Thursday, January 12, 2017

False Horizons

I guess it's time to write another blog post, now that the holidays are done and the new year is here.

Personally, I'm not too excited about the new year.  The best thing about it is that it means that 2016 is finally over. It was not a banner year for me, and I'm glad to see it go.  But the course ahead looks grim, and the prospect of watching the country go down in flames over the next four years really depresses me.  So I've made a decision to have a personal boycott of all news media until January 2021 - everything may suck, but I won't know about it.  As a part of this effort I'm no longer visiting Facebook - not because I believe that it's inherently bad, but because I don't want to see the news or all the ugly things that ignorant, evil people believe. I have been sharing items to the bicycling page I made for our area on occasion but I'm no longer actually visiting my page.  This is for my own piece of mind - if it bothers you, kindly keep it to yourself.

Since I last posted in October the fall riding season has long since come to an end.  But late fall might be my favorite time of the year, and I took advantage of every bit of good weather to get outside. There was a great camping trip with Diana at Kelly Pines in the Allegheny National Forest, quite a bit of trail work, and of course lots of bike riding. That includes some great mountain bike rides as well as plenty of pavement miles.  I made several trips down to Beaver Creek State Park to ride the trails down there, including the still to be finished new trail above Salamander Trail. I think that Beaver Creek might have the most mountain bike suitable terrain in Ohio, and the new trail takes advantage of it to the fullest extents.  The riding can be very technical, but I love that stuff and really enjoy getting out on Dogwood, Salamander, and the new trail.

Of course I also got in plenty of fall rides at West Branch, the park that's just 25 miles down the road.  Much of that was night riding, which doesn't really make for great photos but is still a lot of fun.  I just checked back on my MapMyRide ride log, and it looks like the only other singletrack that I rode in the fall was at North Road Nature Preserve, where I had a whole bunch of short, after work rides.

Apparently I never get tired of taking pictures of the West Branch skinnies.

Freshly raked trails at North Road Nature Preserve
Speaking of North Park Nature Preserve, I've finally finished the trail project that I committed to four long years ago.  So the last of the three trails, the one that took twice as long as the others, is finally finished.  The first two trails, Red Trail and Blue Trail, mostly went through a semi-mature forest where clearing the trail corridor and building the tread was easy.  This last one, Yellow Trail, has about half it's distance in a mature forest, with the remainder located in dense scrub.  The forest part of the trail was easy enough, but clearing and building trail through the scrub was incredibly difficult.  Just clearing a corridor was very tough, and since the trail wasn't finished and not getting any user traffic, it was a constant battle to maintain the already built trail.  And the ground in the scrubby section was an unbelievable mess of wet spots and pot holes, so that making a tread required several rock armoring and infill sections.

And then there was the wet spot - a short section of very dense scrub that tends to hold water way longer than anywhere else we built.  Because of the restraints of the property we had to build at least some trail in this wet area, or not build the loop at all.  Thinking that the only solution was going to be to build over 100' of turnpiking, we put this section off for last.  But with volunteer hours dropping off I was faced with the prospect of singlehandedly bringing back several tons of fill gravel with our trail wagon - something that would have likely taken me another year to do.  So I was very happy when Trumbull Metroparks agreed to give us enough money to build a 120' long boardwalk across this problem area.  I started construction in August, and finally finished in October.  Most of the construction and material hauling I did myself, but there were a few kind souls who pitched in for a work session or two.

The boardwalk with newly finished transition.
Stopping to cut out a downed tree while hauling more lumber back to the build site.
I'm very glad to have this project done, since it already has taken longer than I thought it would, and I'd like to get involved with some trail building at other parks.  But after finishing off the two loops and one out'n'back trail I started to wonder if there was a way to make that out'n'back into a loop.  Long story short - this winter I'm working on adding another 1/3 mile of trail through mature woods to make Blue Trail into a loop.  Next year I'd like to work on adding some mtb specific features to the trails, but I haven't committed to that yet.

