Zuffenhaus Trail – An (overdue) Introduction.

Those of you who follow the blog might have read about our trail – roughly 1.1 mile of path through the perimeter property at Zuffenhaus which will serve as fast single track and double as relaxed hiking for our friends and guests.

Approximately 40% of the Zuffenhaus property is wooded, with surprising elevation changes much of which resulting from development of surrounding land over the last half century (railroad and highway in particular.) We’re repurposing these areas, capitalizing on existing geography to create an exciting, rolling trail – a pleasant distraction for the active and contemplative alike.

Work began late in 2011, and the ninth full day of trail building (work occurs on opportune weekend time) finds us at the 50% mark – fully roughed in trail, rideable in sections, hikable in entirety (save a few water crossings.) At this point, we can determine the stages to completion, and retrospectively identify the completed phases of this project:

Phase I – Trash/Debris Removal.
After a century with the railroad as a neighbor, all manner of debris accumulates, from rail construction scrap to old hobo camp remnants. Add to the the typical detritus that fills the wooded areas around small towns – children’s forgotten toy stashes, overgrown and buried barbed wire fencing, dumped and abandoned appliances. The shop dumpster has been filled repeatedly with material drug and carried from the woods. Likewise the recycling bins have been filled many times with glass bottles, tin cans, aluminum and plastic dug out of the soil and hillsides. Stuffed animals, telephone cords, rusty buckets and satellite dishes (?!?) have also found their way from the tree line to the garbage.

The most interesting and character infused pieces are cleaned up and re-set a safe distance from the trail as ‘local history’ – railroad construction artifacts, animal skulls, peculiar toys, and vintage soda bottles will create some visual character markers along the path, near their place of discovery.

Phase II – Trail Lay-Out & Rough-In
This should have been called the ‘Ribbon Phase’ as it involved rolls and rolls of plastic surveying ribbon to effectively ‘sketch-in’ the route. Many discussions occurred – how to take advantage of this hill, where to cross this stream, how fast could this curve be if it were banked, etc, ad nauseum!
Overlapping the ‘Trash Phase’, this lay out and cutting in process occurred in a non-linear fashion. As segments of the trail were agreed upon, they were roughed-in. Initially, attractive geographic features were identified and agreed upon as necessary trail features and elements. Paths of travel were determined that capitalized on these features and geographies and were established by cutting. Linking segments (between feature segments) were walked several times to get a feel for flow (at times difficult to do before cutting them in!) Both feature and linking segments were adjusted for flow and length, and then considered for direction of travel! Add to this line-of-sight and bikeable grade and radii throughout and you can understand the need for the ‘sketching’ approach. As neither of us are experienced trail builders, we focused on what we like about our favorite hiking/biking trails and let that inform our subconscious as we went along.

Phase III – Cut-In
Once the route was roughed in and agreed upon, actually cutting-in occurred. We determined a general minimum width and height of the trail and went to pruning. In some areas – particularly through thick pines – trees were cut out and stumps were ground/ removed. The track bed was cleared with a push mower – starting with the highest deck setting and working down over many passes – to get to terra firma and allow the ground to dry and compact itself along the pathway.