What the Land Says

For the better part of two weeks, I have been walking every knee-deep marsh, chest-deep stinging nettle thicket, and shin-busting boulderfield on Rocky Knob. I’ve been working for Trail Dynamics on the layout of the first loop trail at the new park. Last week Chuck Ramsey, whom I first worked with 10 years ago on mountain bike trails in Dupont State Forest, clocked to finalize the plan. Our charge is to layout a two-to-three mile beginner (Green by the International Mountain Bicycling Association’s trail rating system) trail.

Chuck Ramsey stops to check out some of Rocky Knob's Flora.

Building a green trail (let’s call it Rocky Branch Trail for now) will be no easy task at Rocky Knob. The entire north face of the lower knob is a boulderfield. Chuck and I spent a day plotting a route through the rubble. Some of the stones can be moved by hand, others, as Chuck says, are connected to the center of the earth. “Bob’s gonna cuss when he sees this,” Chuck continues. He is referring to Bob Karriker who will be the lead machine operator on the trail. How will we get through here?  We’ll see what the land says and do accordingly. Once through the chockstone side hill problem, the planned route leads onto the uphill edge of the marshy, bouldery drainage of Rocky Branch. The trail will then follow the creek in and out of coves to the southern boundary of the park, switch back on itself and then follow a high line above the lower leg back to the trail head passing through a diversity of micro terrain and biotic communities.

Following the land, not working against it will ultimately create better, more sustainable trails. A trail that does not follow the land invites problems. Water retention. Erosion. Unnecessary braking. All these issues will force volunteers to spend more time with maintenance. Build it right the first time equals more time in the saddle.

Bob Karriker (right) and Chuck Ramsey check out a choke point on the new flag line.

The Rocky Branch Trail will feature a couple of Trail Dynamics’ trademarks:

First, this trail will dance. Straight lines seldom exist in nature and so the trail will follow the curves, dips, and rises of the land. If the land says up, riders will be going up. Down, down. Left, then left, then back right.

Second: Technical Terrain Features.  Numerous optional lines constructed to create more advanced options (i.e. Technical Terrain Features (TTFs) are planned for this and future trails). Rock-gardens, log rides, and small drops will pepper this green trail but will be easily avoided by riders not wishing to test their skill level.

The Rocky Branch Trail will be the first of several stacked-loops and will provide riders an appetizer to what awaits higher up the knob. A Blue trail is planned above the green with connections to a Black and Double Black Diamond trails, a skills development areas, and a jump trail. When finished Rocky Knob Park should have 6-8 miles of mountain bike trails for every skill level.

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