NCC Blazing (and Improving) Trail at Kershaw-Ryan State Park

Lately, we really haven’t given our trails crew enough love on these pages, but they continue to do great work building and restoring trails throughout Nevada and the West. These include the Flume Trail project in Incline Village, the 5th Street project close to Prison Hill in Carson City, the Spooner Lake Trail project in Tahoe, Great Basin National Park trail system maintenance, and the Tahoe shores project.

One great example of this kind of work is what is happening at Kershaw-Ryan State Park, where since Fall 2018 crews have been hard at work expanding the existing trail system. So far they have done so by about 3.28 miles, creating routes of various difficulties, from green (easiest, 3ft wide tread, 3″ obstacles) to blue (18-24″ tread, up to 12″ obstacles with bailout options) to black diamond (12″ max tread width, unavoidable obstacles).

The crew lead at Kershaw-Ryan is Bri Montoro, who generously agreed to answer some questions about this trail expansion.

What was the purpose of this work? The public benefit?

This will open up the trail system to a wider user-base and hopefully provide some economic benefit to the small, rural community of Caliente with increased visitation to Kershaw-Ryan. The park recently held their first annual mountain biking festival and from what I hear, the turnout was pretty good. We have watched the campground improve and expand over the year we’ve been here, and it definitely has gotten a lot busier on the weekends, which has been cool to see.

What is the technical nature of the work?

Crews constructed new tread (full bench cut) branching off from, expanding and modifying the existing Rainbow Canyon Loop hiking trail – opening it up to a wider user base, including mountain bikes. We built a series of switchbacks leading from the existing trail up to the plateau, where the new trail system continues for several miles.

This involved construction of many single and multi-tier rock retaining walls to mitigate erosion on the steep hillside, as well as to achieve the appropriate grade for each class of trail built. TTFs (technical trail features – basically stuff to trick off of) were worked into the construction, consisting of bank turns, rideable rock formations, and rock gardens, depending on the planned difficulty rating for each part of the trail system.

Some of this involved cobra combi work, (a gas powered jackhammer/rock drill that runs off of a 2 stroke motor) busting through caliche and bedrock to get the switchbacks and tread to the correct grade and width. Crews (including LDP) also put in a Sutter wall, which is a combination of steel and timber that gets anchored into bedrock. Sutter walls mitigate erosion and give the trail a nice, clean, slick look when completed.

What was your specific role?

I moved the rocks. (Joking.) The project began in August of 2018 (Phase 1) and is still continuing today (Phase 3). As a senior crew lead at the time, I had a crew of 15 people (including a co-lead) to start the project off. Members came and went as the season progressed. I learned how to manage logistics of a large group (cooking got complicated with a wide range of dietary needs, but we got creative and ate well all season), got to learn and participate in some layout and design, and became very well-acquainted (and fell in love with) the complexities of rockwork on a large scale.

It was awesome to watch my crew go from zero experience with trail work to a well-oiled trailbuilding machine in a matter of months. Quite a few of my members went on to do LDP and become leads themselves, which was really rewarding to see.

I have since returned to this project with several other crews and continued expansion of the trail system. As a field supervisor, I’m currently leading crews with one of my members-turned-crew-lead, Derek Kluge, on Phase 3 of this project. We have had the privilege and experience this time around to work even more closely with Vince and get a lot more hands-on with layout and design. Collaborating on the “flow” of the trail and TTFs has been a lot of fun.

Looking forward to building a section along a cliff edge (got to learn how to install fall-protection for that one) and using Dexpan to blast through some bedrock on that section. It never gets boring out here because I’m always learning new ways to make the trail better. You never know what you’re going to get until you start digging, and the ground is full of surprises.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about this project?

My crews have overcome a lot of adversity during the course of this project, from extreme heat to freak snowstorms, temps in the single digits and long hikes – and that only scratches the surface. You name it, they’ve been through it, and pulled through admirably with teamwork and high spirits.

Not only did their perseverance inspire me as a leader, but it shows how fulfilling this type of work can be – leaving a legacy for future outdoor recreationists to enjoy for years to come. Every rock on this trail system has a story, and I’m excited to be out here creating more.

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