New trail will run through the trees on the creek bank.
During the summer I had decided that I was spending too much time riding on the rail trails, and not enough riding my mountain bike in the woods.  So I started riding more mtb miles, but I still managed to get in quite a bit of different rail trail rides.  Of course I did the local trails - Western Reserve Greenway & Little Beaver Creek Greenway - but I also managed to hit a couple that I don't get to that much.  One trip on the Maple Highlands Trail had an unfortunate incident where I managed to crash on pavement in dry, clear weather.  I managed to ride through a small moist spot on the trail, which was slippery as owl snot and hit the pavement hard.  I was lucky I had my helmet on, because I banged my head off the pavement way harder than I really wanted to.

I also managed to put a large hole in my elbow, which is still not healed 6 weeks later.

I made a Thanksgiving day ride on part of the Ohio & Erie Towpath Trail, doing some volunteer work for the Industrial Heartland Trail Coalition by checking one of the 'trail itineraries' that they are developing.  It turned out to be an interesting ride, with almost no one on the trail, rain most of the way - and a nice layer of crushed limestone trail surface spread evenly over me and my bike.

Covered with grit.
I also made a couple of snow rides in the cold periods of December & January, evenly split between mountain biking and pavement riding.  Keeping my schedule of riding 3 or 4 days a week was pretty nice, and I managed to hit my 2000 mile goal for 2016 by finishing with 2100 miles. Not sure how many miles I'll try for this year. I'll get in as many as I can during the winter, and then see how the numbers shape up when the weather starts to break.  

Near the end of the year I took a look at some of the video that I'd take while out riding, and put together a short video of my riding year in review (though there are some clips included from before 2016).  I did the same thing last year, and was happy with the result, but this year the song I found to be the soundtrack really added a lot.  This year's review turned out even better than last years, if I may say so myself!

Here's hoping that your trails are dry, the wind is at your back, and the hills are few.


  1. Sweet video and cool soundtrack! Makes me wanna go for a ride! I'm not as winter hardy as you, but it was out on the Greenway on Christmas Day for a bit while my kids were with their Mom. Only the section between Warren to just up past TCTC was rideable, but I got in some miles and chased away the blues... felt good.

    1. Good to hear from you.

      Yeah, I've been trying to keep spirits up by getting out as much as possible. Got another battery pack for the lights, and I've been using them whenever/wherever I can.

      I had one snowy ride on the WRG, just after it snowed so the snowmobiles and ATV's hadn't ruined it yet. So sweet laying down the first tire tracks in fresh snow. Had a ride on Little Beaver Creek Greenway when it had a bunch of snow - and icy spots. For some reason I always think that I can make it across those icy spots...

      But it won't be too long before the temps start to creep back up. I've got a little bit of trail still to build at North Road and then I've got to figure out what to do next. I've been considering talking to the CAMBA trail guys and seeing if I could do some work out at West Branch.

      See you on the trails.


  2. Dude I survived the Nixon years and trust me, Trump won't make it anywhere close to the finish line. After a couple years of President Pence (the Gerald Ford of this century) it will all stabilize,,,maybe


    1. TJ,

      Good to hear from you.

      Yeah, the situation is so unstable with him in that any one of a dozen outcomes could happen. Not many of them are actually good for anyone except the rich. I do hope that suffering through the next four years motivates people to vote for more progressive politicians, though I have little hope that the electorate can learn from it's mistakes.

      Personally, I'm not doing too bad. Not spending any time w/ news media has opened up lots of evening free time, and I've been getting some maintenance and creative projects done.


  3. Then again I'm drunk as hell at 2 am. So ya gotta factor that in. Hope you are OK, Swampy. yer old pal, tj

  4. Hey Steve! I'm with Jeff, great video and soundtrack. Makes anybody want to go for a ride. Good on you to focus on the trail building and life away from TV, social media, current state of orange hairness in the country. You are a better man for it!!
    Hope you are well.

    1. Not doing too badly, all things considered. I'm very happy to have Daylight Savings give us an extra hour of afternoon sun, and am hoping that someday soon there will be dirt suitable to ride. Till then I'm putting on rail trail miles and doing a bit of kayaking.

      Dropping the news media is one of the best ideas I've had in a while.

      Keep the faith.

      Steve Z