by Cortney Bloomer
This past Saturday, the newly-resurrected Tahoe Area Mountain Bike Association partnered with the U.S. Forest Service to sponsor a Volunteer Trail Work Day. TAMBA has a Volunteer Service Agreement (VSA) with the USFS and this was the first official trail building day. The work effort represented a huge step for mountain bikers in the area, as 25 volunteers showed up to work with the Forest Service Trail Crew employees to build armored berms, strengthen the sandy loose areas of trail and repair a creek crossing that had been damaged.
The section of trail that we were assigned was at the top of the Armstrong Connector Trail, which links up the Armstrong Pass Trail to the Corral Trail in South Lake Tahoe. The day started off with a safety orientation where we were told to be careful using our tools and were all given hard hats to wear for protection. Then, we split up into groups, each led by a Forest Service person who explained our project. Our group was led by Chad, a cool guy who pretty much let us take the reins on building our creek crossing. He provided a lot of guidance and helped us to make the rock bed as strong as possible so it would stand up to lots of riding. He was really willing to listen to what we, the bikers, thought would make a good trail.
Building the trail was hard work. Because we were using (really big) rocks to “pave” the bottom of the creek to keep it from getting washed out, we had to carry a lot of rocks to the project site from elsewhere in the forest. There was also a good deal of digging involved. But when we were done, it was a much better area for riding, and also better for the environment. As a reward for our hard work, volunteers were provided a yummy lunch from Sprouts Café in South Lake Tahoe, and there was a cookout afterwards. TAMBA really knows how to treat volunteers.
Working with the Forest Service was neat. I have done trail building in the past, but the care and high standards that the Forest Service employs ensure that the trail we worked on last weekend will be in good condition well into the future. It also means that, if you go up there and ride, you will have no idea where our projects were. After the work was completed, the areas were “naturalized” and any traces of trail construction were erased. The following day, I went with Melissa and Cullen Jones and Brad Ashley to ride the trail, and even though I know there were two other crews working on other sections of the trail, I could not find the areas that they had been working on – they were that well-“naturalized”.
As far as the riding goes, Armstrong Connector is a fun downhill trail. For an XC rider like me, it is worth it to first ride the Armstrong Pass Trail out and back first to add some climbing and extra mileage (not to mention Armstrong Pass is a very scenic and fun trail with a few cool technical sections) and then do Armstrong Connector. This is the ride we did on Sunday. The ride is more pleasant if you can set up a shuttle, otherwise it involves parking at the bottom of either Armstrong Connector or further down at the bottom of Corral and riding up about 4 miles of steep forest service road. We saw lots of Downhillers shuttling up and riding Armstrong Connector/Corral Trail.
If you want to help out in the future, look for upcoming trail work days on the TAMBA website at www.mountainbiketahoe.org. They can use all the help they can get to keep the trails we all enjoy using in top shape. If you want to go try out the trail improvements we worked on (and see if you can spot them), the trail is easy to find. Take Pioneer Trail all the way through South Lake almost to the Meyers end, and turn left on Oneidas. Continue up the Forest Service Road until you spot signs for the trail. Armstrong Pass and Armstrong Connector are all the way at the top.
Photos courtesy of TAMBA.