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  1. #1
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    gulf coast trail building - I don't think I can do it

    I found a area along a drainage zone and pipeline easement where trails could be built w/o any issues, but the problem is in my area (Houston) the undergrowth is very thick and nasty.

    I used a satellite map to figure roughly where I wanted to go, and took a machete in a backpack. The beginning where it goes into the woods was the toughest, it was like 4' high vines, prickers and scrub tree saplings sort of thing, but with the machete got a small opening started. I then had to hack like crazy to get anywhere and that is making it very tight. Big trees are spaced enough to make a trail, but there are tiny ones that need to cut with the machete. We don't have erosion in this particular area as its flat as a pancake. Don't worry about trees, we get a fair amount of rain and lots of sun, its nearly rainforest and I wonder if I can get enough traffic to keep it open if I ever get it done.

    Getting ahead of myself, anyway, with a lot of enthusiasm I hacked away and made only about 60' of trail in about an hour, and it was only very rough. I am wondering how I am ever going to make the 2-3 miles or more I think we can get in this area? Obviously volunteers would be nice, but its not fun work for most people.

    I ended up getting poison ivy (yea I know what it looks like but it was everywhere) on legs and the difficulty has me rethinking. Perhaps I need a bobcat or something to help get some of the areas opened up! I know its too wide but the "jungle" will close it back up soon enough I would imagine. Anyone have tips?

  2. #2
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    gulf coast trail building - I don't think I can do it

    Quote Originally Posted by dirkdaddy View Post
    I found a area along a drainage zone and pipeline easement where trails could be built w/o any issues, but the problem is in my area (Houston) the undergrowth is very thick and nasty.

    I used a satellite map to figure roughly where I wanted to go, and took a machete in a backpack. The beginning where it goes into the woods was the toughest, it was like 4' high vines, prickers and scrub tree saplings sort of thing, but with the machete got a small opening started. I then had to hack like crazy to get anywhere and that is making it very tight. Big trees are spaced enough to make a trail, but there are tiny ones that need to cut with the machete. We don't have erosion in this particular area as its flat as a pancake. Don't worry about trees, we get a fair amount of rain and lots of sun, its nearly rainforest and I wonder if I can get enough traffic to keep it open if I ever get it done.

    Getting ahead of myself, anyway, with a lot of enthusiasm I hacked away and made only about 60' of trail in about an hour, and it was only very rough. I am wondering how I am ever going to make the 2-3 miles or more I think we can get in this area? Obviously volunteers would be nice, but its not fun work for most people.

    I ended up getting poison ivy (yea I know what it looks like but it was everywhere) on legs and the difficulty has me rethinking. Perhaps I need a bobcat or something to help get some of the areas opened up! I know its too wide but the "jungle" will close it back up soon enough I would imagine. Anyone have tips?
    Make sure you have permission before you start.

    There are brush mowers you can attach to a skid steer that cuts big stuff. We've used them in our bike park.

    You can get sickle bar attachments for Stihl Kombi machines. I have both sizes and the biggest Kombi motor. That's still a lot of work but more effective that some hand tools.

    I wear long sleeves and a plastic face mask to deal with poison ivy and others when I do messy cutting. It's miserable in the heat but I'm paying the price for not taking those precautions recently.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by bitflogger View Post
    Make sure you have permission before you start.
    +1 on this
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  4. #4
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    Reality check... trail building is a slow ass process. If you were bench-cutting trail, 60' per hour would be a good pace for a group of 5 people.

    The bad thing about just chopping with a machete is that you are left with a lot of stubs and roots, making for a very slow rolling tread, and it takes a lot of tires rolling over to turn it into a good tread. But this time of year the ground is going to be super hard. I would suggest holding off until winter. You have less weeds and ivy, you can better access and wet spots or drainage issues, and you can easily scrape the ground for a nice tread, and its not so hot.

  5. #5
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    Of all the tools you could use to clear that sort of growth, a machete is probably the most inefficient and tiring one to use. And you got 60' in an hour? You're a madman!

    As mentioned, a hedge trimmer or sickle bar attachment on a Kombi is a good choice. If you can't get one of those, try a good set of loppers, a small pruning saw and a set of grass shears. All backpackable and they won't wear your arms off. A case of beer and an invitation to a couple of friends works well too.

    As bitflogger said. And we can't say it enough. Get permission!
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  6. #6
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    OK, yea, good idea to try to figure out which local contact I need to talk to about it. Our area is not very progressive I bet I can predict the many reasons why they can't tell me yes. However, I have a neighbor who just was elected to city counsel who I have already been leaning on for some resolution on soccer field.

    This is an area where there are truck tracks/4 .tracks in middle of mowed access for pipeline inspection, a large city built water retention area that is all grass, with untouched wooded around it. I rode in there on the truck dirt road. On way out saw a gate and gravel entrance to the main road that had a no trespassing sign, although it was clear from some grafatti, as well as a about 40 bee hive boxes and 4 wheeler marks that I was not the first one through here. We here in my area have few places to ride without a 15 mile drive or more. Parks are mostly for softball, pool, soccer or jogging none for mountain biking.

