State Of The Union: Trail System ‘Has Gone From C+ Grade To An A- Grade’

New Gary

By Gary Kelley, CONC co-president

A little history.

Ten years ago, the single-track Nordic infrastructure was in rough shape. Nordeen and Swampy huts needed replacing, trails became repeatedly clogged with the dying lodgepole forest, the old diamonds were rapidly disappearing and the trails were overgrown.

Since forever, each fall a small, hard-working volunteer crew (and NFS “Terminator” Chris Sabo) worked valiantly to make the trails passable and to put wood in the shelters, but we were not getting to the major facelift that the system needed.

Each year our community has been able to grow this effort — IMHO the trail and hut system has gone from a C+ grade to an A- grade!

To many backcountry hermit types, having nicely marked trails and huts may not even be a good idea! I often hear “who needs diamonds” or “I’m tired of these same old trails” or “I could build a hut for free.” Sometimes I agree with that sentiment for myself, but the polished system we have is crucial to introduce new skiers and shoers to the non-groomed experience.

People need to be gently coaxed to do something out of their comfort zone. Skinny trails make people who are new to the sport, or new to the area, feel safe to venture out into the wilderness. The huts provide both safety and fun destinations for social gatherings.

Thanks to people like Sue Sullivan and Al Matson, we now have groups clearing and diamonding during the summer. This has dramatically increased the amount we can accomplish. Thanks to Bob Timmer, the snowshoe community has weekly outings that have polished up the snowshoe trail system. COTA volunteers clear many ski/bike trails all summer long. Many hands make for light(er) work!

Thanks to your financial and labor contributions, we have two nice new huts, Al has a chainsaw, volunteers are well fed, and most trails have enough fancy new bracketed diamonds so that even I can’t get lost.

Chris continues to be the “Terminator” trail guy. In his last year before retiring, he worked with us and the Forest Service budget process to get many of the brown signs (circa 1997) replaced. Now he is one (or maybe two or three) of us.

New goodies for this 2017-18 season — there is a new stove in the Edison hut, a new gadget to make kindling in the Swampy hut, trail junction number signs at all junctions, and the trails are as smooth as a baby’s bottom!

(File photo of Gary Kelley at Swampy shelter dedication in late 2016)

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