On the whole it was a very successful season and we accomplished most of what we set out to do. High points included the completion of 2(+) miles on the Hospital Trail and about 4.5 miles at Mt. Ashwabay and another great trail crew. Low points included insufficient budget to build Gravel Pit bridge bypass and frequent breakdowns of our Kubota mini-excavator incurring repairs costs, rental expenses to keep the project going and loss of production time.
Five crew worked from beginning of June through the third week of August. Another crew member worked that same timeframe in support of Mt. Ashwabay machine crew. Several different individuals were cycled through this assignment. A couple of crew members started early – third week of May on leaf blowing, etc., but because of the long winter, pre-season work was limited. Three crew stayed on through the first week in Sept. to complete an assortment of loose ends. The crew performed extremely well. Having five out of six crew members with experience on the crew was incredible, making it easier to manage the crew. Our trail crew budget this year ended up around $35,000. Ashwabay and Hospital hours were accounted separately and charged against the respective budgets. The crew lost very little time due to rain and were able to do indoor work at the shop on carpentry projects, tool sharpening and other work.
Steve Morales is to be highly commended for his work at the Hospital Trail. He put in a tremendous amount of time laying out the trail, supervising brushing and coordinating construction with our contractor, Travis Bellman. The outcome was every bit what we were hoping to achieve. The new trail continues the character and flow of the original segment with the addition of several very scenic areas, including: a marsh, a creek and a stand of tall pines. A little over two miles was completed bringing the total to about 3.5 miles. The reception to the new trail continues to be extremely positive. Trail crew members were utilized on a number of occasions to cut & pull brush, swamp, and clear the corridor. Their hours were accounted to the Hospital Trail project budget to give us a true picture of the cost of the project. Our total expenditure on the project this year was about $24,000. The goal for next year will be to complete another 2.5 miles to get to the original six-mile goal. Our partner on the project, Hayward Area Memorial Hospital, is not concerned that it be exactly six miles, so whatever makes sense to complete a logical loop or loops, or tie off to another trailhead is up to us.
Mike Weispfenning continued to lead the charge at Mt. Ashwabay, flagging the new trail, coordinating nuances of the construction with Adam and rallying volunteers for trail tweaks and maintenance issues.
Work started a little later than we hoped due to the late winter, but things got rolling along steadily. For the first couple of weeks two of our trail crew, Will Krift and Tom Cogger, trained under Adam on our loaner mini-excavator. This was a good way to go to get them up to speed with the machine. The emphasis at AWB was the completion of the final 6-mile loop. That trail ended up being named Tsuga Daddy – a play on words – as Tsuga is part of the scientific name for the Eastern Hemlock, Tsuga Canadensis. The trail goes through a large stand of towering Hemlock as it winds among deep ravines. This is a full-on cross country flow trail with lots of gentle climbing and long descents with jumpable features. The project was plagued, however, but numerous breakdowns of our Kubota. Fuel water separator, mysterious shut downs, crud in the fuel system, broken alternator belt, and finally a broken bolt on the alternator mount. This caused close to 7 days of lost work time for our contractors, Adam & Mica. The most significant problem required pulling the fuel tank and cleaning it out. Lulich Equipment was backed up several weeks and we had to lease a machine for about a month, which cost about $2,200 and required picking it up in North Branch, Minn. and then returning it. The repair was about $1,100. Because our machine was not fully dependable, Adam and Mica went back to Grand Marais and picked up a machine that they recently bought so they can finish the 2,100 feet remaining on the project, which cost $1,500 including transport.
During the off season there should be a discussion about the future of our Kubota and how we expect to proceed with larger trail construction projects.
Now known as Dirt Candy, this project was not worked this year. The flag line has been reworked several times with the goal of injecting as much flow and descending as possible. The character will be similar to the first segment. There will again be a one-way downhill oriented line and a two-way through trail, as well as another side play area. Estimated 1.5 miles or so to build, which should take around 5-6 weeks. Adam has committed to coming back for this project.
We were fortunate to have a loaner mini-excavator from Ziegler CAT for the season to use in tread remediation, elevation and drainage restoration. This machine is smaller than our Kubota. It seemed to work effectively. Will and Tom were the only regular operators. Marv Franson volunteered for a few days late in the summer. The first project was widening the bench cut on Seeley Pass along Martel’s Pothole. The machine was then used for tread rehab on Namakagon Trail and also a series of drains, grade reversals and deberming. On Makwa a couple of segment of trail were reworked south of the bridge. On Hatchery there was more drainage and tread elevation work done. One short benchcut on Ojibwe was also constructed. While a fair amount was accomplished, the machine sat idle for long periods of time as our operators also had to work with the full crew. Machine work was generally scheduled opposite mowing and brushing where three guys could do that work while the other two worked the machine. In the future, a couple additional crew members might be necessary to be able to better utilize a machine like this. The guys seemed to think that the machine worked well for these tasks. It is too small, however, to be efficient for building the wider, flowy trails. Adam feels it is underpowered and does not move enough dirt. It is, however, still a good option for rehab work. And the price was right. Big thanks to Ziegler CAT!
Mini-Skid Steer Demo
Vermeer held a demo in August of their smallest mini-skid steer in hopes of evaluating its potential for drainage work on the trails. Ron, Stan & Chris Campbell attended and we tried it out on a couple of places on the Namakagon Trail. It appears to have good potential for cleaning & emphasizing drains and possibly building grade reversals. It has a 6-way blade, which is good for this work. It also has a bucket. It is not clear if it would be useful elevating tread if it would require borrowing material from off the trail. A monthly rental would run $1,500 per month with 90% applied toward purchase. It retails at $22,750. This should be part of our off-season discussion.
