August 31, 2016

How to build a trail

By Matt Baatz
Scan the terrain when the vegetation is waning. Bushwack. Get lost. Find the chunks of terrain that make your heart skip a beat—a rideable ledge, a swoopy piece of old road that you can modify, a rocky chute, a bermable turn.
Start flagging a rough path. Make the markings as mobile as possible because you’ll be moving them, a lot.
Stare down the line you proposed until the trail pops out of the terrain like one of those magic eye drawings that were popular a decade ago, but don’t be too rigid in your vision. Trails are mostly discovered, not contrived. Look uphill. Look downhill. Find where the water wants to drain. This is where you’ll start digging, creating very small valleys between an elaborate linkage of very small mountains.
Ride, adjust, ride, adjust, repeat.
Somewhere in the process of building, and there’s no saying when, the trail will reveal its nature and tell you its name.
Sign it. Announce it. Invite people to ride it. But don’t be discouraged if no one shows. Some trails are late bloomers. They come into their own after a couple of years of nurturing. They co-evolve with their most avid riders, many times subtly changing course and benefiting from this symbiosis. Be humbled by the small role you played in the trail’s manifestation.
(Editor’s note: prior to building a trail, you must own the land or have the proper permissions to cut a trail. It is illegal to cut trails on publics forest land.)

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