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Working the Trail

Working the Trail

By MATT UNRAU Free Press Staff Writer | Posted: Friday, August 12, 2011 8:56 pm

LAMOILLE CANYON — Signs of construction were littered everywhere. Chipped rocks and shifted dirt consistently dotting the new Talbot trail gave evidence of the freshly made route.

However, after seeing only a pair of workers widening out a couple switchbacks in the early going, the trail was practically deserted.

It wasn’t until three miles in that signs of human life once again appeared on the trail starting with a shovel or two and then a long-sleeved shirt and finally turning a corner a row of pickax laden volunteers.

Wearing matching yellow shirts and green pants, a majority of the volunteers were sweating through an aspen grove, breaking up roots as they worked to make the two-foot wide path into a finished, established trail.

The aspen grove was approximately 3.25 miles deep into what will eventually be an 11-mile trail connecting Lamoille Canyon with Talbot Creek.

Starting in mid-May the trail construction group made up of two crews of 20 have punched in an extra 1.5-1.75 miles this summer starting from where the crews finished last year.

“It’s going really well,” Crew Leader Robert Kline said atop the trail on a Wednesday afternoon. “It’s going a lot faster than I thought it would this summer.”

Kline and the other members of the group are part of the private non-profit group called Great Basin Institute out of Reno, which is funded by AmeriCorps.

Kline was especially happy with the groups’ progress this year, because he had been a part of last summer’s crew that had experienced plenty of setbacks having to deal with the rock-heavy western slope of Lamoille Canyon. The rocky area was still in the beginning 1-1.5 miles of the trail, which starts across the road from a paved pullout that is just above the Powerhouse camping ground.

A brown 6-foot tall U.S. Forest Service sign marks the beginning of the trail, but as of yet doesn’t bare the name of the trail.

With all of the rock, including an almost 30-foot long section of straight rock, Kline said they had a lot of setbacks that slowed their progress last summer, adding in that anytime construction of this kind goes without any setbacks it’s a “miracle.”

Along with rock, the first part of the trail sports a lot of switchbacks as it weaves its way up the mountain side. There are 10 altogether until the trail curls around to the northern slope of the mountain, giving wide views of the Lamoille Valley.

Heading into the summer, the crews main effort was to concentrate on those switchbacks, widening them out to be more ride-able for mountain bikes and equestrian riders, two of the three non-motorized uses the trail is intended for to go along with hiking.

In the last month they  also brought in timbers to reinforce several of the switchbacks, helping them turn from a sharp ‘V’ shape into an easier turn.

Even though the trail is still under construction and only a third done the volunteers had already seen it gather use during their time flagging the trail and cutting tread.

“We see the same people every week and they just love it,” Kline said.

They estimated they see about 20 recreation users a week on the trail, including mountain bikers, hikers and horse riders.

For those that have already gotten a chance to experience the ever-growing Talbot trail can see a “way different environment” than what other hikes in Lamoille offers said one of the volunteers.

After 1.5 miles up the switchback there were scattered trees ranging from aspen, mahogany, pinion and juniper trees. With the trees, the freshly turned soil is darker and richer as the trail winds around to the southern side of the Ruby Mountains.

The wildlife includes coyotes, deer, sage grouse, hawks and vultures. As for the plant life, the trail construction workers rave about the ever-changing growth as one volunteer said one week they came back and “it was just ‘poof’ — dense.”

In the first week of July, they explained seeing the lupine flowers bloom and being overwhelmed with the scent of lavender encompassing the trail.

Users also will be able to enjoy the trail much longer than other trailheads that start at the top of the Lamoille Canyon road.

On the first official day of summer this year, snowmobilers could still be heard roaring at the top of the mountain road and even after the Fourth of July, snow patches still dotted hikes such as the Lamoille Lake hike.

Even though the construction workers dealt with snow the first week of the summer, starting on May 23, it was a temporary problem and still offers a much longer hiking season for non-motorized users.

The Lamoille-to-Talbot Trail, once complete will open up access to Verdi Lake located at the back of Talbot Canyon, which was accessible through an off-trail route over a steep ridgeline from Lamoille Canyon.

The trail is part of the bigger Secret-Lamoille Trail Project, a 48.57 mile long route that would eventually connect Lamoille Canyon with Secret Pass and having three major trailheads in Lamoille Canyon, Soldier Canyon and off of Secret Pass.

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