Have you ever been riding or hiking a trail and noticed the trees that have been cut to keep the trail clear? If so, have you given much thought to who cut those trees? Here in Kittitas County, and in many other places around the state the trails are maintained by rangers and volunteers. This time of year many of us are itching to get into the mountains, but the trails don't officially open until June 15th. Thankfully our local ranger district is pragmatic in their approach to this closure and work very hard to open trails up sooner as conditions allow. Other districts take a harder line on their closure dates and will not open the trails until the day of, now matter what the conditions.
Snow is the number one indicator of a trail being open or not. Generally speaking if there is still a large amount of snow on the trail, it is not open and even if it is you should consider not blowing through it. There are a couple of reasons why plowing through snow on a bike is not a great idea. When go through those spring drifts is it creates a rut, which by itself is not a big deal. But, that rut becomes a convenient channel for water to flow as the drift melts. Without the rut, the water disperses more or less evenly around the drift. But if there is a rut, the water is channeled through it and then starts rutting the trail and causing damage to the trail itself. Pile on top of that tires spinning through that rut and poof you have a crappy trail that will continue to deteriorate over time.
Unfortunately there are some well-monied special interest groups that would like nothing better than to kick everyone out of the woods and mountains that don't fit their particular opinion about how they should be used. As much as I would like to get on my soap box about the evils of that way of thinking I will refrain. But, one of the best ways, in my opinion, to keep the forces of evil at bay is to take care of what we have. By that I mean trail maintenance.
If you want to get into the mountains early, and not get in trouble with The Man, and you want to help out; one of the best ways to do that is volunteer some time taking care of the trails. Look for trail clearing days on the Crossroads Facebook page. We will be posting not only our volunteer days but we will also be re-posting announcements from the Cle Elum Ranger district page as well. Lots of people do trail clearing without being part of an organized group and I personally am thankful for those people. However, there are a couple of things to consider. Part of the way the Ranger district gets it's funding for trail maintenance and even more important trail repair, is through grants. In order to get the grants they need to be able to show a certain amount of volunteer man-hours, the more the better. So when you volunteer with a group those hours can be logged. The other reason to go with an organized group is that if you are on the trails before they are open and you don't have an admin pass to be there you can get a ticket.
So, as the snow recedes and you are getting that itch, think about spending a day volunteering. You don't need to carry or run a chainsaw, unless you want to of course. The main thing is to show up ready to work and lend a hand. Here in Kittitas county we are extremely fortunate to access to so many miles of diverse terrain to ride. It's important that we take care of what we have.
Spring is here (sort of) and the grass is turning green and starting grow. Like many of us you may be thinking it's time to get the sprinklers figured out and the lawn equipment running. As you start thinking about firing up your lawn mower you may want to consider getting a tune-up. I know it's hard to get excited about working on your mower or getting out the weed whacker. If you are like me, you wait as long as possible since once you start mowing the grass you are stuck doing it for quite a while. Sometimes I think that urge to procrastinate taking care of the lawn gets transferred to your lawn equipment. But, control the urge! Proper maintenance on your equipment is the key to a long and healthy relationship with your mower or other machinery. Here are some basics to help you determine what you should actually be looking at.
Change the oil and filter; even if the oil doesn't "look" bad it should be changed every year. Oil tends to collect moisture over time so it should be changed.
Clean the engine; most residential mowers are air cooled. Over time, you will get grass and debris under the cowling and oil and dirt stuck to the engine block. All of these act like an insulating blanket for the engine, which in turn doesn't allow the engine to cool properly and wa-lah it's going to fail.
Sharpen your blades or replace them. Sharp blades will make your lawn mowing job faster and easier. Not to mention blades do get bent fairly easy.
Change your fuel filter. Even if it "looks" okay, you should put a new filter in annually. Don't wait until your mower starts running poorly or not at all.
Clean or replace your air filter. Sometimes you can get away with simply blowing out the air filter, but if it is really doing it's job you won't be getting all the small debris out. So if the filter element is looking gray or tan after cleaning it should be replaced. When in doubt, change it.
If your mower is a rider or a self propelled walk-behind it has drive belts. Just like your car, these belts wear-out over time. Pull whatever shrouds and covers are hiding them and check for cracks and fraying. By the way, if you have a push mower, while you are changing the oil is the perfect time to do this since it's already on it's side and there is no oil in the crankcase to fill up the combustion chamber.
Fill it with non-ethanol fuel and add a little Sea Foam. Do this will help remove any collected moisture and clean out the carburetor jets.
Give it a good wash overall. I like to use a pressure washer and clean the underside of the mower deck. Getting rid of last year's accumulation of "stuff" that has stuck to the bottom. This will help your mower deck last longer. All that debris that is stuck to the bottom gets in way of the discharge or the mulching system working properly. Not to mention all that grass acts like little sponges for moisture, which can cause your mower deck to rust prematurely.
Keeping your equipment clean will help it run better, last longer and often you will be able to spot little problems before they turn into big problems.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, maintenance is key! Many costly mechanical problems can be avoided by preventative maintenance. If you don't know how, or simply don't want to do the things above, give us a call!
Every year before the Desert 100 I start getting a little anxious; this year was no exception. We went over Thursday afternoon in the hopes of getting "the spot", well we didn't get the "the spot", but we did get the one right next to it. I don't think I could have asked for nicer weather or a better group to camp with. But it was a very odd year in the sense of the weather and the terrain. Typically, the weekend is spent dodging the wind and the giant dust clouds.... but not this year. After all the snow this last winter the ground was pretty saturated and almost no dust, warm weather (for Spring) on Friday and decent weather Saturday and Sunday. In theory this year should have been perfect conditions except for the giant, bike eating MUD HOLES. These mud pits were something out of a bad 80's horror movie, bikes stuck all the way to exhaust, riders that couldn't get their feet out of the muck and having to more or less crawl out. I had a couple of moments during the race that I thought I was going to have an issue since the "holes" had morphed into fields of mud from a thousand riders trying to get around. There were a few I hit in 3rd gear with the throttle pinned and almost didn't make it! On my second lap I saw several bikes that had just been left; the rider gave up and walked away. These weren't Honda XR400's either, I saw some pretty nice new bikes sitting there covered in caution tape.
The good news is we all made it through the weekend in one piece and everyone had a good time. Now the hard part, cleaning everything out and getting ready for the next event!