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  1. #1
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    Raking out trails before snow flies - good idea?

    There are some excellent local trails that we have been riding all summer. Here in the northeast, the fallen leaves have covered the trails completely. At this time of year the riding is more challenging as the many obstacles on these rocky and rooty trails are difficult to see because the leaves are covering them. So my question: Would I be affecting potential erosion of the trail if I were to rake these trails off before the snow comes? I am wondering if the future snow fall/pack would cause quicker erosion of the trail than if I waited to rake until next spring. I imagine if I were to rake them out now the trails would be almost ready to go by the time the snow is gone in the spring, and the trails are dry enough to ride. On the other hand, I don't want to do something that will ultimately damage the trails. Does anyone know or have any ideas? Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
    Builder of Trails
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    I just finished leaf blowing eight miles of trail, most by riding along with the blower on my back and some by walking. My opinion is that by removing the leaves, you're allowing the trail to dry from the moisture that was trapped by the leaves,, and you'll also allow the water that does get on the trail to flow off it naturally unimpeded.

    Plus, like you stated, the TTFs become visible again.

    D

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by dburatti
    I just finished leaf blowing eight miles of trail, most by riding along with the blower on my back and some by walking. My opinion is that by removing the leaves, you're allowing the trail to dry from the moisture that was trapped by the leaves,, and you'll also allow the water that does get on the trail to flow off it naturally unimpeded.

    Plus, like you stated, the TTFs become visible again.

    D
    I totally agree with dburatti! We try to clear our trails of leaves one last time before the snow hits. The trails dry out much quicker in the spring without the leaf cover, and the last two years they've been ready to ride very shortly after all the snow melts away.

    I've heard aguments from both sides. But I fail to see why it's better to keep leaves on trails. Some folks have mentioned that they decay and contribute to the soil, but we don't plant vegitables on trails so additional organic matter isn't going to help anything.

  4. #4
    I need skills
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    don't rake, use a leafblower!

    at a low setting you'll blow those leaves faster than you can walk.

  5. #5
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    Wasn't there a huge, pages long thread on this just about a year ago?

    My impression from reading the more reasoned responses was that the correct answer depends on traffic, soil type, and weather. In some areas, the leaves become a slick, slimy, mushy mess, in others, the organic material keeps the trail tread from being too sandy.

  6. #6
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    There was a long thread about this once.
    Ideally sustainable trail surfaces have no organic matter - it holds moisture, won't drain, and displaces easier.
    We're also in the northeast, and we rake all our 'managed' trails as early as possible in the spring so they dry quick... And it helps - alot.
    I just can't bring myself to use a leafblower... noise, smell... to each their own!

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by fishbum
    There was a long thread about this once.
    Ideally sustainable trail surfaces have no organic matter - it holds moisture, won't drain, and displaces easier.
    We're also in the northeast, and we rake all our 'managed' trails as early as possible in the spring so they dry quick... And it helps - alot.
    I just can't bring myself to use a leafblower... noise, smell... to each their own!
    Leafblowers save a rediculous amount of time. I'm willing to put up with the sound, noise, smell, getting gas on my hands, ect, to save countless hours that could be put into repairs or building new trails.

    You're able to clear leaves as fast as you can walk, or run if you can run with a leaf blower on your back... Try doing that with a rake.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by HarryCallahan
    Wasn't there a huge, pages long thread on this just about a year ago?
    Fall happens once a year, Harry.

    Quote Originally Posted by HarryCallahan
    My impression from reading the more reasoned responses was that the correct answer depends on traffic, soil type, and weather. In some areas, the leaves become a slick, slimy, mushy mess, in others, the organic material keeps the trail tread from being too sandy.
    How deep is a well? Harry hits the nail on the head here with a nice concise answer. We have many places on the same trail where the contrast is clearly shown: holes & low spots that collect leaves that turn to mud; sandy spots that need leaves and pine needles to help bind them together; thick leafy areas that need leaf dams cleaned to drain.

    We typically 'mulch' new benchcut or berms with leaves & pine needles, mostly to absorb the energy of falling raindrops (a significant erosive force) but also to add a little binder. Makes it look like the trail has always been there, too. Thanks to Rich & Jen Edwards for that one.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmitchell13
    You're able to clear leaves as fast as you can walk, or run if you can run with a leaf blower on your back... Try doing that with a rake.
    Well we hold a volunteer day and put 20-30 people out on the network and it takes about 2-3 hours to rake out 20 miles of trail, so not a huge investment of time for one individual. It's also a social event...

  10. #10
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    I guess it depends on soil type. In some areas the addition of organic material into the trail tread is destructive. Here in NorCal you want to keep organic material out of/off of the trail surface.
    just ridin' em now

  11. #11
    Single Speed Junkie
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    Back in the midwest the trail crew would blow/rake leaves off the trail and it was really appreciated both in the near term and next season the trail would start to dry faster.

  12. #12
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    I spent several hours today blowing leaves off of trails.
    I had plenty of time while blowing leaves to contemplate the pros and cons.
    Here in Kansas City, I find leaf removal to be very helpful as a part of routine maintenance.

    I observed many of the leaves beginning to accumulate on the downhill edge of the trail.
    One quick run through with a blower solves this potential problem. I also clean out any drainages the trails cross in order for water to move unimpeded across the trail.

