Friday, July 31, 2009

Checkin The Trails

If you get out riding this weekend on the Rattling Creek Trails, we'd appreciate your assessment of trails (the trails the horses were on last weekend... Shale Run, Preserve Line, Matter, Wolf Pond, and Rock's Ridge far West) if you could take a moment and comment to this post. Keith (yup Keith!), Rick (Yup, Rick too! Neither have been riding much) and myself will do some riding this weekend to see how things are to get ready for the BASH. Of course, we need to see how Shale Run and Preserve Line held up to heavy rain this week, now that the trails are rototilled. Rick is predicting a nice washing off of topsoil at spots with bare rocks showing through. We'll check it out and let you know. Let us know what you think of Shale run. Thx.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A First Hand Rider's Assessment of "Horse Trails"

I decided to be totally objective when making my assessment of the singletrack the horses were on this weekend. Forget what's been said, forget what's been written, and simply ride and see for myself. This is Rick's 4th day in a row he's been at the trails looking them over. You've read his opinions and of course DCNR's assessment -- now its my turn.

I've been on dozens and dozens of all types of trails in all types of conditions and yes, there IS some damage, but not significant (as DCNR stated) -- YET (more on that shortly). What came to mind most when I was riding was growing up on the farm and me and my brother would grab our bikes and head out across the horse fields on the trails the horses would make. They were rutty, bumpy, rocky, and bro and I would get a kick out of seeing if we could make it up this one hill that was slippy from the horses chewing up the gravel and making it loose. Yup, that's the impression I got of the trail. Bumpy, rutty (they are drying out now and after digging it up in wet conditions, they are becoming rutty), hard to climb on the steep sections because of the looseness, and full of horse shit. Before I even started riding, I tried to get on my bike and slipped and fell in rocks -- in horse shit! Stupid me.

Now my verdict -- at present, the trails are definitely rideable, but bumpy and loose at spots. The worst parts are minimal - maybe 25% of entire length of trail? The bumps will likely smooth out over time with bike traffic and a couple rains; unless the rains are SO hard it starts to wash which is my next verdict. I think over time there will be areas that will begin to erode and that's the part I'm not so sure DCNR was really thinking about - how will these trails hold up over time with this kind of traffic. But time will tell that story. I can't imagine the horses will be back for another year - at least not in the numbers they were in this past weekend. We may see a horse or two every now and again, but one or two may not cause that much trouble.

So... get out and ride and smooth out the trails! Ride Shale Run, Preserve Line, Matter Singletrack, Rock's Ridge West and Wolf Pond.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

RCST Prez and Vice Prez Comments on Horse Event

In case folks don't open comments to posts; I wanted to be sure everyone saw the comments of the RCST Prez, Keith Whitcomb, and the Club's Vice Prez, Ricky Brown. These comments were in response to a sort of confrontation equestrian rider. As as an FYI, Keith is a graduate of IMBA's (International Mountain Biking Association) Trailbuilding school, so he just might know what he's talking about! Here the comments:

My name is Rick Brown. I'm the biker that came over to camp to talk to Jim Saturday eve.I'm not sure what you are imagining I said or did that was unsportsman like but I was anything but. I was respectful and simply voiced my concerns for damage to the trails due to soft trail conditions.As far as the trails, bikers built them for biking and hiking. We know that the trails cannot take horse traffic with out considerable damage over time. There's no room for discussion on this point. We've seen the results of horses on these trail before and it's unacceptable.When Jim ran this event last year I actaully helped mark the course and we had an understanding that he would not use singletrack bike trails. That was great. But now this year we were not involved and he used trails because DCNR gave him the go ahead. He should have had an alternate course laid out just in case of bad trail conditions so he could have used it and avoided the damage that was done today, especially after the heavy rains last night.If you spent years developing a trail system for a certain purpose and had anther user group come in and in a weekend of use do damage to those trails you wouldn't be happy.I was also back over there today, taking pictures of the results of the ride. Hopefully when DCNR comes in to inspect the trails tomorrow they will agree that horses should not be on the singletrack trails. Running the course on the trails after the rain we had the night before, after I voiced concerns for trail conditions, may actaully have been a mistake on Jim's part.Those trails can take horse traffic if conditions are good. Today conditions were not and if you were out there on the trail today you could see the results of it.I've posted pictures and sent e-mails to DCNR and Lykens Borough Watershed letting them know of our concerns.About half of the singletrack trails are on Lykens Borough property and due to previous horse damage to the trails they have gave us permission years ago to post all those trails off limits to horses. Hopefully DCNR will see things from the same perspective after inspecting the trails after this weekend.

