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Thread: How bad?

  1. #1
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    How bad?

    Just wondering how bad a trail has to be before we all agree it is too serious of a resource concern? What is our comfort level or threshold? Black mtn is not the worst trail in Pisgah (there are worse hiking only trails in the Shining Rock Wilderness) and certainly not the worse tail I have ever looked at. But the current conditions do cause for some level of pause for concerns except in only a few it seems, and as it gets worse more join into the too much camp?
    Here are a few photos of some really POS trails I have looked at doing professional lever assessments for the FS in other areas. Do these photos bother you or are you fine with what you see here. here is one from an OHV area with sandy soils, and another from some work I did in Bellingham WA back in 2000.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails How bad?-erosion-nw.jpg  

    How bad?-jeep-trail.jpg  


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    Here is one form the Jake and Bull Mountain trail system down in north GA.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails How bad?-jake.jpg  


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    Here are some from an OHV trail system on USFS lands down in GA.
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    The first pic doesn't bother me near as much as the rest.
    He/she who works the trails does so in their own image.

    Speed just slows me down...

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    This certainly helps put the problem into perspective. Some of those pics show problems that are way more severe, and yet still apparently open to traffic. I too can think of some other trails in the region much worse off than black - both closed and open to bikes.

    Yet my main concern is more to do with the politics of it than any true, long-term resource concerns.

    To step back even further for a bit, this didn't need a trail at the bottom of it to happen, after all:
    Attachment 867998

    But let me try one more strained comparison here. Imagine, if you will, a single, natural mass-wasting event - such as the one on Peek's Creek, a few years back. Or one of the small slides that came off the Davidson River "troad" and directly into the Davidson River. (There are dozens of new examples I've come across since I started roaming in the mid 90's).

    Now compare the sheer volume of sediment introduced into those streams during those events to the entirety of all sediment removed from the Black Mountain trail (and likely deposited within a few feet of the tread or farther down the tread in most cases, since it's a ridgeline trail) and you'll see that it just doesn't add up in terms of things that are going to ruin the local environment.

    And yes, I understand that long-term sedimentation and high turbidity caused by an eroding trail feeding into a stream is far worse for the aquatic life overall than a single, natural flash-flood event, which is why the FS frowns upon those. But still...let's not forget that erosion is a natural, normal process in mountainous terrain. In fact there was a LOT more of it happening back when rampant rape-logging was a thing in these mountains. Hell, they used to FLUSH the logs down the streams back in the day by building a dam and then breaking it down! Somehow the fish survived.

    Furthermore, on a lot of the worse-off trails in our region, it would appear to me that the active erosion has stopped - the gulley is either down to bedrock, chock-full of boulders and stones that were exposed over the years, or re-vegetated and covered with forest debris with a narrower tread meandering within a larger, stable depression (such is the case on many old logging road beds). Even after heavy rains, the water runs crystal-clear off some entrenched parts of the Flat Laurel Creek trail/old railroad bed, for example. It's *done* eroding until lichens eat up some more rock. Yet I still hear how those trails "should be closed because they're so eroded."

    I think *those* are the ones we should consider our best "most difficult" trails and leave them as-is. Maintenance free!

    To be clear, I'm not advocating that we don't do anything when the trails are washing away - and clearly Black Mountain is actively eroding. It passes the "needs work" threshold for me.

    But really, all this is to say that the Forest Service's threat of closing "eroded" trails signifies to me something other than a desire to protect fish and water skeeters from sediment. I'm just not sure how pragmatic the Forest Service is willing to be on this issue.

    I don't think Black Mountain is beyond repair nor an environmental disaster by any means; however, it may still be more effective to leave the existing corridor in certain places - or leave the trail alone completely - if the Federal Standard is to have a trail that, with regular maintenance, stops all (or nearly all) erosion from happening.

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    mtbwnc: Well said and it is really cool(and healthy) looking at this issue from different angles. Thanks for sharing!

