When a lot of people, many mountain bikers included, think of the mountains east of “The Grove” they conjure up visions of gold mining and tiny mill encampments falling apart. Those in the know … take advantage of the rocks, roots and steep terrain to enjoy some of the best riding the state has to offer. If rough and rugged are your flavor of bike trails, the Cottage Grove district of the North Umpua National Forest has some trails for you. The supreme trail in the forest is the Crawfish trail. There’s lots of elevation to be lost once you drop in. More roots, rocks and speed than the weak of spirit can handle … but the reality of Crawfish is: it’s an easy trail to ride … but it’s a difficult trail to ride fast!
The remoteness and rough reputation has kept the traffic down over the years, but the steep grade and construction decades ago have created the typical issues faced on such “way” trails built early last century: ruts, erosion and water control issues. Over the last decade a few dedicated mountain bikers have adopted Crawfish and put in a lot of hours to keep it riding “OK”… but the work was always in spurts and done in really small crews with little coordination or cooperation, even among each other or the land manager: USFS. Fast forward to a couple years ago. The Disciples Of Dirt began to put more concentrated and coordinated efforts into Crawfish and began working directly with the USFS on ways to not only get Crawfish “sustainable” but to get it the attention and technical work it needed and deserves. In 2012 DOD was awarded a grant through the National Forest Foundation. The DOD received financial assistance from the USFS Cottage Grove district and Life Cycle bike shop to make the grant possible. DOD also kicked in a lot of our own cash to make it happen. Up next was a big opportunity for DOD to showcase our abilities on a well defined project area.
The project section is relatively short, about 1/4 mile, but ridiculously steep (average grade ranges from 23% down to as low as 15%) and a classic fall-line run … after decades of neglect and poorly implemented drains by the road crew (water bars had been breached long ago) it was exactly what you would expect: a deeply rutted out mess. That’s what we started with. The Crawfish Trail Crew (a group of local and Eugene area gravity riders, including a couple DOD trail stewards) took the reigns from there and designed, laid out and implemented one fine rework of the last remaining section of trail to utilize the old skid road from a timber sale gone by. What exists now is a well-drained trail still utilizing the original road grade. There’s some BIG grade reversals, some of the biggest drains Brock has ever had to deal with, berms and water diverters that look like works of art. The project area has been transformed and mountain bikers are now in control of where the water goes. The water no longer tells us where to go or how to ride. We added lots of turns, numerous drains and additional features which control the water. We were sent out with a mandate: the project has to be sustainable and should be fun. I’m here to tell you…it’s BOTH!
There’s been a ton of work done behind the scenes and DOD received help from many including IMBA trail solutions, USFS, Life Cycle bike shop, Cottage Grove High School Mountain Bike Club, Crawfish Trail Crew (Anthony Beck, Eduardo Lamothe, Ryan Sullivan, Brock, and many more (Doug…you’re in there!)). We’re not done though … oh no … not yet! We fixed the worst area, got it crafted and sustainable. Now we are spending our time on the “easy” parts … but may I say the easy parts are still some of the most advanced and difficult work we’ve attacked on any trail system. We’re going to continue to rework and shape the dirt so we can tell the water where to go … all the while keeping Crawfish one of the funnest and rowdiest trails to ride!
Keep your eyes peeled for the next work weekend to be announced and if you want to get in on the unannounced work, contact Brock.