Bob checks the grade with his clinometer.
Designing a trail at Rocky Knob is one part science, one part dodging Volkswagon-sized rocks, and one part hunch. The other half is thrashing through rhododendron. Woody Keen, CEO of Trail Dynamics, calls it art and science. Crawling on your belly through rhodo, you might be tempted to call something else.
The science represents the easy part. Green trails should be no more than 5% grade with short runs up to 15%. Allow water to exit the trail without running down it. Follow the twists and turns of the land. Keep the tread smooth. Translating that to the ground tests one’s fortitude. Following the specifications may take the trail into a dead end. Big rocks seem to loom through every rhodo patch like guardians of the hillside. We’ve already discovered we’ll need to invent new ways to blaze a Green trail through a boulderfield, but scattered all over Rocky Knob are gigantic boulders that keep interfering with the flag line. For blue trails, we might incorporate these into the design, but the Green trail must go either above or below. Each time we decide a micro route above or below, a multitude of more decisions unfold for the next 100 feet of trail. And so on.
Chuck calls on the satellites to confirm our location.
We’re attempting to connect two ends of the flag line where we’ve added about another mile to the existing trail. We’ve spent hours aligning these legs, questioning our judgment, shooting grade with a clinometer, re-aligning, thrashing through rhodo, and placing new flags. Once we connected the ends in a satisfying way, we came to realize we could spend days attempting to perfect the line only to make it a tad better. It feels good now. We gone on. Besides, Bob will make judgment calls every foot as the machines crawl along giving the trail it’s final “flow.”
The Rocky Branch Trail has taken on another mile to bring it’s mileage to 2.6. We’ve added a spiral-like upper extension to the original trail which will provide, in effect, a second green trail options. Riders can complete the Rocky Branch Loop (1.6 miles) or can add the Lower Knob Trail for another mile. Also, the upper trail connects to the saddle between the knobs where a “flow-jump” trail will depart down the power line corridor. However riders choose to navigate this first phase, they will be treated to a beautiful and exciting trail to rival any “easy” trail east of the Practice Loop in Moab.
Flag line for Rocky Branch Trail and Lower Knob Trail (the connection is not shown for the complete Rocky Branch Trail. It will be where the inside loops are at their closest, roughly in the midle of the picture.)