Keith Whitcomb said...
Ok, here we go. My name is Keith Whitcomb and I'm one of the guys who laid out the Rattling Creek Trail System.First, I'll tell you that we took about 2 years just hiking the mountains with a topo map in hand just to figure out where to go and where not to go with the trails. We made meticulous notes of wet areas, steep slopes, etc. when we were looking at building a connector or new section of trail. Some of the trails already existed on DCNR property and the topo map so we opened them up because they were grown in at the time. We actually rerouted some sections, such as on Wolf Pond Trail. The old section of Wolf Pond Trail went through vernal ponds so we rerouted out of that wet area. Our plan was to open up existing stuff and then asess them later to see if we need to reroute, which we did.All of the new trail or connectors were laid out to minimize impact and/or trail maintenance. We used IMBA guidlines for this. Many of our club memebers have attended IMBA Trailbuilding Schools and are knowledgable on how and how not to build trails.So to see damage like this in one weekend is just very frustrating for me. I understand that this is public land but I don't think that this event was coordinated using a common sense approach. At the very least there should have been a contingency plan in case of soft trail conditions. The snowmobile trails or roads could have been used in lieu of the soft singletrack. Also, even in dry conditions the route should not have went up and down an approximately 20% grade into a stream bed. (Preserve Line Trail)That section of trail definately needs rerouted.
July 27, 2009 1:45 PM
Keith Whitcomb said...
I don't hate horses or equestrians. That's not the issue here, trail degredation is. Hikers and mountain bikers have an initmate relationship with the trail surface itself. What I'm trying to say is that the damage that has been done will not be felt or noticed by equestrians but it will be by hikers and bikers. So with that being said I hope you all understand that your impact will be noticed by other users, and eventually maybe to the point that those other user groups will no longer be able to use those trails.I, or our club is not looking for any recognition here, but the truth of the matter is if RCST didn't exist, most of that singetrack wouldn't exist. We have logged 3,000 to 4,000 volunteer hours to build that trail system. I spent many lonely days in those woods with my brushcutter. We have also done a lot of meticulous rock work to make impassable sections walkable and/or rideable. We had a fiord built across wolf run so we wouldn't rut the streambed. So much work, can some you see where I'm coming from?I'm not saying that bikes can't do damage either, that's why we rerouted some sections. A good comparison to this is secondary and rural back roads. Did any of you ever see a sign on a back road saying no vehicles over 10,000 pounds? That's because that road can't handle that kind of impact, especially if repeated over and over again.There are plenty of studies and data out there comparing the impacts of user groups. Horses are right up there with motorized users. Hikers being the least and bikes usually second in most cases.The issue isn't the people in the user group or even the horse itself, IT'S ALL ABOUT THE IMPACT AND HOW THAT IMPACT EFFECTS THE EXPERIENCE OF THE OTHER USER GROUPS.Rick tried to get Jim to see our point of view but I guess he didn't. He wasn't being "unsportmanlike" he was being "passionate" about the work we have done. All we're looking for here is for you to work with us and try to understand our point of view. We feel that there is no respect for what we have done in Weiser Forest.If there is mutual respect you will try to work with us and also put some sweat equity into this great trail system. We just feel that we shouldn't have keep repairing damage if we aren't the ones making these huge impacts. Like I said earlier, equestrians might not notice these impacts/changes to the trail, but someone on foot or bike will. I know GOD made the forest for all animals, again, that's not the issue. If this was the 1800's we wouldn't be having this conversation. But it's not the 1800's and this is public land, so in my opinion should be managed that way. It's funded by taxpayer dollars and VOLUNTEER sweat and equity. There are no simple solutions but I think we can find a way not to hate each other, but we also have to respect each other and each other's concerns.Keith Whitcomb, RCST
July 27, 2009 1:46 PM

DCNR Trail Assessment of Sunday's Equestrian Event

From DCNR - their assessment of the trails:

From: "Nicola R Zulli" To:,, "jim theurer"
Cc: "Michael Mazur" , "Mark W Deibler"
Sent: Monday, July 27, 2009 2:49:02 PM GMT -05:00 US/Canada Eastern
Subject: Damage to Single Track Trails
Hello All,
I spent most of the day today hiking the single tract trails used by the
equestrian event held this past weekend. I will agree the trails did show
signs that horses had traveled them after a rain event. I did not see major
damage to the extent that the trails are unusable for biking or hiking.
There were some small holes made by the horse's hooves and I did find one
hole that was a foot deep or so, probably from a rock being moved. The
stream bed had no damage to it and the stream banks had minor damage, that I
believe will have little impact to the stream and water quality. Over all I
am impressed the trails held up the way they did with having a down pour for
a couple hours and then having 29 horses travel over them.
I have spoken with Jim in person and he is going to go over the trail and
fix any holes that were made by horses and special attention to Preserve
Line Trail and Shale Run Trail. This work will be done in the next day or
two. Once this work is completed, Jim please let me know and I will walk
the trails again.
Also, while I was talking to Jim, he mentioned he is willing to help do
maintenance on the trails with the Rattling Creek Single Trackers, he would
just have to be notified in advance.
If any one has any comments or questions please contact me.
Nick Zulli

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Pictures of the Horse Damage on Shale Run and Preserve Line Trail

Here is the link to pictures of the horses on soft singletrack. These pictures were shared with DCNR and the Lykens Watershed for erosion concerns in the West Branch of Rattling Creek. We plan to also talk directly to DCNR.