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    Some of may recognize this one. This section directly above a river down below.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails How bad?-lower-trace.jpg  


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    In response to Woody's question: Absolutely. Any heavily eroded trails bothers me a lot especially when the solution is so simple. I've been riding and hiking in Pisgah for more that 30 years and remember what these trails used to look and ride like on my fully rigid. These eroded gullies are nothing like they once were. Here's the deal, every single trail that we ride in Pisgah was man-made and I'd bet that the men and women who built the trails we ride today would not be happy if they saw the condition of today's Black Mountain, Farlow Gap, Avery Creek, Trace Ridge, etc. All these trails were originally sweet, single track. It's total ******** to complain that fixing a trail is "taking away something". Fixing the trails will help with erosion which is not good for water and wildlife. The problem is the majority humans driven by their egos, high stress x-game lifestyles and "me first" materialistic attitudes, are apparently unable to put away their personal interests long enough to be open to fully understand the problem and accept compromise. I wonder how many of today's Pisgah riders even know who John Muir was, or even care.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mtbwnc View Post
    In fact there was a LOT more of it happening back when rampant rape-logging was a thing in these mountains. Hell, they used to FLUSH the logs down the streams back in the day by building a dam and then breaking it down! Somehow the fish survived.

    Well, actually NO, the fish didn't survive. Did you know that there was once trout larger than what comes out of the hatchery at elevations nearly up to 5,000 ft??? Yes, the old tales tell of catching dozens of big trout in a day on the upper parts of Daniel Ridge, Kiesee, Chestnut and Courthouse Creeks. Then they logged it all.

    Now you're lucky to find fingerlings up that high....
    many gears, some pies

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    Quote Originally Posted by radred View Post
    In response to Woody's question: Absolutely. Any heavily eroded trails bothers me a lot especially when the solution is so simple. I've been riding and hiking in Pisgah for more that 30 years and remember what these trails used to look and ride like on my fully rigid. These eroded gullies are nothing like they once were. Here's the deal, every single trail that we ride in Pisgah was man-made and I'd bet that the men and women who built the trails we ride today would not be happy if they saw the condition of today's Black Mountain, Farlow Gap, Avery Creek, Trace Ridge, etc. All these trails were originally sweet, single track. It's total ******** to complain that fixing a trail is "taking away something". Fixing the trails will help with erosion which is not good for water and wildlife. The problem is the majority humans driven by their egos, high stress x-game lifestyles and "me first" materialistic attitudes, are apparently unable to put away their personal interests long enough to be open to fully understand the problem and accept compromise. I wonder how many of today's Pisgah riders even know who John Muir was, or even care.
    Truth.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kjlued View Post
    ... your idea of technical may be much different than other peoples idea of technical.

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    Thanks radred for posting that's super well said.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ridn29s View Post
    Well, actually NO, the fish didn't survive. Did you know that there was once trout larger than what comes out of the hatchery at elevations nearly up to 5,000 ft??? Yes, the old tales tell of catching dozens of big trout in a day on the upper parts of Daniel Ridge, Kiesee, Chestnut and Courthouse Creeks. Then they logged it all.

    Now you're lucky to find fingerlings up that high....
    Thank you!

    There are very few native fish in our waters in NC. I guess I should say natural of native stock. All rainbows and browns are not native and I would almoste consider them an invasive speicies. We do have a handful of streams that still hold the southern spec. While being a subspecies of Salvelinus fontinalis is still up for debate. Not really sure why since they have proven a genetic difference from the other eastern brook trout. Those hold out where mainly in areas that where too rugged to completely harvest and only at high elevelations as they need colder and cleaner water that the rainbows and browns.

    Our forest where for ever changed, both by logging and by the chestnut blight. We don't have the giant trees and that choked the light and allowed for less ground clutter. I can only imagine what it once was.

    Let just hope that future generation do say the same thing because of the mismanagement of our resources.

    That said as mtbwmc (sorry not trying to single you out) said errosion is a natural process. Trails aren't natural. Do I want to close trails? Hell no. These trails are 90% of the reason I chose to live here along with out streams too. I selfishly wish these resources to be at my disposal for sometime to come.

    If our trails are dumping sediment into our streams that is a huge problem. I think everyone knows what the French Broad looks like after a rain. It shouldn't be that way. Now most of that isn't our trails fault. More to do with lack of ripparian buffers. But in some cases our trails are a contributing factor. Eventually it all runs down hill and into something. That something might be your water source, habitat for all kinds of aquatic life, and others who have different recreational outlets.

    It not just about gnar, and killer drops, sweet single track, and killer downhills. Yes I like them all but in all the pictures woody posted pose some serious run off and errosion issues.