Significant Maintenance Initiatives
Mowing: All major hotspots addressed: Sleigh Trail, Esker beginning & end & approach to N12, Trail Lake Trail, Patsy, Namakagon & Glacier Trail, Bike Park, Hospital Trail and all trailheads.
Brushing: Addressed all known hotspots in a relatively timely fashion – much better than in the past. We had volunteer help in Namakagon on Namakagon Trail.
Blowdowns: On the whole, a kinder gentler year. Stan, Tom & Pete took good care of the Namakagon area. Ron did most of Cable, with help from Mike Most & Shelly Wilson & the crew. Charlie, Steve, Jeff Tumbleson & others took care of things to the south & Matt took care of Danky Dank. The online reporting system has been very helpful and riders have regularly submitted reports of needed work.
Reroutes: .4 mile reroute on Ojibwe to remove trail from low lying old road, two other short realignments on Ojibwe to remove trail from fall line, short reroute on Patsy Lake to move trail above wet area.
Rock Lake: The crew spent 2+ weeks on Rock Lake tread work, primarily on the inbound trail between N7 and N6 and more or less completed that segment. They addressed primarily drainage and tread issues, but did not de-fang the trail as there are many, many rocky sections remaining. They built several rock ride over features where that seemed to be the logical strategy. Most of these were on their own judgement. They also went back to a particularly tough spot that they worked last year near the new big rock drop where they armored most of it. They also built an inslope turn in the middle/approach to to the final drop. It worked well as it was very rocky and hard to build in natural drainage.
No Hands Bridge: The south 10-15 feet have been under water much of the season. The crew did not have time to get to this.
We removed all posts & signs from the gravel routes in Drummond and removed those routes from the map. A new D/D paper cluster map was developed with both clusters on the same map. Boulevard was mowed on the ski trails, but little other maintenance performed.
The crew put in one long day of work in Delta. More could/should have been done, but kept falling off the priority list. Work efforts were compromised by road washouts. We mowed, brushed, cleared the east, middle & northern legs on West Fork and cleared quite a few downed trees. We did not address W17 to W25. The whole trail needed more mowing and brushing but that did not happen. Part of Tall Pines was washed out during the early summer flooding and that route was closed all summer. No word on Wilderness Lake Trail.
We are getting in a better place with regard to signage and filling in gaps with needed directional signs. There are probably many other places that could use something, but we need to make that assessment.
Sign Inventory: Made small progress determining methodology and some inventory accomplished by our intern Derek Boe. Much more needs to be done.
Highway Signs: All white & black arrows & posts along Hwy 63 have been replaced.
YAH (You Are Here): New birdhouses (YAH backboards) and new permanent YAH maps have been installed in Namakagon. New birdhouses (21) have been installed in Cable and northern Seeley. The balance of birdhouses will be replaced next season. We had to put permanent YAH maps for Cable, Seeley & Hayward on hold due to budget, but the artwork is ready to go. New waterproof paper YAH have been installed in these areas.
Equipment Maintenance: The crew has taken on a lot of equipment and tool maintenance, including tool sharpening & repair, oil change on mowers, etc. The mowers have held up well with only a couple of minor repairs. It has been good having the two mowers & trailers. We need to sharpen the mowers, and do a more thorough tune-up during the off season. The Kubota received a pre-season tune-up at Lulich.
Bike Park: The tall skinny was modified this spring with the feet trimmed to present less of a fall hazard. The teeter totters were repaired as two had been broken during the off season and new root boards were constructed. These features and others used specifically for the Women’s MB Clinic were removed from the Bike Park and put in storage. The crew performed mowing and trimming work and other minor maintenance in the spring, early summer and late summer.
Project support: One crew was assigned most of the season to support the machine crew at AWB. This has helped increase their productivity by up to 25%. The crew was also used to prepare and support the Hospital Trail project, primarily corridor work & brushing.
Misc. Tread Work: Revamped “S” turn on High Point climb, short segment of deberming on Ojibwe, and other larger projects w/machine on Makwa & Hatchery.
Winter Routes: brushed most of Backside Trail & began clearing a new connecting route over to Esker.
Trailhead Bulletin Boards: It was musical billboards this summer: Removed Drummond Town Park since that TH has been decommissioned; mistakenly removed Drummond Ski Trails; moved Cable TH from parking lot behind fire hall to Cable Municipal Parking lot; moved one of the smaller bulletin boards from Namakagon and installed it at Hospital Trail; moved Hatchery Creek bb from open field to closer to trail; picked up OO southbound bb and brought it back to the shop until that area is finalized. Many of the older bulletin boards need to have the cedar shingles on the roof replaced and some could use a coat of stain. Two old bulletin boards were sent to the trash heap.
Recommendations for next year in addition to routine work:
Complete Hospital Trail
Complete Dirt Candy
Build Gravel pit by pass
Additional repairs on Gravel Pit boardwalk (decking)
Bird houses & permanent YAH Maps for Cable, Seeley, Hayward
Consider replacing several old trailhead bulletin boards
Continue drainage work on Namakagon Trail
Continue tread elevation & drainage on Hatchery & Makwa
2 short reroutes on Ojibwe
New access connections at OO to Makwa & Seeley Pass
Boardwalk & decking work at Hatchery
Consider work on outbound trail from Birkie Start
Drainage work on Flow Mama, Danky Dank
General signage assessment/inventory