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