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  Trail Care Crew Tip

"Lightly on the Land" Book Review

Mike Riter, Subaru/IMBA Trail Care Crew

Covering All Aspects Of Trail Building

Soooo.....ya wanna build a trail! You've got the land, some great terrain, a small mountain of tools, and a crowd of eager buddies, but no one knows quite where to start, or how to get up that really steep slope, and what about that nasty mud bog at the bottom of that sweet downhill? Well, have we got a deal for you.

Lightly on the Land Cover

"Lightly On The Land" is a 267-page comprehensive guide compiled by the Student Conservation Association and wonderfully illustrated by Peter Lucchetti and Jenny Tempest. The first chapter addresses the fundamental differences between the different types of trails and their intended use. It also gives the reader a real history behind trails.

Chapter two deals with one of the most important roles of trail work: leadership. This guide extensively covers the expectations and considerations that a trail work supervisor is expected to fulfill, even to the extent of leading a group into the backcountry to do trail work for an extended period of time.

OK! So now you know a little bit about which type of trail will best suit your needs and you've decided that you are definitely the person who will lead this extravaganza. Next you thumb to chapter three and see that it deals with camping. Well heck, you've been camping before, you think that you probably won't learn too much there. But wait, don't skip it! This chapter is packed full of the coolest ideas on minimal impact camping techniques, waste water management, choosing, buying, and preparing the right diet, even how to pack for horses, mules, and helicopters. This chapter deals with the rigors of setting up camp and storing food in bear country. (A couple of bears in North Carolina expressed their displeasure at this particular part of book.) The end of the chapter has a checklist of camping and cooking gear that you will want to copy and use as your own.

Chapter four addresses safety. Not just tool safety, but how to set up and implement an emergency response plan, establishing proper guidelines for working safely, the correct way to lift heavy objects (such as your significant other's bike!), the all important pre-work safety talk and a useful list of items for the first aid kit. It also addresses the ever present question of liability and how it affects your projects and workers.

The next part is one of my favorites; TOOLS!!! Being a typical guy, I am fascinated by tools and this chapter covers the use of some of the best dirt moving, tree trimming, log shaping, rock altering, bridge building tools I have ever seen. Better yet it covers POWER tools! (Life just doesn't get any better than this.) It also goes in depth on how to keep these tools properly sharpened, lubricated, and stored.

Chapters seven and eight look at measurements and trail design. Perhaps anyone can build a trail from point A to point B, but just how long that trail will endure, how much maintenance it will require, and how much fun it will be to ride will be precisely determined by how closely you pay attention to these two chapters. Do you know how to measure the height of a tree by using a stick? Are you familiar with the use of the Clinometer? After these chapters this will be child's play to your advanced trail knowledge. Even your friends and neighbors will be calling you the Trail Master.

By this time you have taken your tattered map and pored over the tiny lines until your eyes crossed and have come up with an awesome trail that will endure for millions of years and be fun for every user who traverses it...at least on paper. Now it is time to actually go forth and construct. Fortunately for you, chapter nine covers this in detail. It includes staking the trail, taking advantage of natural grade dips, the difference between backslope and downslope, as well as how to properly construct a rolling crown switchback, which is especially important when building on hill sides greater than a ten percent grade.

The next few chapters deal with different trail construction techniques and how to maintain trails. You'll want to pay close attention to the maintenance sections.

Proper maintenance will mean the difference between an OK trail and an awesome trail. Also covered are construction techniques using rock and logs.

OK. You're cruizin' right along on the construction of your new trail; until you come to that raging whitewater river that you used to fish in before you became obsessed with building this trail. You hesitate, and briefly consider ending the trail at the river and going fishing, then you remember that you sold all your fishing gear to buy new tires for your bike. You read chapter fifteen which covers bridge types, location, and construction.

The next chapter tells you how to turn the carnage you created in your local forest habitat back to a natural state. The last part of the book spends some time going over some useful information on rigging, using slings, moving heavy objects using block and tackle, and tying many different kinds of knots.

Congratulations! You have finally finished your ultimate trail. There is still one thing that you have left to do, and it will take the cooperation of all your buddies and fellow trail workers. Get on your bikes, ride, and enjoy.

"Lightly On the Land" by Robert C. Birkby. Illustrated by Peter Lucchetti and Jenny Tempest 267 pp. $19.95 (c)1996 Student Conservation Association, Inc.

Available through: The Mountaineers 1001 SW Klickitat Way, Seattle, WA 98134

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