Buying 19 Acres - Need Help with Trail Layout!- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Buying 19 Acres - Need Help with Trail Layout!

    Hi everyone, thanks in advance for any and all input towards my cause.

    Basic situation is that my wife and I have been looking at parcels of land in our area of Southeast Michigan for a while now. Finally a great parcel, replete with diverse natural features and only 1.5 miles to town came back onto the market, bank owned, for a fantastic price. We offered even lower than asking price and thankfully it was accepted.

    Because we are young and broke, and I already own a stupid condo that we don't want to live in anymore and I cannot sell (yet) without taking a nasty loss, we aren't going to build on this new piece of land for at least a couple years. Hence, I would like to turn it into an outdoor recreation paradise for the time being. Priority #1 is installing a kick ass piece of single track. Will also be putting in general access trails (of tractor/truck width), nature/walking/x-county ski trails, maybe some do driveway/homesite clearing, and a temporary campground.

    Here is a basic overview of the land:
    18.85 acres, largely rectangular (~1/8 mile wide, ~1/4 mile deep).
    Primarily sandy loam soils. Some silty and muddy stuff down by the creek in the back.
    up to 40' of total elevation change, no more than ~25' in any one spot. 0 to 20% slopes.
    History is of mild agriculture use and open pasture, but it was largely abandoned in the 70s and is now primarily young forest and areas of thick underbrush.

    Aerial View:


    Topo Map:


    (sorry if those are too small to do any good, I may work on re-uploading later if I have time)

    I know most of you here work on epic trails spanning long distances and vast pieces of land. Well, I don't have that luxury and am really hoping just to get a basic trail, that I can ride in both directions for variety, put together for friends to come have a blast on and encourage myself to keep riding and staying fit, having fun, etc.

    Because it will be a pretty informal trail, I don't mind if sections of trail come within 20 or 30 feet of each other. No wilderness isolation is really required here. And the rider frequency will probably be very low by public trail standards. I suppose that frees me from some design considerations, but I still want this trail to be of minimal impact to the land, and maximum sustainability. But mainly going for maximum fun, and maximum realistic distance given the size of the land.

    Questions:
    - How much length of trail do you think I can really get away with? 2-3 miles does seem possible to me, but I really have no idea.
    - While I have some friends to help on occasion, I'll probably be putting in most of the work myself. How much length of trail can I really expect to get accomplished in a typical work day? (I am not sure whether to do all trail work by hand, keeping the narrow single-track flavor, or to bush-whack it in at tractor width, and use machinery to help bed in the tread, then allow nature to re-claim the edges....)
    - I have some general tools already, but what will make this go the fastest? Do I need a rouge hoe, etc?
    - Without a lot of riders to pack the trail down, is it going to be loamy and slow forever? Should I roto-till and then re-pack /tamp it down? I do want to acquire a solid tractor with a backhoe for other tranching/stump removal work, so theoretically I will someday have that available for bench cutting, etc if needed.
    - What are the general concepts to look for when putting in trail? I.e., what are some newb mistakes (too tight turns, poor flow, etc).

    Thanks!


    Quick doodle of a trail idea (~2.1 miles in this case):

  2. #2
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    Two thoughts:

    1- Looks like your new neighbor has been encroaching on your property.
    2- Looks like you will be encroaching on another's property with that trail route.

    Respecting property boundaries makes good neighbors. Trust me on this one.

  3. #3
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    I'd say 1 mile per 10 acres is pretty dense but can still provide a good experience. So two miles is possible, three miles may look more spider web like and you'll see trails all over from one section to the next.

    You have LOTS of lines running perpendicular (90 degrees) to or are at angles greater than 45 degrees to your topo lines. Look up the "half rule" of sustainable trail building. You want to "surf" the contour lines on the topo map.

    Every time you "need" to go greater than 45 degrees to a topo line in order to go somewhere, think switchback. Come abruptly across the 90 degree and get back to under a 45 degree to the topo. Try to minimize the number of switch backs because they are a ton of work to do right. Try to locate switchbacks on more level areas of ground to save you some work.

    +1000 on the neighboring property comment. If you want trails on a neighbors land, talk to him and maybe let him hunt deer or something on yours.

    Take another stab or two at the map. Much easier to do now than later.
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  4. #4
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    Have fun.

    Use that elevation for some floater jumps. Have fun, experiment.

    For future..don't build your house as close to the road as your neighbors. Spend the money to bring the power 2-3 times as far. You'll greatly enjoy being farther from the road.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by deezler View Post
    Priority #1 is installing a kick ass piece of single track. Will also be putting in general access trails (of tractor/truck width), nature/walking/x-county ski trails, maybe some do driveway/homesite clearing, and a temporary campground.
    Cool how fun. First and most important thing is put boots to ground. Walk over every square foot of your property. Look for all the most interesting unique features you have. Look at them from every angle, can you integrate them into a ride feature, is it something odd that you can ride by. Note all of these areas, and try to direct your trail toward them if possible.

