Sun, 16 Apr 2006

Rutland Puddles

Been spending a few evenings this past week working on the Rutland Trail. There's a few sections which are perennially wet. Not just damp wet, or even soft wet. We're talking "standing water" wet. The worst puddle is about 30' long, and 12" deep. Threatens to overwhelm my boots.

The primary cause of these puddles is blocked drainage ditches. Sometimes the people who cleared the ties were careless, and allowed the tie to lie in the bottom of the ditch. Sometimes trees have grown up in the ditches, and their roots collect leaves, twigs, and dirt. Sometimes people have created farm crossings without regard of the need for drainage.

The problem with ATVs is the same problem that hikers face. Once a trail stays even a little bit wet, the soil gets soft and sticky. It sticks to the bottom of hiker's boots (or ATV tires) and gets carried away. As the wet soil is removed, a lower spot is created. This accumulates more water and the process goes around again. There are only two solutions: stay off the trails when they're wet, or dry out the trail.

Hiking trails tend to be sloped, and so removing water from the trail is a simple matter of inserting a water bar. This acts as a dam to channel the water off the trail. Where hiking trails are flat, it's hard to dry them out. There is no natural mechanism for removing the water. Not so on a railbed converted to a trail. A railroad also needed to keep the railbed dry, so they put ditches on the sides of the track, to remove water. Drying out a rail-trail is simply a matter of maintaining these existing ditches.

So I dug lots of leaves and sticks out of ditches this week. Found a tie in one, which I was able to pry out with a prybar (as one would expect a prybar to be used). Once I could get a hand-hold, I was able to shift it. Not so for another tie. It had been used as a farm crossing, and had gotten quite a covering of dirt. Even after I shoveled the dirt off, I couldn't shift it. Got the chain with a grab hook, and a slip hook, and the come-along, and moved that puppy out of the way. So now four puddles are draining into the ditch, instead of accumulating water and eroding the trail as one puddle drained into another.

Next puddle to go is the worst one. It'll be a supreme pleasure to dry that one out.

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