Skyline Trail Building

It should be ski season – at least that’s what the locals and most of the out-of-towners were saying this past weekend up in Big Bear.  But the powder hasn’t come (although as I write this the forecast is for 3-6″ of snow) and the trails remain enticingly exposed and begging for rubber.  I’ll oblige.

As an added weekend bonus, the Big Bear Valley Trails Foundation posted that they were hosting a trail building day on 12/9/12 for the Skyline Trail.  The Skyline Trail, once completed, will stretch 15 miles, paralleling 2N10 and will be exclusively SINGLETRACK!  Fifteen miles of sweet, sinuous, slaloming singletrack that can be ridden in both directions.  Credit and thanks to all those who toiled with the behind-the-scenes visioning, planning and permitting.  We were happy to help in some small way to what is going to be a fantastic asset to Big Bear’s trail system.  More on that in a bit.

The day before the Skyline trail build day, Samantha and I took advantage of the sunny weather to loop some fireroads and singletrack trails together with goal of including the Champion Lodgepole Pine into the ride.  The Champion Lodgepole Pine simply must be seen to be believed – a double topped tree with a 36 foot circumference which rises 110+ feet above a meadow below Bluff Lake.  Estimated age = 450+ years old.  It was a sapling when Columbus blundered his way into the Americas.

The Champion Lodgepole Pine

The Champion Lodgepole Pine (in the middle) looking west from Bluff Lake.  450+ years old, a vestige of a colder climate in Big Bear.

Bluff Lake

Samantha next to Bluff Lake on a bright blue winter day.

Meadow view from the Champion Lodgepole Pine's view looking north.

Meadow view from the Champion Lodgepole Pine’s (ground)view looking west.

Our ride profile.  The blue triangle indicates the location of the Champion Lodgepole Pine.  It is very accessible from walking trails with car access.... but biking there is champ.

Our ride profile. The blue triangle indicates the location of the Champion Lodgepole Pine. It is very accessible from walking trails with car access…. but biking there is champ.

On Sunday, Samantha and I made our way up to the top of 2N10 near the junction of 2M51Y and the top of Snow Summit to join the afternoon Skyline trail work party.  Our shift was to begin at 12:30 and pick up where the morning crew left off.  Credit to the Big Bear Valley Trails Foundation for providing lunch (Subway sandwiches, chips, candy, hot cocoa, etc.) for all the workers – smart play as there were a bunch of happy and energized workers ready for their direction.

Skyline trail work party

Skyline trail work party assembling and eating.

Samantha and I checked in and were told we would be part of the “slim” crew.  How did they know I took the veggie sandwich option?  We soon found out that the “slim” crew meant we would be taking the 4 foot rough cut trail down to a 2 foot singletrack width.  The rough cut was made by a small nimble mechanized excavator/tractor/terminator thing which comes along and working with the contours of the landscape establishes the initial cut… the “rough cut”.  Visit this page for more info or watch this video to see how the rough cut is made.

There were other crews people were assigned to, like the Armoring crew who were tasked with buttressing and protecting trail obstacles like trees via routing and strategic placement of boulders, and off they went down the trail.  Our “slim” crew were delayed to wait for the local boy scout troop who were going to run up and down the trail with youthful enthusiasm to clear off the trail.  In all honesty, I was a little concerned when I heard we’d be on the same team as eight year-olds who were armed with rakes, hoppers, and boundless energy.  In the end, they were great but I kept a healthy distance from them when walking on the trail as they swung the rakes about behind them.

Choosing my weapon!

Choosing my weapon!

Heading east on the Skyline trail.

Heading east on the Skyline trail.


I love how this trail undulates and slaloms along the countours of the landscape.  A long giant S……


The local Big Bear Boy Scout troop out in force!

Our slim crew spread out after receiving some instruction and Samantha and I staked our claim to a stretch of trail next to the Armoring crew who were busy building a large hole to place a “protective” boulder next to a tree jutting out from the trail.  Working above them, we used the rakes to bring back the soil and rocks along with pine duff to narrow the trail.  It was fun seeing the trail as a malleable object and imagining riding my bike and visualizing the most exciting lines from which to shape the trail around.  Samantha and I added some curves and by moving the trail this way or that, we could use partially buried boulders as mini jumps as the “fun line”.  In all, we worked a 100 yard section and it’s easily the best 100 yard section on the Skyline Trail that we’ve self-titled “Adams Alley”!

The Armoring crew in action

The Armoring crew in action

At work in Adams Alley...

Hard at work in Adams Alley…


Samantha directing work along Adams Alley and standing on a small rock jump when traveling west (camera looking east)


Using the environment to help shape and direct Adams Alley

With snow blanketing the Skyline Trail until spring, I’ll have to wait to ride it but I already have some lines in my mind that I want to try!  Thanks again for all those who have done the heavy lifting in making this trail a reality and allowing us to help in a very small way!


2 responses to “Skyline Trail Building

  1. Pingback: Skyline Trail – April 2013 | natespin·

  2. Pingback: Big Bear Shootout #1 2014 Race Report | natespin·

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