet areas everywhere made building a smooth trail seemingly impossible. We needed manpower to accomplish this task and I hired more guys. A crew of loggers/fallers went ahead of us and cleared the trail of larger trees, we followed with a heavy-duty brush mower to make the actual building easier and then just worked away meter by meter. Pulling stumps and roots, building bridges or cutting into the sidehills to get across wash-out sections. Every day was a new challenge and an adventure. We found many artifacts and even came across an old tree with Chinese markings from the days when the trail was built. The gold-miners used the ditch lines as their main trails and telegraph lines were strung along the routes. Every few kilometers you find cabins, the ditch keepers used to live in.







Our day to day building routine was interrupted by a visit from the RideGuide TV crew. They rolled into town to film an episode featuring the new trails. Followed by interviews with me, my crew and Jason, the local economic development officer in charge of the project. The episode should air sometime in 2010.



All summer, in addition to our paid trail work, we put some time in improving two trails started by a couple of local guys. Fast, fun almost bikepark-like trails with a lot of wooden stunts.








One of the highlights of the summer was a photo shoot with well known photographer Thomas Drasdauskis. He was hired for the trails project to get a series of photos for the upcoming Wells/Barkerville MTB Trails website. We shuttled up on our ATV's into the Cariboo Mountains for some pretty spectacular high alpine riding.





The summer came to an end and during our last few weeks in September and early October we worked in the snow, finishing up a nice, steep DH trail connecting the ditch line to the town of Wells.




The Municipality of Wells is currently working on trail maps, a MTB trails website and signage. Most of the trails are beginner friendly and can be used by hikers and snowshoers as well as MTB riders. In conclusion I have to say that 2009 was my best summer. I'm now 45 and have owned businesses, worked as an electrician, carpenter, consultant and hotel and restaurant manager. Nothing beats working outside in nature building trails... can't wait for my 2010 contract to start and get that chain saw running again.


Info & links:

-Official Homepage of Wells, BC
-Barkerville Historic Town
-Thomas Drasdauskis Photography
-RideGuide TV


40 Comments

  • 12 0
 amazing work :O
  • 4 0
 Hahahaha in B.C we have millions of trees, its fine to spare a few for beautiful wood work, especially when the trails are being built close enough for me to ride them!
  • 5 0
 Nice work, keep it up
  • 5 0
 yeah, definitely trail building of the highest quality, plus huge, huge creativity. Definitely giving me some good ideas.
  • 2 0
 Major props man, i know that feeling that you talk about, when you build something new and then you just keep on wanting to building. Build On!
  • 1 0
 i just linked to your profile from that pitch thread the other day and i was checking out these pics thinking how sweet they were and now they are in an article! keep up the good work man
  • 3 0
 nice work man looks like you digging through it with a tunnel builder Razz Smile
  • 1 0
 very nice work guys!!!beautiful place!!!!! file bigjim13 h oikologia tha mas faei sthn ellada gi ayto den prokite na ftaksoume kati tetoio ki emeis edw!
  • 3 1
 Hey guys thats why we dont care about the water and we let the taps open because we think that we have bilions litres of water and you have to think that you are not the only ones who cut trees in all over the world anyway i dont want to say to you guys that we JUST DONT HAVE TO CUT TREES but i just wanna say that we have to protect our planet ...cheers
  • 4 1
 bigJim13... I agree with you. In our case, we used dead trees for most of the stuff. Here in the Interior of British Columbia we have a huge beetle bug infestation. The majority of the trees are dead. We fall trees for building that still look "green" but are already attacked. You can tell by hundreds of tiny holes in the bark. In a few years these trees go red and are dead. If you use them after the initial attack they are still structurally ok for building. I'm with... safe our planet (so we have a place to ride our bikes).
  • 1 0
 i see your point and i totally agree with you ...keep up the good working guys!!!
  • 2 0
 That is dedication...great work!!!! I would love to ride those trails.
  • 3 1
 good work guys but try not to "kill" so many trees...keep riding
  • 2 0
 amazing trail, wish we had trees like that here
  • 2 0
 rock shoxs hard hat i like it
  • 2 0
 This is like my blog only a million times better!
  • 2 0
 no way man, I totally enjoyed reading your blog.... anything with and on trailbuilding ;-).... I went out and rode my bike immediately after reading your story a few days ago.
  • 2 0
 Yeah that blog was class and gave me loads of ideas for my own builds. This one is obviously great aswel, but its a little out of my price range
  • 1 0
 Cheers guys!
  • 1 0
 Looks awesome I'm hoping to come back up this summer and aim to ride all this stuff.
  • 1 0
 Excellent.... I'll have to take you out on the new trails.
  • 1 0
 For sure I'll have a chainsaw cert. and i may know how to run an excavator as well.
  • 1 0
 Wow.. holy crap, you guys must take months to build those epic trails! Keep it up!
  • 1 0
 Great photography, solid looking trails, keep up the good work and updates!
  • 1 0
 That trail looks... just... I have no words. Great work!
  • 1 0
 crazy trail man looks like an awesome ride
  • 1 0
 WOW! Excellent work guys!
  • 1 0
 Trails are lookin sweet dude
  • 1 0
 One of the best reports trail reports I've ever seen. Love the pics.
  • 1 0
 Well done! Stoked to see the work you are doing. Keep it up!
  • 1 0
 Yeah! NICE bro!! i almost shed tear when see this!! nice job, nice trail
  • 1 0
 you guys/ladies are my heroes!!!
  • 1 0
 Time for a road trip!
  • 4 0
 MAybe Pinkbike's hurtin for vert should head north this year?
  • 1 0
 nice!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • 1 0
 yeah! very nice job!
  • 1 0
 nice job man!
  • 1 0
 thats brilliant
  • 1 0
 sweet trail
  • 1 0
 nice work that sick

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