    Quote Originally Posted by deezler View Post
    Here is a basic overview of the land:
    18.85 acres, largely rectangular (~1/8 mile wide, ~1/4 mile deep).
    Primarily sandy loam soils. Some silty and muddy stuff down by the creek in the back.
    up to 40' of total elevation change, no more than ~25' in any one spot. 0 to 20% slopes.
    History is of mild agriculture use and open pasture, but it was largely abandoned in the 70s and is now primarily young forest and areas of thick underbrush.
    Since you're going to try to get the most bang for your buck, you can definitely go for the tight twisty model. This does not necessarily mean that it doesn't need to have flow. If this is you're first trail build, flow is actually something that is difficult to build. If you don't have the know-how or don't have the natural eye, just try to always move towards learning that all flow means is how the wheels of the bike react to tread.
    With your sandy loam soil it's going to be great in the rain, but will wash and sluff a bit in the extended dry months. Build accordingly. If you make big pumptrack style berms or rollers make them with plenty of support, and make it flow so you don't have skidding or harsh turning to break them down in the summer.
    You're silt and mud you can overcome if you have any rocks you could harvest to armor up your tread. If you don't want rocks as tread you can always top off the rocks with your sandy loam soil in a turnpike or whatever you got.
    Depending on what you want, you might want to find a run or two of extended downhill first then build around that as well. Tight twisty type trails, you're trying to maximize density, but it never hurts to have at least one run where you can let off the gas and cruise for a couple.
    And also i would recommend keeping your grade below 7%. Since you are routing your trail for multi-direction, you have to be careful on section where you have steeps. Since you have your sandy soil, you have to check for flow on two directions so it won't break down. An example, you wind up skidding a section out when you descend it, it becomes a bear to climb as time goes by etc... So go ahead and go steep on sections if it makes sense, but always keep below 7 on your sustained grade.
    Quote Originally Posted by deezler View Post
    Because it will be a pretty informal trail, I don't mind if sections of trail come within 20 or 30 feet of each other. No wilderness isolation is really required here. And the rider frequency will probably be very low by public trail standards. I suppose that frees me from some design considerations, but I still want this trail to be of minimal impact to the land, and maximum sustainability. But mainly going for maximum fun, and maximum realistic distance given the size of the land.
    We have parks here where trails that were originally Rogue builds, now legitimized, and some of them pass literally mere feet from each other. The problem from this is primarily trail braids, but you shouldn't have that problem, and it's nothing a well planted tree can't fix.
    It's going to be impossible to really provide you with the knowledge to get what you're looking for on the sustainability end of things. i mean you can divulge quite a bit of info from various sources including this forum, but nothing beats experience. If you don't get it right the first go through, (which nobody does) you get to go back and tinker and dial, look at that as part of the fun, and part of the learning experience.

    Quote Originally Posted by deezler View Post
    Questions:
    - How much length of trail do you think I can really get away with? 2-3 miles does seem possible to me, but I really have no idea.
    Think more about the quality of the experience first, and let the mileage consideration be secondary. You can probably squeeze 10 miles of trail in there in a big toilet bowl circle, which would be fun to look at from Google Earth, but not that fun to ride. (although a smaller toilet bowl would probably be fun, your trail, your creativity)

    Quote Originally Posted by deezler View Post
    - While I have some friends to help on occasion, I'll probably be putting in most of the work myself. How much length of trail can I really expect to get accomplished in a typical work day? (I am not sure whether to do all trail work by hand, keeping the narrow single-track flavor, or to bush-whack it in at tractor width, and use machinery to help bed in the tread, then allow nature to re-claim the edges....)
    Strategically pick areas to use the machine. i take it you want variety, so depending on what you want to do. Even with the most experienced trail builder there is a learning curve to building trail with a machine. It's completely different than building by hand. Depending on what type of trail you're shooting for. Since you're talking about a wide tractor you might want to use just in areas that are going to be a complete pain in the butt, then move it out before creating too much of a swath, and get in and hand build.

    Quote Originally Posted by deezler View Post
    - I have some general tools already, but what will make this go the fastest? Do I need a rouge hoe, etc?
    If you don't have that many rocks in your soil, then i would highly recommend getting a rogue hoe. Pulaski, Mcleod, spade shovel chainsaw... Lots of times what kind of soil and terrain you have will dictate which tools you use the most.
    Are you looking to harvest more soil from borrow pits to build up and shape your tread, making rollers or jumpts etc. All these decisions are going to influence what kind of tools you're going to use the most.

    Quote Originally Posted by deezler View Post
    - Without a lot of riders to pack the trail down, is it going to be loamy and slow forever? Should I roto-till and then re-pack /tamp it down? I do want to acquire a solid tractor with a backhoe for other tranching/stump removal work, so theoretically I will someday have that available for bench cutting, etc if needed.
    When you say loamy, i hope you are talking about mixed sandy dominant mineral soil devoid of organics. You can buy a tamper to help get compaction on fresh cut singletrack. If you build it correctly with a tamper, and boots, you won't have to have too many wheels to sink in the blue groove.

