Hinesburg Town Forest RTP Grant: Dragon’s Tail Part III
I can remember it so vividly it was early fall 2003 the leaves were falling and we could see the unlimited expanse of the Hinesburg Forest western slopes. Steve Russell who at that time was the HTF committee solely had the foresight to see we were great stewards of the Forest and he allowed us to go ahead and install the trail system we have today. Though certain names pop up on who laid trails out and who installed them it was the trust and vision of Steve to allow the three of us to create the network. Steve is still part of the HTF committee but he has stepped down as president. His father planted the hundreds red pine trees in around where Nature Boy use to be, so Steve’s roots run deep in the forest.
The area we were analyzing looked like a series of steps with plateaus in between maybe rising about 10-20 feet with each riser. Finally, the area flattened out towards the top to a rolling rambling peak that stretched over a few miles. It was an endless sight line with many terrain variations and open areas where trees were 20-30 feet apart. My partner, actually leader, founder of Fellowship, and visionary Hans Jenny and I were creating, flagging and talking over each other so much on where a new trail should go that neither was listening to each other. It was like two brothers on Christmas having to share the same toy that they both wanted for themselves.
We started a new trend back at that time which was a corner stone for FOTW. We actually researched the area, walked it several times, looked at maps and contour lines, rough flagged it and then came back and made it more exact. By this time in our careers we had participated in our first IMBA trail building course and were ready to put it to good use. At the same time we had a local UVM college graduate in geography with an avid mountain and biking background, Brooke Scatchard. Together the three of us laid out what are now Dragon’s Tail and the Back Door from Hayden Hill West along with the rest of the trails.
The spaghetti type of switchbacks that are laid on top of each other create the climb to the top of the forest. This was Hans’ specialty and it allowed the rider to gain elevation, make a turn, and then have some rest on a long straight track towards the next switchback. Approaching the top of the mountain we decided to utilize a lot of the existing ledge rock for the trail. This is where Brooke’s Rocon (chain geared motorcycle with eight inch wheels) with a homemade trailer attached hauled buckets of gravel to reinforce the muddy areas between the ledge rock. I remember pushing the Rocon up the trail because we had loaded it with too much weight one day. Yes, we were indeed possessed back then. We also had volunteer days where we did not just rake but we actually had our first grub hoes put to work. This was probably the first type of trail that was benched, some roots removed, and most of the topsoil taken off to expose the subsoil layer. This subsoil layer creates a firm surface and allows you to shed water by outsloping and nicking out on the side of the trail.
Brooke brought a more engineered and technical focus to our building. He was instrumental in getting FOTW to the next level with IMBA classes and new tools.
Today Dragon’s tail is a bit different. A big winter storm blew down many trees on the top and we had to eventually close it and make the reroutes we have today. We eventually renamed parts of Dragon’s Tail to Back Door from Hayden West up to the top. The naming came by all three of us creating slogans ideas and catchy names but in the long run it was Hans who coined most of the trail names that stuck. The trail climbs the forest and then travels through the north south line on the ridge and then snakes back down, like a long Dragon’s Tail lying over the area.
Through the years Dragon’s Tail has deteriorated mostly because of location to water holding areas, lack of proper water shedding and the blow down from years ago. Large trees covered the top to the point it was hard to cut them all away plus it has allowed a lot of underbrush to grow up now that there is more sunlight getting to the base. This season the FOTW Trail Crew took on these challenges with the remaining RTP grant we received. DT was rebenched, outsloped, water bars added, a few bridges were built, hundreds of feet of armoring added, pruned, and we used our new-but-old technique of creating corduroy. Once again, we only use this technique when we are to far away to haul material in or unable to find any near by. In 5 years we will need to replace those areas again.
To enhance this long sinuous trail even more, the addition of features was added, taking advantage of existing rock, boulders and drops along the trail. At the start Dragon’s Tail was installed as a climbing trail to get to the top and then go to Wolf Tree, Passing the Horizon, etc. Now with the new work completed, rerouting and the addition of features the trail is as popular going from either Economou or Hayden West.
We hope you enjoyed this series about the HTF and the RTP grant we received. You can see it is not any one person who does all the things it takes to put in a network. Instead it takes years to create, rotating personnel, good building technique, design and a community that will support and utilize it. That is why it is so crucial to get two more folks who support the HTF and are a Hinesburg resident to join the HTF committee (see our recent Trail Crew Update).
We hope you enjoyed this small series and some of the background and key passionate people who have been part of it. Thank-you for your support financially and philosophically.
Current FOTW Trail Director
Representing FOTW Board of Directors, Trail Crew and members.