    This slow walk along the trail also allows me time to observe very closely the current state of the trail tread and corridor and note any issues that are often missed while riding.

    I also observed the areas with less/no leaf cover were dry, even dusty. Leaf covered areas were damp but solid. This leads me to believe that trails will dry faster if leaves are removed.

    My thoughts are to remove leaves as necessary as local conditions warrant.
    How P.C. does that sound?

  13. #13
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    These threads are like my fall trail nirvana. I take so much BS from people out here in the PNW who would rather spend all day raking than just an hour blowing off the trails. 20 people x 2-3 hours could do sooo much more beneficial work than just raking... Seems like a waste of precious labor to me. (Unless you have no problems getting volunteer help which would be a minor miracle compared to the norm.) I don't know about you all, but my time is precious and blowing not only is quicker, but it's also more efficient. They thing to remember though is the angle, intensity and duration of the jet stream. Too much and you'll be blowing off mineral soil too and exposing more roots.

    After the McLoed, the leaf blower is my next best trail friend. Plus, you can enjoy music and a beer while actually doing trail work...

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Borneo
    20 people x 2-3 hours could do sooo much more beneficial work than just raking... Seems like a waste of precious labor to me. (Unless you have no problems getting volunteer help which would be a minor miracle compared to the norm.) I don't know about you all, but my time is precious and blowing not only is quicker, but it's also more efficient.
    My point exactly! Volunteer time is too precious where I'm at to spend it on raking leaves, when a leaf blower can do it 100x faster.

  15. #15
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    Well to each their own I guess. We choose to wait until spring when the leaves are completely down and not being blown around by the wind (negating any trail clearing effort), then we rake them in small teams we send out with rakes and at least one person with a brush loppers. Typically the leaves are wet and the leafblower isn't as effective. It's not 100x as fast either... with a a few rakers on each trail section we leapfrog each other and move right along, removing not only leaves but all the pine needles and small branches that the leafblower can't lift. Like I said - to each their own, and my preference would be not to listen to a whining 2-stroke for hours on end.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by fishbum
    Well to each their own I guess. We choose to wait until spring when the leaves are completely down and not being blown around by the wind (negating any trail clearing effort), then we rake them in small teams we send out with rakes and at least one person with a brush loppers. Typically the leaves are wet and the leafblower isn't as effective. It's not 100x as fast either... with a a few rakers on each trail section we leapfrog each other and move right along, removing not only leaves but all the pine needles and small branches that the leafblower can't lift. Like I said - to each their own, and my preference would be not to listen to a whining 2-stroke for hours on end.
    Ok so I exagerated a little. Regardless, leaf blowing is the way we choose to clear leaves because it is much more efficient. Last season at our fall clean up we had 2 guys with leaf blowers and 4 guys with rakes. The two guys with leaf blowers cleared ~80% of our trails while the others did the rest with rakes, which corrlates to 8x faster. But as you said to each his own...

    We use one of these, http://www.stihlusa.com/blowers/BR600.html. It will blow anything off the trail, leaves, sticks big and small, pine needles, whatever, it can even blow small rocks off the trail. We call it the jet pack.

  17. #17
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    Time to take this conversation over to the 'Singlespeed vs. Geared bike' forum...

  18. #18
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    [SIZE="1"][/SIZE]
    Quote Originally Posted by Landahl Calrissian
    I spent several hours today blowing leaves off of trails.
    I had plenty of time while blowing leaves to contemplate the pros and cons.
    Here in Kansas City, I find leaf removal to be very helpful as a part of routine maintenance.

    I observed many of the leaves beginning to accumulate on the downhill edge of the trail.
    One quick run through with a blower solves this potential problem. I also clean out any drainages the trails cross in order for water to move unimpeded across the trail.

    This slow walk along the trail also allows me time to observe very closely the current state of the trail tread and corridor and note any issues that are often missed while riding.

    I also observed the areas with less/no leaf cover were dry, even dusty. Leaf covered areas were damp but solid. This leads me to believe that trails will dry faster if leaves are removed.

    My thoughts are to remove leaves as necessary as local conditions warrant.
    How P.C. does that sound?
    Hey Landahl, I know this is off subject but I was in Lawrence for a wedding, shot over to your namesake area, did the loop and then some. Very Nice! Very cool!
    Thanks for the recommendation.

    Back on subject.....
    IMO it depends on your local climate and geology.

  19. #19
    Ride da mOOn Moderator
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    Good job!

    Yes, by all means blow them clean

    We clean 2 parks one with 20 miles of trails the other with 5.5

    Pluses include some said and more:

    Trails dry quicker
    Water flows better
    Park managers like defined trails, when covered with leaves people tend to wander off trail
    Makes night riding enjoyable easier to follow
    Less chance of pinch flats due to sharp rocks not covered
    Dangerous angled sticks hidden under leavesare removed
    Removes twigs and small branches also less rear derailer damage
    dry oak leaves are like wax paper and better than ice when a bit wet
    It looks better(my point of view)
    faster safer riding

    Chance to use the two stroke leave blower all though our park just bought us a new Stihl 4 stroke that you still have to mix the gas due to the engine has no crankcase... stupid 4 strokes can't run upside down! All hail the 2 strokes less mosquitoes and West Nile so don't bag on me about 2 strokes I'm saving lives... LOL!

    Last comment raking turns the soil but blowing doesn't so blowing is better!


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