    Quote Originally Posted by deezler View Post
    - What are the general concepts to look for when putting in trail? I.e., what are some newb mistakes (too tight turns, poor flow, etc).
    Exactly too tight turns, poor flow. Take your bike with you as you build. Ride your section. If you screwed it up, don't be afraid to completely re-do it if you have to... Go back to what i said before, learn as you go. You'll be fine, and if you can't get it right, move on and get back to a section later.
    Making mistakes ain't that big of a deal, what i find more common with builders is their refusal to recognize the mistake and not fix it later. Fixing mistakes or just working on trouble areas will only make you a better trail builder.
    And always think drainage. Where does the water go. Get the water a place to flow off the trail.

    Now go figure it out.

    Good luck.
    .~...|\
    ...~.|.\
    ..~..|..\
    .~...|...\
    ~....|....\
    ...~.|.....\
    ....~|____\
    _____||_________
    .\....FAILBOAT..../

  6. #6
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    IMO the hardest part of learning to build trail is developing an understanding of what the theory looks like when it is actually applied on the ground. Things like grade, contouring, bench trail and half rule. So here are some practical ways to better visualize/understand some of the concepts.

    Grade - Grade is a measure of trail steepness. Overly steep trails have lots of water moving down them and quickly start to destroy themselves, particularly in loam soils. The rule is to keep your overall grades under 10%, allow only short sections of steeper grades and nothing over 20% grades. Here is my rule of thumb, grades under 5% are sheer fun to climb, grades between 5%-10% are generally easy to climb, grades of 10%-20% are work to climb and 20+% grades are anaerobic sprints. It is important to measure grades because they can be deceptive to eyeball. Make yourself a protractor clinometer by adding a piece of string and a weight to a school protractor. 1 degree of angle = 2 % of grade. Tie a ribbon on a tree at eye level and then measure the grade back to that flag sighting over the flat side of the protractor.

    Contouring Trail - Contouring trail always has an uphill side and a downhill side. There should never be any confusion on a contouring trail which side is which. Trails on flat ground are not contouring because there is no uphill side and downhill side. Fall line trails on hillsides are not contouring because there is also no uphill side and downhill side. Why is contouring trail so important? Because the downhill side of the trail gives the water on the trail someplace to go. On flat and fall line trails the water just stays in the trail.

    Bench Trail - When a contouring trail runs along a hillside the trail has to be cut into the hillside. Here is one way to visualize bench trail. Imagine you are stranded on that hillside and have to spend the night there. You have some tools so you dig yourself a flat spot on the slope to sleep on, 24 inches wide and 72 inches long. Now imagine it is you and a friend that must sleep on that same hillside, so you dig a longer continuous flat spot to sleep on and sleep feet to head. Now image building a long flat spot on a hillside for hundreds of people to sleep and you have a contouring bench trail.

    Half-Rule - If contouring trail is good and fall line trail is bad, then what is the line in-between? The half rule says that a trail going down a hillside at a grade halfway between the grade of a trail horizontally traversing a hillside and the grade of a trail going straight down a hillside is the maximum steepness a trail can have before it begins to behave like a fall line trail.

    So how do you layout a contouring bench trail that doesn't violate the half rule? Start walking horizontally along the hillsides. If you start to feel that one leg is getting longer than the other, then you are doing it correctly. This feeling of constantly walking along hillsides with on foot higher on the hillside than the other means you are laying out contouring trail. The second key point is to only gradually gain or lose elevation when you are walking along the hillside. You should never have the feeling you are walking on your heels down the slope or on your toes up the slope. Your feet should always be pretty flat, just at different heights.

    Plan to spend many hours laying out trail before moving one shovel full of dirt. Get some flagging ribbon and tie pieces of ribbon on trees along your trail route. Walk the trail layout in both directions. Walk it at different times of the day, in different weather and with different people. You will be constantly changing the flags, sometimes back to exactly the way you had it laid out the week before. Only after you can clearly the see the trail in your head, should you start construction.

    WARNING - There is a lot of bad trail out there consisting solely of flat sections and fall line sections. Why is there so much bad trail if there principles of building trail are clear? Flat and fall line trail is significantly easier to build because you don't have to construct a bench into the hillside. Don't give into the temptation to build bad trail just to get something built. This is one of the strongest arguments in favor of the use of mechanical means to construct trail. If your choice is to build flat/fall line trail by hand or contouring trails with a tractor, use the tractor.

  7. #7
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    I would like to add to the hints in the previous post and strongly advise that you have a partner when laying out trail. It goes so much quicker not having to tie ribbon on something hoping it is at eyeball height for the clinometer. Having somebody instantly double-checking your ideas and having somebody to talk over ideas with is a real bonus.

    Also, to complete your list, I'm a big believer in using some kind of GIS system that you can use to transfer tracks back and forth with your GPS. Google Earth is pretty useful if there are good satellite pics for your area (and it's free!) so that is a good place to start. It looks like the OP already has the GIS thing under control, assuming that it will allow him to get the data onto a handheld device.

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    Wow, thanks for the interest, esp. Skookum and bweide, it was clear you guys spent some time on your responses. I appreciate that, and am loving all the good advice thus far. I think I already had a fairly decent feel for the general principles of trail building at this point (don't judge me by the stupid trail sketch on the topo map above, that was just a 20 second click fest to get a feel for possible total trail length). .. .. I've been a wed-searching nerd on this topic lately, but all the reinforcement and new tips are really great.