    I think we have several issues. One is virtually no maintenance done be the land mangers. At least that I am aware of other than some of the contract awarded as part of the stimulus package. Another is we have more people using these resources than we ever have before. We are basically loving it to death. I also think part of the problem is that we have to few trails. Sure we want wild and scenic areas. Have to be careful with that wording as I don't really agree with Wilderness areas per se. There are a small number of hardly ever used trails, some legal some not. Those that get very little traffic tend to be in pretty good condition regardless of grade, fall line, and improper draining.

    In the end all user groups are the problem. I applaud the mountain bike community for taking up the task to maintain and defend our trails. Other user groups in my opinion are short sighted when it comes to the work they do. TU, might be the exception, but they will be more likely to fight to close a trail than try to repair. Not always the case, but close it to the user group or groups that are creating the sedimentation issues. Very disappointed in the hiking clubs I have seen out doing "trail work". Not even sure they where sanctioned. More interested in clearing small trees from the trail and scattering fire rings. I have never seen a single equestrian club or ground do any trail work. Maybe they do and I just don't know.

    Ok, I obviously need the days to get longer and drier so I can ride in the evenings. Answer to the question all the pictures are bad, and a lot of our trails are in bad condition and need a lot of work.
    Sent via my heady vibes from the heart of Pisgahstan

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    Quote Originally Posted by ridn29s View Post
    Well, actually NO, the fish didn't survive. Did you know that there was once trout larger than what comes out of the hatchery at elevations nearly up to 5,000 ft??? Yes, the old tales tell of catching dozens of big trout in a day on the upper parts of Daniel Ridge, Kiesee, Chestnut and Courthouse Creeks. Then they logged it all.

    Now you're lucky to find fingerlings up that high....
    Perhaps, but the old timers are pretty notorious for their fish tales I was under the impression that the brook trout were our only native variety, and they just don't get very large. And they are restricted to their uppermost ranges now due to competition from (introduced) species such as Rainbow Trout. Which are regularly dumped into the lower streams by the tens of thousands.

    But despite any trail erosion or logging that may have happened now or in the past...they're still there.

    In fact, I see invasive species as a MUCH bigger problem on the whole than trail erosion. Just look at the hemlocks - the trails in Pisgah have always looked eroded to me, but hiking Black again today, the biggest difference I noticed from the last time I did it a few years back was the absence of those cool, dark hemlock groves. How's that increase in water temperature going to affect the native fisheries?

    I'm not a fisherman, a biologist or anything like that so I'm willing to admit I could be completely wrong.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mattnmtns View Post
    There are very few native fish in our waters in NC. I guess I should say natural of native stock. All rainbows and browns are not native and I would almoste consider them an invasive speicies.
    Right, that's what I was thinking and what I've read about them. I don't think their restriction has much to do with any kind of erosion, trail or otherwise. Invasive species are the worst. This is another case where we've directly and severely restricted, and continue to threaten, a native species in the face of recreational activities (fishing).

    I've got nothing against sport fishing, I'm just pointing it out as a tradeoff we're willing to make.

    Quote Originally Posted by mattnmtns View Post
    That said as mtbwmc (sorry not trying to single you out) said errosion is a natural process. Trails aren't natural. Do I want to close trails? Hell no. These trails are 90% of the reason I chose to live here along with out streams too. I selfishly wish these resources to be at my disposal for sometime to come.

    If our trails are dumping sediment into our streams that is a huge problem.
    No worries, and I mostly agree, *especially* where it can be reasonably prevented. Those pictures all bother me. What I saw *today* bothers me.

    As we were hiking today, I posed this question as a high water mark: If it could be proven that the erosion from Black, which can be easily observed dumping directly into the stream in Thrift Cove (Thrift Cove Creek?) in multiple locations, was indeed impairing its ability to support native species downstream, and there was no reasonable way to prevent the erosion on the trail's current alignment, would we support closure of the trail?

    Regrettably, I think my answer is yes!

    But before I get flamed for that, those are two huge assumptions. First, I think the erosion problem *can* be mitigated to a large degree after hearing from the pro trail builders today (with a **** ton of work that will undoubtedly piss a bunch of people off), and second, I'm not convinced that any remaining erosion after even a suboptimal mitigation would be disastrous to the stream. I'm willing to concede that I may be wrong on the second point but it doesn't pass the smell test for me.

    This is an interesting read if you have the time, but it's about all I could find after 10 minutes of halfhearted googling:
    http://coweeta.uga.edu/publications/3055.pdf

    Draw your own conclusions.

