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.