Friday, June 17, 2011

Ripping up the rollers

New trails, improvements on public lands throughout valley

Express Staff Writer

A new bridge near the Adams Gulch trailhead is just one of five the U.S. Forest Service has constructed in time for this year’s hiking season. Express photo by Katherine Wutz

Mountain bikers have almost 350 miles of trails to ride in the Wood River Valley, so the addition of roughly two more miles might not seem significant. But those two miles are the region's first two mountain bike "flow" trails, the first of many more, enthusiasts hope.

"Bikers like to have a place where they can push their skill level," said Greg Martin, trails coordinator for the Blaine County Recreation District and an avid mountain biker.

That opportunity is generally available on what is called a "flow trail," a one-way trail with features such as "rollers"—rises that allow fast-moving bikers to lift off at the high point before the descent, as well as turns and rock obstacles.

Until now, the valley had no such trails. Martin said the trails available have steep grades on which few bikers are willing to pedal uphill. New trails out Adams Gulch near Ketchum and Croy Canyon near Hailey, the Forbidden Fruit and Punchline trails, respectively, are one-way downhill biking trails designed to be fun for bikers.

Martin describes the one-mile Punchline trail, which opened last week, as an advanced trail that requires dedication and focus.

"It's unlike anything else we have. When you see it, you think, 'This looks like a roller coaster for a bike,'" he said.

Punchline features 30 turns with corner berms that reach up to 3 feet in height, rock obstacles and a few short climbs.

"It's the type of trail where the challenge comes in trying to memorize the line," Martin said. "You're constantly trying to ride it just a little better."

The Forbidden Fruit Trail is still under construction, but Ketchum District Ranger Kurt Nelson said the one-mile flow trail could be open within the next week. The trail is more rollers than turns, he said, and can be accessed just off Eve's Gulch.

Nelson said the construction of these two new trails reflects a nationwide trend.

"It's becoming more and more popular in areas that have strong mountain biking communities," Nelson said. "This is our first shot for a flow trail."

Other improvements

Hikers will notice that the main trails in Adams Gulch have gotten a facelift, along with the main trail at Greenhorn Gulch mid-valley. Nelson said the Forest Service installed five new bridges on trails accessed by the Adams Gulch trailhead and three in Greenhorn Gulch.

The bridges replace rickety ones that would regularly get washed out, Nelson said.

"We needed sturdier bridges that spanned the floodplain better," he said, especially as beavers in Greenhorn Gulch have begun to cause flooding on the trails in recent years.

Forest Service crews also ripped up and reseeded half of the trail at the Adams Gulch trailhead, placing boulders on one half of what was formerly a very wide path in order to make it a trail.

"We just right-sized it to its intended use," Nelson said, adding that the service also removed a vehicle ford at the stream crossing.

The bridges were funded through federal grants for post-Castle Rock Fire rehabilitation work. Nelson said he hoped the final touches, such as handrails, would be completed in the next few weeks.

Katherine Wutz:

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