    Now it could be that the Forest Service is just really pessimistic about their ability to stop erosion on trails (who could blame them?), but that's why I think there's something more to the trail closure issue than just "ur trail is eroding into the stream." That just sounds like a convenient excuse.

    And honestly, I think it's just institutional laziness. (I'm not calling out any individual here and I know there are some great, competent, hardworking folks in the FS). But pure and simple, after all things considered, it's just *easier* to close trails!

    I'm hoping that my paranoia about trail closures is just that, but until we hear something official about that I'm keeping on my tin foil cap.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by radred View Post
    In response to Woody's question: Absolutely. Any heavily eroded trails bothers me a lot especially when the solution is so simple. I've been riding and hiking in Pisgah for more that 30 years and remember what these trails used to look and ride like on my fully rigid. These eroded gullies are nothing like they once were. Here's the deal, every single trail that we ride in Pisgah was man-made and I'd bet that the men and women who built the trails we ride today would not be happy if they saw the condition of today's Black Mountain, Farlow Gap, Avery Creek, Trace Ridge, etc. All these trails were originally sweet, single track. It's total ******** to complain that fixing a trail is "taking away something". Fixing the trails will help with erosion which is not good for water and wildlife. The problem is the majority humans driven by their egos, high stress x-game lifestyles and "me first" materialistic attitudes, are apparently unable to put away their personal interests long enough to be open to fully understand the problem and accept compromise. I wonder how many of today's Pisgah riders even know who John Muir was, or even care.
    Best Post Ever on this forum.
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    Quote Originally Posted by radred View Post
    I'd bet that the men and women who built the trails we ride today would not be happy if they saw the condition of today's Black Mountain, Farlow Gap, Avery Creek, Trace Ridge, etc. All these trails were originally sweet, single track.
    Disagree, those were originally bulldozer-wide roads built to zero standards except "get as much timber out of here on them for profit as we can". Those boys wouldn't give a **** and probably raced their dozers up the streams for fun. Hell Woody pointed out some stream crossing structures today that I'd seen before but not really registered in my mind as such. They look like they were built to be temporary, to withstand a few months of timber extraction and that's it. 50+ years later these piece-of-**** log-mud bridges are finally failing and causing the road prism to fall into the stream, but "historic" and unable to be modified lest we be chided for whatever infraction that is.

    Impressive as it is that they (and the roads they connect to) have lasted as long as they have, the FS needs to get its priorities straight.

    And that does NOT include starting up more unprofitable timber sales.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mattnmtns View Post
    Trails aren't natural.
    One last thing - sorry. The current trails aren't natural, but *trails* are. I'm 100% certain that native bison, elk, and other large mammals in the area formed fall-line trails during their wandering and migrations which have eroded into streams for time immemorial. Whatever evolved in our area's streams *had* to have evolved to withstand that, at least in smallish doses.

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    Slightly off topic but germane to it:
    I would be more sympathetic to the Forest Service's concerns if they applied the same standards and levels of concern to logging operations as they do to the impact of trail use in general, and mountain biking in particular. I grew up here and have witnessed first hand the effects of bad logging over several decades, and not just the sediment runoff. Even with the new techniques that are suppose to be used today the environmental impact of even small parcel logging looms over recreational trail use impact. It aggravates me no end that they are so quick to point the finger at a particular user group, all the while providing what is little more than corporate welfare to a few select private companies, allowing them to continue to log under minimum, and often un-inforced, regulations. To threaten trail closures as a "solution" to stream damage while logging goes on is just an attempt to divide and divert the attention of well meaning people. Until the business community that profits from the recreational use of the forest begins to work with user groups in a more vocal and more supportive fashion the perceived bigger money wins. Unfortunately it is all about the Benjamins.
    (Guess I need some coffee.)

  19. #19
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    Mtbwnc, thank you for your response and opinion. I think for the most part we are on the same page.