Please, keep the comments non-confrontational. Our intent is NOT to prevent anyone from using the public land -- but to work with the landowners to conserve the land. There are many, many miles of trails that can appropriately be used by numerous user groups. Last year's equestrian event was ideal -- we worked directly with Jim Theurer to develop the course to prevent any trail damage and it worked out fine. We were not contacted for this year's event, thus, trail damage on soft singletrack. We've never had any issues with horses using the snowmobile trails which are built to sustain the horse traffic.

I also have to make one more personal comment to the horse folks. I was raised on a horse farm and still live near the horses. I have all the respect in the world for these beautiful creatures and certainly hold nothing against the horses. This is simply a situation of the mountain biking club trying to maintain the quality of the trail system they volunteered hundreds of hours building.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

HORSES - Sunday July 26

The horse competition I mentioned in the previous post will continue on Sunday, July 26. Horses will be on SHALE RUN, PRESERVE LINE, MATTER SINGLETRACK, maybe WOLF POND and ROCK'S RIDGE! Rick talked to the organizer tonight about horses on soft trail and the organizer said DCNR told them they could use whatever they wanted. So they are. They are not on watershed trails (Rattling Creek, Fawn Kill, Rugged, Doc Smith). Rick will be taking pictures on Sunday of the trails after the horses go through and he plans to share with DCNR and the Lykens Watershed. We just had a good downpour and 40 or so horses on Shale Run today will not be a pretty sight. There are several concerns: 1) they are using the streambank of Rattling Creek on Preserve line -- that could start an erosion process which the Watershed folks may have issue with, 2) The Rattling Creek Membership built many of the trails and while yes, we volunteered our time realizing the trails are multi-use, we didn't build them to be torn up by another user group that is not planning to return and repair the damage, and 3) We explained to both the watershed and DCNR the trails can't sustain a thousand pound animal in soft conditions - thus, the "NO HORSES" signs went up - both DCNR and the Lykens Watershed agreed to this. Since that time, a new forrester took over and his views differ from Ellen Roane's (we miss her!). Horses on soft single track is a problem and we'll do our best to resolve.

Sat July 25 Trail Report - Horses!

I'm sorry to say the club had NO idea there was going to be a horse competition on the trails today -- so my apologies to those who "tried" to ride today. We aren't talking a horse or two -- we are talking 50 or so horses doing "loops" on the trails. Last year, Rick helped the organizer layout a course using a 12 mile, mostly-snowmobile (and some fire road) course and the horses did two loops on this course. So when I started riding, I said to my riding partner, "don't worry, when we jump on the single track, we'll be fine." WRONG! Much to my surprise and disappointment, the course was laid out this year to include the far west end of Rock's Ridge (behind Wolf Pond where its the softest and yes, the trails were soft today), the first half of Wolf Pond Trail before the big rock gardens, all of shale run and Preserve line (ARGH! and it was soft too), and I'm fairly certain Matter single track which may have been fairly solid. The horses were NOT on Rattling creek, Fawn Kill, or Rugged (watershed territory). We were not contacted this year to help with the course and we had no idea it was going on. You can't imagine the frustration when I saw the hooves digging in the soft single track and they were the first 3 of 50 doing two loops on that section. I was truly afraid to go back and check what it looked like when they were done. Not sure what we'll do if anything. It IS public land afterall. But -- its possible the horse folks have a trail work session scheduled to fix what may be rutted (maybe?). In the meantime, watch for horse ruts on Rock's Ridge West (far end), Wolf Pond, Shale Run, Preserve Line, and Matter Single track (unless they fixed it today when they were done).

Monday, July 20, 2009

The RCST Website is Down - Maybe for Good

If you've been checking the website and have been wondering why no recent updates, it's because our other computer died along with the software to update the website and we haven't quite figured out what to do just yet other than maybe use this here Blog, which works fine. Yes, that site was antiquated and needed a faceflift, but we didn't think it would happen this way. One of our wonderful club members offered to do a website -- but for a cost (he works for an IT company), and we really didn't want to take on another monthly cost for the club. Sooo.... after the BASH, that website will likely disappear and you'll see a permanent link to this blog.

Monday, July 6, 2009

July 4 Firecracker Ride

It was a nice turnout for the ride. Some familiar faces, and some familiar faces we haven't seen in a while too! Andy Miller, Andrea Strubhar, Brian Arnold, Shawn Withers, Chris from Mountainside Ski and Sports, Joe Daversa, and some other folks I didn't know showed up for the ride. While Rick nor I could partake in the fun and festivities the rest of the group had on the 4th due to family obligations, I'm sure the group had a great time. Isn't it all good??