    I've only been on the property three times thus far, and always with someone else who was happy to just take a general look around and then take off, and not get to every nook and cranny on the land. So I need to go back and scout some more by myself soon. With the complete lack of winter thus far, there have been some really nice days to get out there and clomp around through the mud though!

    Agree with other posters comments as well; definitely planning to build our house well back from the road, and will not build any trail onto the neighboring property (again, ignore that stupid sketch above).

    In any case, I know what my first phase of scouting and work on the land will really be:

    Lots of hours with these bad boys (christmas gift from my parents, schweet!)


  9. #9
    featherweight clydesdale
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    Quote Originally Posted by deezler View Post

    In any case, I know what my first phase of scouting and work on the land will really be:

    Lots of hours with these bad boys (christmas gift from my parents, schweet!)

    Don't make the mistake of snipping off saplings at ground level when they're in the trail tread area. Snip 'em at waste height (leaving a lever to pull on) then grub out the root ball. 1) you'll prevent an endo/trip hazzard. 2) you'll be sure it doesn't grow back.

    As you scout the property, identify areas you want to go to like a view or cool tree/rock. Mark those w/ a green dot. Find areas you want to avoid like swamps, poison ivy, trash dump and mark those with red dots. When you lay out the trail on the map, you can try different ways to connect the green dots while avoiding the red.
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  10. #10
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    Good call willy, thanks for the tip.

    BonkedAgain, et all, what is the best way to interface map tools with GPS data? The GIS map I have been using is a free online tool that my local city/county put together. (feel free to check it out here) It is a pretty amazing tool to have available for free, but as such is somewhat limited. You can upload .shp shapefiles or .csv files of data to overlay. Are those common GPS system output file formats?

    I don't even have a GPS yet though, so.... I do plan to at least borrow one, to do my own initial lot boundary surveying. Maybe I'll find a spare $200 to grab my own sometime this year - we'll see.

  11. #11
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    Sorry, I'm no GIS expert, so anything I say will be mostly guessing on my part. Here are my guesses...

    It looks like your local gov has given you access to ArcGIS/ArcMAP (from ESRI) for their local database. From what I hear, ESRI tools are the most commonly used GIS products.

    I have never messed with shapefiles, but I expect that it is a file format that can be used to feed spatial data into ArcGIS. Doing a quick search I found a link on the ESRI site that will convert a GPS file to a shapefile. That would allow you to overlay your tracks on your local governments map.

    A "CSV" file is a comma separated value file, which means it is plain text file that you can manually create using your favorite text editor (like notepad) that contains datapoints you want to overlay on their map. Doing a quick google search on "ESRI csv files" turns up some hints. From what I can see, each line in the file should have the following format:

    Src,Eqid,Version,Datetime,Lat,Lon,Magnitude,Depth, NST,Region

    What each field means, I'm not sure, but here is an example:

    ci,14845636,2,"Tuesday, September 21, 2010 22:00:03 UTC",33.4480,-116.5805,1.2,13.40,38,"Southern California"

    You could get a GPS and cobble together a CSV file manually using the coordinates from the output of your GPS, but it would be really tedious. I did a quick search to see if there are any tools that will convert to the CSV format, but it appears that most tools convert to shapefiles, so that seems to be the way to go.


    You might also consider using something public, free, and widely used, like Google Maps and/or Google Earth.

    If you have a dedicated GPS or a smart phone then you can create some kind of data that you can feed into the Google tools. How you get the data off the device depends on what you have. For an Android smart phone, for example, if you are using My Tracks you can simply have it synch the data with Google Maps and your are all set. If you want to go 3D then you can use Google Earth. Google Earth is a simple GIS system that you can download and install for free. The Google tools aren't the most convenient ones to use, but they get the job done and the price is very attractive (free!). I suggest spending a few minutes tinkering with them to see if they do what you like.

    Otherwise, if you want to get hard-core, there are lots of different software packages you can use -- some free some not -- to chart out your new biking playland. It just depends on how much time and money you want to invest.

  12. #12
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    Well, while the weather was nicer, I was busy doing bullsh*t, and of course now winter has made a little comeback. So I haven't gotten any good time in on the land yet. However, I decided to spend my free web time on researching and procuring equipment.

    Obviously the priority for any self respecting new land owner is a good tractor. However, it turns out big tractors are freakin' expensive. So I changed my focus to find something cheap enough not to care about, and still get some motorized assistance in this endeavor. Hence:



    Which should be plenty strong enough to pull out saplings, especially with the assistance of a brush grubber (anyone here using these with ATVs or tractors?)



    But of course... after weeks of finding no bargains in the mid-range CUT (compact utility tractor) range, this guy comes up on craigslist. Picking it up Saturday, barring any unforeseen events :



    Obviously I don't want most of my trail corridor to ever be 6 feet wide. But in the woods.... it should still prove pretty useful. Stoked.

  13. #13
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    Not sure I'd waste the time/money on that brush grabber. A sharp rogue hoe would take out a sapling that size below grade in a single swipe. I definitely wouldn't use the brush grabber with an ATV unless you have a lot of spare clutch plates handy. Get yourself a 5' brush hog for that tractor and then follow with a rogue hoe to take out any remaining sapling stumps.You're going to like having a tractor with a FEL - combine it with a box blade and you'll be all set.

