Thursday, July 4, 2013

More tasty bench cut at Bear Brook coming soon

Decided to give the trails and my cycling muscles a rest on the Fourth of July. My punishing ride yesterday (in multiple ways) deserved a day off the bike, and the off-road terrain is pretty saturated right now. Max'd out dew points are not helping the drying process.

NEMBA is replacing a portion of the Hemlock Trail in Bear Brook. This section has some steep grades that are getting rutted out and has a problematic water crossing. Hemlock is already a great flow-trail. It is about to get even better once the replacement trail is completed. It contours the extremely steep banks of Bear Brook. You know it is steep when your bench cut is as deep as it is wide. That implies 100% grade you are benching into.

Peter rented a Bobcat to experiment with, hopefully to do some of the heavy benching work. I wasn't convinced it was much of a net gain vs. everybody just breaking their backs with rogue hoes.  The Bobcat bucket could not be angled into the slope. The Bobcat just wanted to take on the grade it was traversing rather than cut a horizontal bench into it. Multiple times the Bobcat had to be rescued with come-along to pull it back from sliding all the way down to Bear Brook. The Bobcat makes a wide cut too, and hopefully the new trail doesn't catch the eyes of ATV'ers.

Benching with the Bobcat. Notice how it is not level. At times we had to pre-bench the grade
in front of Bobcat to help keep it from sliding down the hill.

Bear Brook almost straight down. Some Colorado caliber exposure here!

Hand benching behind the Bobcat in progress.

Almost finished product. This is going to be fast!

I mostly benched with a rogue hoe or chopped roots out with an ax, about four hours straight. I was completely wrecked when I decided to hang it up. The heat index was 117F with a 80F dew point when I got home. It is rare the dew point gets much higher than this anywhere in the world. In 1995, the dew point just touched 90F near Chicago and 750 people died as a result. That might be the highest ever recorded in the US.

I probably lost well over a gallon of fluids with no air movement in the woods and took in only about half a gallon. At least the bugs weren't bad.  We got through a first pass with the Bobcat, maybe a half mile of new trail. There's still many work days ahead to finish benching out the the trail and cleaning up the edges. Looking forward to riding this soon!


Peter said...

I knew this wouldn't be the best test for a machine due to the steep grade but I do believe it saved us many man hours of benching. We also decided on a wider trail because of the steep side slope, but will "choke" it down as it gets its finishing touches.

Scott said...

Off-camber trails are fun.