Can't see the forest through the autumn olive
The club I'm in. VMB , is starting another trail building project here in eastern Pennsylvania . This is going to be on the Trexler game preserve.
What is unique about this area is that there is an invasive plant species that we have to deal with called autumn olive. This stuff basically covers most of the area we have been given so far to build challenging MTB trails. The problem is that you can't see anything through this stuff, its about 10 or 12 feet high!
Which leads me to the idea of using a GPS unit. Our club doesn't own one and we are going to "appropriate" one somehow. I've used them to find the pins for property boundaries out in the woods and it worked pretty well.
We want to tag cool features to incorporate into the trails at this new site and be able to find our waypoints when we can't see sh!t in the autumn olive jungle.
So what are good units to buy? I know about Garmin and the Colorado models. I noticed GPS units come with some mapping software. I really wish they came with google earth! What is the best mapping software?
The Voice of Reason
I'm never gonna be a Rock Star
One more vote for DeLorme here, but now there is the PN-40 which is being released this month. In addition to the great maps and great support, you can preload data onto onto the PN-40 and carry into the field map layers of TOPO data, USGS Topo Quads, aerial imagery, satellite imagery and even NOAA charts if you can ride on water.
I have a beta test unit, and I'm very impressed with it. last weekend there were two guys on a fishing trip with me that had Garmin units and neither could get a fix where we were, so we relied on the PN-40!
Laying out trail in heavy brush is one of the greatest of trail building challenges. Here are some of my hard-earned suggestions.
The problem in brush is that it is difficult to use flags to do route finding because you can't see them. Everything looks the same so it is difficult to determine the general direction to your next flag. You are often forced up or downhill to walk around thick clumps of brush.
GPS and topo software is highly recommended. Mark your control points with waypoints and import them onto the map. Add intermediate waypoints which contour the hillsides and gradually gain elevation. If you have to gain too much elevation between control points, you will have to switchback. If this is the case, head back out, look for natural turning spots and mark them as new control points. Once you have the route laid out, load the track back into the GPS and hit the field again.
It is much easier to do your layout work in the fall after the leaves have fallen. If the brush is thick or spiny, wear heavy clothing so you can push through the brush (another reason to do this in the cool temperatures of fall). If there is even the slightest possibly of hunters, wear something orange!!
Once you have a general route layout with GPS waypoints, start walking that route. Look for problems on the ground like rock ledges and holes. Do not let the brush influence the route of your trail, only problems on the actual ground. Cutting a trail through heavy brush is preferable to a poorly laid out trail. However, if you have two route choices, pick the one with less brush.
Once you have the route mostly finalized, I suggest some selective pruning to make the route somewhat walkable. If you discover route problems at this stage you can move the trail without leaving a distinct scar. If pruning the route confirms it is OK, start heavily clearing the corridor and error on the wide side. Don't worry, the brush always grows back. Now you can look to verify the treadway on the ground. Only then start flagging and constructing tread.
Good advise bweide...
We always wait until the leaves fall so we can see the terrain changes, turning platforms and any interesting rock features to bring the trail to.
You'll also want to look at it during your wet season to avoid soggy areas.
Good trails take time to develop.