  14. #14
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    as for mapping/GIS purposes, you need to set yourself up with some software. Open source stuff like QGIS and MapWindow GIS are options for you. These will allow you to download the free data available on various sites. I bet you can download a shapefile of your property boundary from the county website and there should be a state website that offers satellite imagery, stream and wetland data, and all sorts of other useful stuff for your location.

    As for a GPS, that's a complicated answer. If you want to take all your GIS data out into the field with you, a basic Garmin won't cut it. But GPS receivers that CAN do that are obscenely expensive (they run up into the tens of thousands of dollars...easily). If you have a smartphone, you can look into what GIS programs are available for your platform. I don't know much about these, but I know that there are some out there and at least for Android, there are some free ones. Your GPS reception won't be as good unless you invest in some hardware to help with that, but you'll have your data in the field with you.

    But with that said, a lot of professionals use Garmins on a daily basis. There are utilities written to use Garmins (now other GPS manufacturers, too) with professional GIS software (the program formerly known as MN DNR Garmin - now known as DNRGPS is a big one). Also look up GPS Babel. They just don't take their whole GIS database with them into the field with this method. Sure, there are limitations to doing it this way, but it's a lot cheaper.

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    deezler,

    No comments on the GIS or tractors from me; I've got nothing useful to say there. Looking back to the beginning of the thread, I do have some conceptual thoughts.

    There are a couple trail networks near me with quite a few twists packed into tight areas. In a tight area, they take advantage of vegetation and terrain changes so that you essentially climb and descend the same slope, the same elevation change over and over. some of the loops come within a few feet of each other, but are separated by rocks, logs, or bushes. If there are other riders, yeah, you may see them, but so what? And you are going to be building and riding your private trails, maybe sharing with a few friends. So that is a crowd and wear limiting consideration different than you would have to consider for a public area trail.

    The other idea I want to share is the idea is the idea of occasionally deliberately breaking the flow of the trail. One of the fun features on my local trails is where the builders have thrown in corners that are tighter than the rest. As you build speed through a section of trail, you hit one of these corners, have to brake hard, then rebuild speed. Keeps it interesting in my opinion.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by deezler View Post
    Well, while the weather was nicer, I was busy doing bullsh*t, and of course now winter has made a little comeback. So I haven't gotten any good time in on the land yet. However, I decided to spend my free web time on researching and procuring equipment.

    Obviously the priority for any self respecting new land owner is a good tractor. However, it turns out big tractors are freakin' expensive. So I changed my focus to find something cheap enough not to care about, and still get some motorized assistance in this endeavor. Hence:



    Which should be plenty strong enough to pull out saplings, especially with the assistance of a brush grubber (anyone here using these with ATVs or tractors?)



    But of course... after weeks of finding no bargains in the mid-range CUT (compact utility tractor) range, this guy comes up on craigslist. Picking it up Saturday, barring any unforeseen events :



    Obviously I don't want most of my trail corridor to ever be 6 feet wide. But in the woods.... it should still prove pretty useful. Stoked.
    Awesome tractor deezler, and awesome thread everyone.

    Just picked up a bank -owned property in northern colorado that is 7.44 acres of steep rocky mountainside. We bought it because the little house is in real good shape and the property is ideal for downhill trails. Also, will build a xc trail around the perimeter just to keep me honest. There are no roads or trails currently on the property and I can't wait to start building! There have been some great tips on this thread, so thanks to all who have posted.

    I was thinking about just getting a quad or a little utility vehicle for grounds needs and such but the tractor you found also looks like a good option. At this point, broke as a joke, but will have to get something asap.

    anyone have thoughts on what is better for steeper terrain as far as a utility vehicle goes?

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtn.skratch View Post

    anyone have thoughts on what is better for steeper terrain as far as a utility vehicle goes?
    A Rokon.
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    ^ haha, then you can be as cool as this guy. Rokon Trailbreaker - YouTube

    Steeper terrain can be pretty scary for powered equipment, so you'd definitely want something with a low center of gravity... but with typical colorado terrain, you also need ground clearance. Tough call. Skid steers generally have the engine and weight concentrated nice and low, plus you are well protected if they do roll over. Their design (narrow width, large tire/track footprint, short length) also means they dont really need as much ground clearance. If you just want something to tool around in and cart stuff in, any ATV-style utility vehicle should be pretty useful.

    Well, I had an adventure yesterday going to pick up my new tractor.... tire blowout at 65mph with the trailer on, busted the parking brake on the truck, then got stuck in the mud picking up a brush hog. But 9 hours later and we made it, and I am glad to look out my window and see this beast in the driveway. It's like being a kid at christmas, seriously.





    Dickweed, I already bought the brush grubber, so we'll just have to see how much use it gets now. Agree on the box blade, will keep watching craigslist for good deals on one. I also definitely wanted a brush hog and was able to find one on craigslist that we could combo into our trip home from getting the tractor.