    I guess I need to see if there is a FAQ for how to sell this, but its un-used boarder to a flood water detention, a bayou (creek) and has some sort of pipelines going through it, but there is maybe room for a 4 mile loop, maybe more with all the turns.

    I think you are referring to like a weed eater with a hedge attachment? I happen to have a good one of those, its 4 stroke with plenty of power and have a branch cutter chainsaw attachment as well. But the scrub trees that are most frequently needing removal are about 1" dia, as well as sizable vines. And that poison ivy which has made my legs fairly uncomfortable the last 48 hours!

    Regarding the machete, well, I have been thinking of making my gorilla trail for a while and when I finally got out there had a lot of energy, swinging a machete is good stress relief! I do have a large bow saw I was going to bring but correctly figured when it would not fit in my backpack w/o sticking out about a foot that I would not really need it for a look-see trip.

  7. #7
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    map

    http://goo.gl/maps/3SzRh This is a map I made and a quick loop I did using google's "my tracks" application on my phone - that is really cool btw.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by rob_co2 View Post
    Reality check... trail building is a slow ass process. If you were bench-cutting trail, 60' per hour would be a good pace for a group of 5 people.

    The bad thing about just chopping with a machete is that you are left with a lot of stubs and roots, making for a very slow rolling tread, and it takes a lot of tires rolling over to turn it into a good tread. But this time of year the ground is going to be super hard. I would suggest holding off until winter. You have less weeds and ivy, you can better access and wet spots or drainage issues, and you can easily scrape the ground for a nice tread, and its not so hot.
    Very true. I am new to trail building despite being old fart. I did not remove any soil, hell I was not sure where the trail was going, I was hoping to get to area inside the woods where it was more open than on the edge where all the sun had made for thick growth. The middle was less thick, but there are a lot of dead tree branches, vines, etc and was more work than I had hoped as you pointed out. it was more of exploration and had my bike with me, was making more of a trials type low speed trail not a scraped, fully ridable trail, more like "will handlbars fit now?" sort of thing. Yea, I knew the stubs would grow back unless ridden.

  9. #9
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    Summertime is not your friend for that kind of trail work in TX. I had a brush clearing project in my yard I had started one winter, got sick, and when I returned a few months later, the vines were thicker than before! Greenbrier grows FAST and the thorny types bite back. You've gotta go in there committed to kill it. I dug a greenbrier root out of my backyard once that weighed over 20lbs. This was actually one root that broke when I pulled it out of the ground. I think I missed some of it.

    gulf coast trail building - I don't think I can do it-img_1110.jpg

    Get permission, and then add some bodies to your work force. It makes the hard work go faster.

  10. #10
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    Wow those are some thick roots!

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by dirkdaddy View Post
    Anyone have tips?
    get one of these, we use it to clear the bush around mining claims and orv access trails. works well, portable, just use the proper safety gear.

    HUSQVARNA 555FX - Forestry clearing saws

    gulf coast trail building - I don't think I can do it-13afd5f5.jpg

    to remove the bigger stumps just wrap some chain around the stumps, then tension it with a come-along/winch from an anchor point. a couple of hits with the axe at the major roots and the stump will come right out...

    skid steers are pricey, i just picked up a used one from a dealer for work ($20,000)... and that was the wheeled version. for the bush you would need tracks which is even more $
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  12. #12
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    Hope

    OK - Good to know. I live in suburbia with a 1/4 acre and big house / small yard, so I have no need for such heavy hardware. I do have a 4 stroke troybuilt trimmer with that disconnect system and some various attachments like chainsaw cutter (that works great), hedge trimmer, etc. That blade on the one you show looks serious.

    While I am hopeful to get volunteers through our local mtn bike community, I would hope the park would donate the trail building tools, that is a drop in bucket for them. I could buy some of the manual tools, and others may own some.

    I am going through the channels as suggested, perhaps the park folks would buy something like this or rent one. I can barely afford my latest bike build, let alone a bobcat! I was just wondering out loud and the city may have access to some stuff.

    In my discussions so far with city council member I know it turns out others have had some plans too, but I was pitching my plan as being unique, cheaper to build and maintain, a natural park. Around here we don't have much parks with terrain/trails, so have to work with what we have. I also pitched a jogging / walking trail on the open areas as lots of support can be generated for that, the bike trail to many is not a deal closer, more of a side attraction. I am anxious but have not heard anything.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by dirkdaddy View Post
    We don't have erosion in this particular area as its flat as a pancake. Don't worry about trees, we get a fair amount of rain and lots of sun, its nearly rainforest and I wonder if I can get enough traffic to keep it open if I ever get it done.
    What you'll get will be worse than erosion: cupping. The trail tread will compact into a channel, or cup, and get deeper with use until you start hitting your pedals on the sides. Also, you'll probably be surprised to find that water will run one direction or the other on it. I have built trail in Conroe, The Woodlands, and Huntsville; the soils in that area are sandy and easily displaced.

