While some of you were relaxing on long, smooth, well-hydrated road rides last weekend, members of the Northern Indiana Mountain Bike Association (NIMBA) spent the weekend in blue jeans and sweaty shirts hacking away at massive vines, downed trees, brush and brambles through the woods at Potato Creek State Park during their annual trail cleanup day. In two days of work during the Friday-Sunday overnight camping event, a handful of NIMBA members completed 3 major trail “re-routes” around problem trail areas and built a 53 foot wooden boardwalk over a swampy area. All this after similar work recently at Lawless Park and Rum Village.
If you have never “built” a mountain bike trail before, as I had never done, well, this is real work. 100% muscle, sweat, good-natured jokes about road-bikers, plus hand tools including a thing called a “McCleod” (looks like a massive 5-pound garden hoe + rake), axes, shovels, pruning shears. Their trail planning guy had marked the new trail re-routes with a series of orange-flagged wires that meandered off into the brush, down ravines, under downed tree trunks. We stood there a moment, sighed at the work ahead, and began to cut and drag and shovel and tamp away. Two hours later, the crew I was on had cleared about fifty yards of brand new trail, completely re-covered and re-planted the old trail, and carefully beveled the downhill cross-grade of the track to ~3% (to allow for rain runoff but not a washout). Just in time to have several mountain-biking families and individuals appear to try it out. The new boardwalk lumber was hauled into the woods entirely by hand in the mud on Saturday, and completed by Sunday.
One of the surprises in the woods I’d never seen before despite years of camping and woods-walking was the startling flow of water that immediately poured from the end of the large severed vines. As if you turned a faucet on low, the rising spring water-nutrients absolutely drained up and out of the vines. So much so that special trail ‘culverts’ were required where a vine-stump was cut out of the ground under the trail itself, because the hole would quickly fill with water/mud from all the feeder roots that supplied that hub in the vine network.
Hats off to NIMBA members and organizers like president Kathy Serrat, who help design, build and keep these trails open and safe.
In return, Potato Creek Park Management was appreciative of their efforts, and helped with discounted camping sites and free firewood. Along with some long work days, friends relaxed in the evening around the campfire and enjoyed great food, drinks and fellowship with our NIMBA and DNR friends.