    NateHawk, thanks for the GIS/GPS tips. So you are saying it would be essentially pointless for me to try to locate property boundaries using a handheld garmin? bummer.

    HarryCallahan, good points on trail planning. I really don't care if sections of trail come very close to each other. However there are some other user's preferences to keep in mind. Other stakeholders in the property (my wife, our friends who went in on the property with us, and our families who contributed some down payment "gifts" to help us secure the loan). All of these people don't really give a hoot about my mountain bike trails, so I need some sections to also double as hiking and skiing trails, too. Furthermore they probably want to retain as much natural beauty as possible in many areas, so complete terraforming or building ugly pump tracks, etc, won't really be desirable. However, I am in the driver's seat, so we'll see how it goes.

    Well I am of the mindset that any day with sunshine or above freezing without significant precipitation is a good one! So minus any end of winter snowstorms, or spring rains, I hope to get out on the land a lot more in the coming weeks. Just have to keep life from getting in the way...

  19. #19
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    Your handheld Garmin won't really be accurate enough to use for hiking out to a corner marker and recording the point.

    Getting the actual data from your county, however, you can use your Garmin to then go out into the field to FIND the marker. It will get you within a few meters and hopefully you can locate it then...assuming there's anything left aboveground.

    If not, you'll want a real survey crew to come out and survey the property and put out those aboveground markers.

    I had a survey crew mark my lot when I bought my place. No way I'd have found the markers on my own otherwise.

    The equipment those guys use is WAY better. A nice survey-grade GPS can get centimeter accuracy. The BEST your handheld can get is 3m, and it's usually a few meters higher than that IME (5-8, from what I've seen).

  20. #20
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    thanks for the heads up on the Rokon Fattirewilly. That's a pretty cool machine, but not what I am looking for, atleast at this point. Looking for a tractor or utility vehicle with four wheels to aid on the property. I will continue looking but thank you for the input. Looking for something to help move earth and snow mostly.

    The skid steer I agree would be ideal, just pricy from what I have seen. I will be saving money, using up elbow grease for a while. Deezler thanks for your input and thanks again for the thread.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk View Post
    Your handheld Garmin won't really be accurate enough to use for hiking out to a corner marker and recording the point.

    Getting the actual data from your county, however, you can use your Garmin to then go out into the field to FIND the marker. It will get you within a few meters and hopefully you can locate it then...assuming there's anything left aboveground.

    If not, you'll want a real survey crew to come out and survey the property and put out those aboveground markers.

    I had a survey crew mark my lot when I bought my place. No way I'd have found the markers on my own otherwise.

    The equipment those guys use is WAY better. A nice survey-grade GPS can get centimeter accuracy. The BEST your handheld can get is 3m, and it's usually a few meters higher than that IME (5-8, from what I've seen).
    Ok, that makes sense. Let me ask you this, though: If I found a stake, and had GPS coords from my county's GIS map to the 4th decimal place, would you expect the error (offset, in terms of coordinates) to remain relatively constant over the entirety of my property? As in, if I expected 42.6675 deg north, and the GPS showed 42.6475, would it likely remain off by 0.02 degrees latitude over the whole area? Or is hand held GPS inaccuracy due to random factors and not likely to stay very consistent, even in relatively small area and on the same day?

    Maybe this is moot, because as you say, hopefully the stakes are there and easy to find. But I have some decently long property lines (up to a 1/4 mile) so having only the corners would still not be quite enough. Who knows. But I'll be getting out there a lot more starting soon!

    I also strapped on this nasty attachment to my loader bucket. Ready to shred some dirt.


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    gps errors, by their nature, are random. and they will probably vary in degree from site to site. so you may be 3m off at a corner in a big field, but back in the woods at the bottom of a ravine that error may be more like 8m. and keep in mind, that's a radius. which means you could be 16m from the actual location-you just won't know for sure unless you have that stake on the ground to confirm.

    ideally, with the 4 corners, you could sight from one corner to another with a transit and get a compass bearing from one corner to the other that will allow you to set a straight line. but that kind of equipment is expensive. which is why it's good to just pay for the pros to come do it. they will give you a document that can be used to locate everything, but survey notation can take a few minutes to learn or figure out.

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    Fark. Alright, boots to ground it is until I know more. Thanks for your advice. BTW, your avatar is rather disconcerting.

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    Quote Originally Posted by deezler View Post
    Fark. Alright, boots to ground it is until I know more. Thanks for your advice. BTW, your avatar is rather disconcerting.
    movie makeup. ;-)

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    Forum looks a little slow lately, guess I'll add some content.

    Well many of you likely had the same type of March as we did here in Michigan. Way above average, super... super nice out. I've taken advantage of a lot of it to get some work started, along with numerous helpers. Plenty of my buddies seem thrilled just to get some real manly, grunt-worthy work done. We'll see how this enthusiasm lasts, though.

    Started with a driveway (tractor path) into the heart of my new property. A little wide for single track, I suppose:


    Got some new hand tools, hope to start making some actual single-track soon.



    Still clearing a utility zone / campground / field, but I think it's about big enough now.





    We were having to clear all this through pretty dense little saplings. My "forest" is basically at the worst stage right now. Young sapling clutter and invasive bushes... arg. It'll be fun to watch it grow up over the next few decades though (hopefully).






