Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Hiatus Ends - Wet Trails at Tsali

Sorry it's been so long since my last post! A heavy work load has kept me away from any type of contemplation on the state of the Triangle's natural spaces - it has also physically kept me out of such spaces, for the most part.

I will pick up posting again in earnest next week - there's a few things floating around the news that deserve comment. Legislation concerning pollution in Falls and Jordan Lake has been catching my attention.

I was lucky enough to take a long-planned trip to the Tsali Recreation Area in Nantahala National Forest in the far west of our state this past weekend. Tsali is well known throughout the state for the lengthy mountain bike trails that follow the shore of Fontana Lake.

Riding wet trails can cause serious damage to the trails themselves, and contributes to excessive runoff in the creeks and streams that drain the area. Accordingly, when riding locally, I don't ride on wet trails if I can help it. (sometimes you're already out there when a surprise T-storm hits, and you can do nothing but make your way back as best you can)

Unfortunately, it was very rainy in the Tsali region the week before our trip. It also rained most of the day Friday and all morning on Sunday. Saturday was nice, but the trails were still slippery and wet. Large puddles dotted the trails.

I feel a little guilty about this. If our local trails were this wet, I would have stayed off of them. However, we had been planning this trip for several months. A large group like we had cannot easily change plans on short notice, and still include everyone. We drove 5.5 hours to the site, and spent considerable time planning and packing. Thus, we rode the trails Saturday anyway. I don't think we did too much damage - most of the wet spots were very contained and not likely to drain into nearby streams. But there was evidence of erosion damage from many years of this type of riding. Indeed, there were many people riding on Friday and Saturday, and the trails were much busier than what I would expect to see on local trails with wet conditions.

So - were we justified in our actions? Or should we have called the whole thing off and tried to reschedule? I generally try to be a good conservationist - I'd like these kinds of features to continue to be available to the public. Are we endangering our access with this behavior?

I'll assuage my conscience thusly: maybe the trash we spotted and hauled out of the trail system mitigates our dirt-displacing tire tracks.


  1. sounds as if you are cleansing your soul? or your conscience. I wouldn't worry to much, if the trails were built properly there would be no water on them (period) it would sheet off of them, if built badly they will hold water for weeks.

  2. I agree with Michael. The sections some of of reworked a few years ago are still draining great. We only had a chance to rework a small section though since we are also 5.5 hours away from Tsali. Some of the sections further in just need to be rerouted or reworked. A few of them still hold mud weeks after the latest rain.