    That's just an FYI, btw.

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    Yup, the soils in the area are very sandy. If they're on terrain that's too flat and doesn't allow the water to get off the trail, you'll wind up with pits of loose sand in the dry months. You won't find trails that are much worse to ride on.

    I worked on some trail that dburatti designed north of there in Nacogdoches. We had a section that went through a difficult area, as storm sewer culverts from a neighborhood above the trails cut some DEEP and STEEP ravines. The only way around those areas was to build above them, where the terrain was flatter. Bridges over the ravines were attempted, but had to be moved because storm runoff eroded the area so much so fast. We were contemplating building some lightly elevated trail, akin to "North Shore" type of stuff, except MUCH lower to the ground, wider, and suitable for beginners and building rolling sections and a couple of gently banked curves to get over the boring flat sand pit. Lack of funding for the wood kept us from implementing that plan, but I think it really was our best option for the site. Thankfully, we had some slope across much of the property, and we also had areas with clay soils and even some exposed bedrock to harden areas.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk View Post
    Yup, the soils in the area are very sandy. If they're on terrain that's too flat and doesn't allow the water to get off the trail, you'll wind up with pits of loose sand in the dry months. You won't find trails that are much worse to ride on.

    I worked on some trail that dburatti designed north of there in Nacogdoches. We had a section that went through a difficult area, as storm sewer culverts from a neighborhood above the trails cut some DEEP and STEEP ravines. The only way around those areas was to build above them, where the terrain was flatter. Bridges over the ravines were attempted, but had to be moved because storm runoff eroded the area so much so fast. We were contemplating building some lightly elevated trail, akin to "North Shore" type of stuff, except MUCH lower to the ground, wider, and suitable for beginners and building rolling sections and a couple of gently banked curves to get over the boring flat sand pit. Lack of funding for the wood kept us from implementing that plan, but I think it really was our best option for the site. Thankfully, we had some slope across much of the property, and we also had areas with clay soils and even some exposed bedrock to harden areas.
    check craigslist, people give away free wooden fencing all the time.

  16. #16
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    gulf coast trail building - I don't think I can do it

    Not in rural Texas. Besides, fencing seems like a crap material for the purpose. Termites in that area are voracious and will reduce junk wood to sawdust in no time

  17. #17
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    UPDATE:

    I have been working on the permission part of this. I have a meeting with a Park director next week. I have communicated with a guy from HAMBRA (local organization) and hope to get some assistance in future. Park lady seems open to the idea.

    What resources are available to educate myself before the meeting on typical concerns and any statistics on what trails do for recreation, youth exposure to nature, anything positive?

  18. #18
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    I might suggest getting in touch with a trail steward of one of the local established trails and participate in a few workdays. Gather a little mentorship from a local experienced trail steward.

    Once you have permission, get a lay of the land and do you homework. Establish a trail alignment on paper. Recruit help, pursue funding, get started.

    Winter is your best bet for scouting and getting the lay of the land. Personally I use forged bypass loppers to work through greenbriar and privet. As stated above, machettes are inefficient and dangerous.

  19. #19
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    0723-2806-MTDC: Trail Construction and Maintenance Notebook index

    This makes for a great read. Just click on next below the photo. Good luck with your trail build!
    Current ride(s) 2011 Santa Cruz Blur LT

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by dirkdaddy View Post
    UPDATE:

    I have been working on the permission part of this. I have a meeting with a Park director next week. I have communicated with a guy from HAMBRA (local organization) and hope to get some assistance in future. Park lady seems open to the idea.

    What resources are available to educate myself before the meeting on typical concerns and any statistics on what trails do for recreation, youth exposure to nature, anything positive?
    You'll need to do a little leg-work through the resources here but there is some useful stuff.
    Advocacy and Organizing | International Mountain Bicycling Association
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  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by dirkdaddy View Post
    UPDATE:

    I have been working on the permission part of this. I have a meeting with a Park director next week. I have communicated with a guy from HAMBRA (local organization) and hope to get some assistance in future. Park lady seems open to the idea.

    What resources are available to educate myself before the meeting on typical concerns and any statistics on what trails do for recreation, youth exposure to nature, anything positive?
    Did you mean GHORBA? I thought HAMBRA was dead a long time ago. There's people building trail at Jack Brooks which has very similar terrain and soil I'm guessing. They would have good advice.
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  22. #22
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    IMBA publishes two books that might be worth checking out:

    Book - Trail Solutions | International Mountain Bicycling Association

    Book - Managing Mountain Biking | International Mountain Bicycling Association

    A bit of an investment, but these books might save you a lot of effort. They are specific to mountain biking, whereas many other guides for trail builders are not.

    Trail Solutions covers the trail design and construction aspects, while Managing Mountain Biking emphasizes all the things that go into creating community support and long-term success.

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