Despite freezing rain, a band of dedicated volunteers ventured to a remote corner of Grouse Ridge Non-Motorized Recreation Area at 7,000 feet elevation in the Tahoe National Forest last weekend to complete rerouting a trail for mountain bicyclists, equestrian riders and hikers.
The bike advocacy club known as Bicyclists of Nevada County (BONC) partnered with Youth Bicyclists of Nevada County (YBONC) to work with forest service representatives to reroute a two-and-a-half mile section of Lindsey Lake Trail.
“It was a two-year project. The logistics were very complicated,” said Jon Pritchett, president of BONC.
Scattered with lakes, granite slabs and sweeping vistas, Grouse Ridge is a backcountry mountain biker’s dream. Lindsey Lake Trail is one of many “archaic” trails stitching the popular, rugged recreation area.
Considered “unsustainable,” the old, rocky and very steep one-half mile Lindsey Lake Trail was built 70 to 80 years ago between Crooked Lakes and Sawmill and was in much need of an upgrade.
“Most mountain bikers say, ‘Yeah, I did that trail once,’” Pritchett said of the trail that turned into riverbed-like conditions.
“It was unstable. It was barely rideable,” he said.
Built to International Mountain Bicycling Association standards, the new trail has gradients on average no greater than 5 percent, switchbacks wide enough for a horse or bicyclists to turn and water drainage features every 50 feet or so, Pritchett said.
“The new trail traverses the terrain more gently, which will be more enjoyable for all users, plus it will be easier to maintain,” said BONC board member Terry Hundemer, who camped with his family at the Bowman PG&E camp over the weekend to participate in the Grouse Fest project — a weeklong gathering of trail building and riding.
With the addition of the new trail, hikers, bikers and horseback riders now have connectivity between the Crooked Lakes Trail and the Grouse Ridge Trail.
“Before we built this trail, there was a very obvious lack of connectivity,” Pritchett said.
After the Forest Service conducted environmental studies of the site several years ago, BONC stepped up to offer volunteers who could do the groundwork.
Enthusiastic recreationists started the project last year and spent two days carving out the new route. A week ago, about 20 hardy folks set up base camp despite the approaching storm.
Saturday, when weather looked its bleakest, volunteers, including high school and middle school students, traveled on four-wheel drive roads and hiked two miles carrying heavy tools, such as Pulaskis and Mcleods, to work on the trail in 38-degree temperatures and freezing rain.
In recent years, the forest service has increasingly turned to nonprofit groups like BONC to help with trail maintenance.
“We don’t have the budget for trail maintenance anymore,” said Jet Lowe, a Forest Service representative for the trail work project and the founder of YBONC.
Trail projects like these have another positive reward: introducing a new generation of trail users to the idea of stewardship, Lowe said.
In October, the Forest Service will team up with Gold Country Trails Council with support from BONC and YBONC to do some work on the Pioneer Trail along Highway 20.
Over the years, local groups like Nevada County Woods Riders, Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship, Bear Yuba Land Trust and Forest Trails Alliance have also built and maintained trails.
“When you live in an area that gets 50-60 inches of rain every winter and tons of snow just up the hill, our trails take a beating. If local groups didn’t step in to help the Forest Service, we really wouldn’t have the vast variety of trail options we have today. … In order to continue to ride and enjoy them, we need to help build and maintain them,” Hundemer said.
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“When you live in an area that gets 50-60 inches of rain every winter and tons of snow just up the hill, our trails take a beating. If local groups didn’t step in to help the Forest Service, we really wouldn’t have the vast variety of trail options we have today.”
Bicyclists of Nevada County board member