    For the trout, yes invasive species is definitely a huge factor. Several streams in the smokies have been eradicated of the invasive with wild stock being successfully reintroduced. Sadly this is a huge issue across the country. The one that has me most concerned is the Yellowstone cutthroat. Rainbows can interbreed with them, and well the out look isn't good. That's whole other can of worms, but does give an example where natural erosion is a huge part of the cycle and environment. Although the soil composition is totally different from what we have in the south east. Acid rain also plays a big factor in several ways. It's a combination of a lot of factors but our native brook trout do require very clean and cold water to thrive and reproduce in. Canopies where cuts which both raised the temperatures and caused sedimentation. There are a few hold out streams but almost all are smaller streams that can't support the food supplies that the streams of old once could. There are pictures out there of huge native brook trout that pushed 20 inches. Those we fairly common before the area was logged out and non natives where introduced. Sadly I don't think our streams will ever be like they once where.

    So when it comes to water quality there are many factors, but they can all add up. Case in point I read in the Citizen Times that the EPA designated the French Broad as impaired water way. Brings new meaning to the hippster soup we see floating down the river in warmer months. While it isn't the deciding factor by a long stretch, turbidity is one of the issues. What's upstream? Yep the Davidson and Mills rivers watersheds.

    I also agree that most of it can be mitigated through the repair of out trails. Also we need better regulations and enforcement of ripparian buffer zones. I'm vaguely familiar with the Coweeta report but more familiar with the Tellico ORV report and subsequent closures. I think we have to keep in mind that these ORV areas are just that. The damage machinery can cause, especially when the drivers are purposely destroying the trails is exponentially more damaging. Plus there was also oil and other toxic fluids flowing into then streams.

    As for the FS stance. I don't think it is so much laziness as it is lack of money and resources. Along with the priority of the resources they do have. So unfortunately fixing a lot of our resources are going to fall almost solely on user groups and volunteers.

    I knew the natural trails would come back to bite me. Yes I will agree that there are "natural" migratory trails etc. I would say though that I am quite certain none of those fall in to the category that we ride on. I could be wrong though. Certainly wouldn't be the first or the last time.

    I'd also agree that I wish they would hold their own practices to the same scrutiny. But hey, their own NEPA reports say its all good so it must be right?

    It is a bit refreshing that we seems to have a fair amount of interest in trying to repair Black mountain. We also need to remember that us forum members are but a small microcosm of the mountain biking community. PAS needs to make sure they try to get the message out to the rest of the community and hopefully gain their support in terms of either volunteerism or donations.

    Cheers,
    Matt
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    Agreed. But we do need to "clean up our house" before we go pointing fingers and continuing to ask them to clean up their house. We can monitor the upcoming logging projects. We have new tools available to us to monitor and share that info. We have cameras, video, Facebook and social media. We can work with the enviro community to turn some thumb screws. The roads in Pisgah are way larger in foot print and are having a large impact on water quality, most reports note that. But again, that is not an excuse for our trails to erode and dump sediment into water courses.

    Quote Originally Posted by pisgahrider View Post
    Slightly off topic but germane to it:
    I would be more sympathetic to the Forest Service's concerns if they applied the same standards and levels of concern to logging operations as they do to the impact of trail use in general, and mountain biking in particular. I grew up here and have witnessed first hand the effects of bad logging over several decades, and not just the sediment runoff. Even with the new techniques that are suppose to be used today the environmental impact of even small parcel logging looms over recreational trail use impact. It aggravates me no end that they are so quick to point the finger at a particular user group, all the while providing what is little more than corporate welfare to a few select private companies, allowing them to continue to log under minimum, and often un-inforced, regulations. To threaten trail closures as a "solution" to stream damage while logging goes on is just an attempt to divide and divert the attention of well meaning people. Until the business community that profits from the recreational use of the forest begins to work with user groups in a more vocal and more supportive fashion the perceived bigger money wins. Unfortunately it is all about the Benjamins.
    (Guess I need some coffee.)
    Last edited by Woodman; 02-10-2014 at 03:59 PM.

  21. #21
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    One mans washed out gully is another mans next challenging section to clean.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mattnmtns View Post
    Case in point I read in the Citizen Times that the EPA designated the French Broad as impaired water way...What's upstream? Yep the Davidson and Mills rivers watersheds.
    It's an entirely different ballgame downstream of cities, residential areas, and agricultural areas.

    And Woody thanks for pointing out that the beloved road system is a bigger culprit than the trails. Let's inventory more roads!

  23. #23
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    Do these photos bother anyone? I tracked this source up to one trail on public lands. What do our trout fishermen here have to say about this?
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    A few more, but a different place on USFS lands.
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    Quote Originally Posted by man w/ one hand View Post
    One mans washed out gully is another mans next challenging section to clean.
    Truths

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