    Building a small barn is the next immediate priority, so that I can keep tools (and bikes!) out on the land. But I am getting really stoked about trail features, too. For whatever reason, people have bulldozed relatively small areas over several parts of my property. I think mostly "pre-development" , playing around, and surveying work. Nonetheless there remain a few areas of lumps, little half-pipes, and ridge lines... Even a couple little bowls. This is going to be really fun.

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by deezler View Post
    Forum looks a little slow lately, guess I'll add some content.

    Well many of you likely had the same type of March as we did here in Michigan. Way above average, super... super nice out. I've taken advantage of a lot of it to get some work started, along with numerous helpers. Plenty of my buddies seem thrilled just to get some real manly, grunt-worthy work done. We'll see how this enthusiasm lasts, though.

    Started with a driveway (tractor path) into the heart of my new property. A little wide for single track, I suppose:


    Got some new hand tools, hope to start making some actual single-track soon.



    Still clearing a utility zone / campground / field, but I think it's about big enough now.





    We were having to clear all this through pretty dense little saplings. My "forest" is basically at the worst stage right now. Young sapling clutter and invasive bushes... arg. It'll be fun to watch it grow up over the next few decades though (hopefully).






    Building a small barn is the next immediate priority, so that I can keep tools (and bikes!) out on the land. But I am getting really stoked about trail features, too. For whatever reason, people have bulldozed relatively small areas over several parts of my property. I think mostly "pre-development" , playing around, and surveying work. Nonetheless there remain a few areas of lumps, little half-pipes, and ridge lines... Even a couple little bowls. This is going to be really fun.
    Deezler-I wish I could contribute, but gonna be a few more weeks.

    We close on my 7.5acres Friday!!!!!Finally! Foreclosures are carazy ridiculous!! Good life lessons tho

    We did walk the boundaries yesterday though, and for steep mountainside, 7.5 acres(originally 7.44 but after surveying, was actually 7.54!!)is huge!! So Stoked! I will be building a xc loop(with lots of switchbacks)around the perimeter, but the primary focus will be gravity trails with jumps and drops. The longest DH line(run) will be well over 600ft. Pretty short still, but will be built well enough to call my own.

    Your pics look great, and congrats on the progress and here is to your riding future on YOUR trails!!!! braaaap!!!

  27. #27
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    You sure aren't following Forest Service Class 2 guidelines for brushing trails in Sedona- Hands on Hips Elbows Out Vegetation Touching Tips of Elbows. It will be interesting to see what the trail looks like a year or so after you complete it.

    TD

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    Quote Originally Posted by traildoc View Post
    You sure aren't following Forest Service Class 2 guidelines for brushing trails in Sedona- Hands on Hips Elbows Out Vegetation Touching Tips of Elbows. It will be interesting to see what the trail looks like a year or so after you complete it.

    TD
    That tested my continence.

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    deezler, after all the machinery pics, maybe this is a bit left of centre. The picture attached is far from all that stuff, but it raises a number of issues that may come into play on your property.

    First the log along the downslope trail edge: you mostly hear this is a bad idea - channels water along the trail, accumulates organic matter or is just a lazy "path to grandma's house" approach to making trail. However, look at this bit of trail. Where is the soil accumulating? In some cases silt can be captured with barriers like a log, or piled stones etc. It's your trail, so the hoards won't invade and turn your silt into a series of bogs. When base accumulates in one place, subtle drainages become more obvious around it. Given you will have limited space, this means you can see where water will drain to adjacent trail earlier and fix it.

    Next, the stones: if you have them they will gradually appear like here. Temptation is to dig them out. It doesn't work. More will appear as the tread wears down. Wait till it gets wet and smash them into the ground with a sledge hammer or alternate. After a few times, it will create an undersurface Roman Road, MTB size.

    Saplings: you have heaps and a machine will rip them out easily, but unless you have mega riders, the trail tread will not harden fast enough to resist weather without roots and saplings. Leave them on the outside of turns wherever possible - trim the branches only. If you do remove them, try to cut them at the base and leave the root system and at first limit this to where they impinge on the tread, the line or your visual cues to the next bit of trail. I know you will get to know your trail by heart, but better to love the line options from the beginning rather than "make" a line out of a muddy highway.

    Weird little things: this pic is not a great example, but the odd, bendy, rough trunk before the log and the colour contrast of the bigger tree are things to search for and make part of your trail. Obvious issues like rocky outcrops and creeks have their solutions, but the little things will become part of your heart. Odd rocks, weird plants and little eye-catchers are as important as drainage in my mind.

    Anyway, this may just be my way of saying, perhaps keep your cut narrow enough to pamper the terrain, rather than redesign it. It may not be completed as fast, but remember you get to ride out and back every time you work, so there's the bonus.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Buying 19 Acres - Need Help with Trail Layout!-log-why-1.jpg  


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    Quote Originally Posted by mtn.skratch View Post
    Deezler-I wish I could contribute, but gonna be a few more weeks.

    We close on my 7.5acres Friday!!!!!Finally! Foreclosures are carazy ridiculous!! Good life lessons tho

    We did walk the boundaries yesterday though, and for steep mountainside, 7.5 acres(originally 7.44 but after surveying, was actually 7.54!!)is huge!! So Stoked! I will be building a xc loop(with lots of switchbacks)around the perimeter, but the primary focus will be gravity trails with jumps and drops. The longest DH line(run) will be well over 600ft. Pretty short still, but will be built well enough to call my own.

    Your pics look great, and congrats on the progress and here is to your riding future on YOUR trails!!!! braaaap!!!
    Nice! Thanks. Yeah 7.5 acres is definitely big. I am a bit overwhelmed with 19 at this point - we're really only breaking ground on about 2 or 3 acres of it so far. Do you mean your longest DH run will be 600' in length, or vertical drop? I can only get about 300' of DH run length on mine, over ~30' of vertical, but I will for sure be incorporating it into my trail network. not much vertical drop to be found here in Southeast Michigan... I am thankful that my property even has any.

    Traildoc, thanks for your advice. I will reduce my cutting to the Sedona standards ASAP, mostly to avoid any further arguments here in the forum. I'll have to leave the tractor parked though... or maybe only clear to an elbow width past the tractor width. J/K, I agree, it will be interesting to see what grows back along the trail edges over time. Even within this year.

    Ridnparadise, I appreciate your insight. Not sure I agree about cutting saplings at their base and leaving them in the trail bed.... they will leave sharp pokey bits if I do it this way, and then surely grow back fairly quickly. I am pretty determined to fully remove saplings and bushes by the roots if they are directly in the trail path. But leaving them on the outside edges of turns... that's probably wise. I know I'll have to follow the trail bed with a tamper and expend a lot of physical energy packing the trail down.

    But! I have another potent weapon in my tool arsenal now.... a 5' rotary cutter (brush hog).



    I had a bit of an adventure trying to get the PTO shaft replaced (old one had broken, spun, and essentially welded itself onto the mower input shaft...) but come tonight she should be ready to rip with a greasy new shaft installed. So I should be able to pretty easily choose trail corridors and cut them in the 5 to 6' wide range. however, even after re-growth... I worry a bit that this will prove too wide for single track. Thoughts?

  31. #31
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    deezler-the property is fairly rectangular and the backline is just over 600'. I was thinkin if a line ran diagonal then I would get over 600'. I do not know the vertical drop at this point, but the property sweeps downward, ending in a bowl.

    Anxious to watch your trails unfold!

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    "I am pretty determined to fully remove saplings and bushes by the roots if they are directly in the trail path."

    No argument there. Punjies are not welcome. Some will certainly have to go, but bit by bit. You can always dig out offenders as the line becomes organized.

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    Well, might as well give another little update.

    As my tractor was down for maintenance recently, it provided an opportunity to get to work on the single-track. After several solo-sessions on the property during evenings after work, I now have a rather intimate relationship with my McLeod, haha. This stuff is hard work - kudos to all of you who've done this for years. You can go out in a light jacket and end up dripping sweat in a t-shirt. Whoof.

    Don't have a lot of pics yet - hope to get my good camera out there soon. But as I knew I wouldn't get a ton of trail completed before having to switch back to alternate priorities (I really need a barn!), I started with a section having really interesting and challenging topography. The 300' or so of trail I have in thus far rides a tall ridge line that someone in a bulldozer made decades ago. Not sure why, but hey, I'll take it.

    Here's my initial clearing on the ridge. F$*#king vines! it's about 8-10 vertical feet to the path below on the right. Hard to see from my crappy iPhone pics, sorry.



    Here's a pic from the same spot, looking the other direction after some further work. This is a fork in the trail to provide some options (gnarly drop off leading to a biiiig jump on the left line, more mellow drop and turns on the right line). I need this to be a family-friendly "adventure trail", not just my "get nasty on a mountain bike" trail. Plus I want to be able to ride in both directions. So I don't mind braiding the trail in spots with a couple optional lines.



    I have some more areas with existing trail like this. Kind of in a low flat area, frequently muddy.


    But I "fenced" it to try to block out some frequently trespassing dirt bikes. They went right around this and tore down my posted sign in less than 2 days. Then almost ran over my niece and nephew last weekend, and didn't even have the courage or compassion to stop and apologize. Now it's personal.
    Last edited by deezler; 05-10-2012 at 09:05 AM. Reason: stupid iPhone pics always come out upside down.

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    Found one more pic. This is the "intersection" where the two lines from the fork cross (they rejoin shortly after). So the left ridge line comes down this steep hill into a big jump off to the left. The more gradual alternate lines crosses here and snakes around a gradual bermed turn, descending until the two paths meet up again.



    Comments on trail design and construction welcome!

  35. #35
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    lookin' good deezler! Seems like you are making progress fast!

    Been on my land for five weeks now, and this past week started getting trail in. Got three days in, resulting in a lead-in to a 6x12 step down, big left sweeper into a right over a rise, into some chunk, and will eventually lead into the largest natural drop/gap on the property, then not really sure where to take it from there, may just work on split-offs and options.

    Sorry no pics yet, but will get some up as the progress continues.

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