Living Jackson

Benefits of cycling

What will we build on Berm Peak?


This is Berm Peak, my backyard and the site
of a future home mountain bike park. So far we dug a climbing trail from behind
my garage to the highest point on the property. It’s called the Berm Peak Express. At the top, we cleared out a trailhead and
built the Flight Deck, an elevated platform for rolling in on. This Flight Deck is the high point where all
our downhill trails will start. Today, we’ll figure out what those trails
might look like. Now that I’ve hiked through here a few dozen
times, I know it like my own backyard. I recognize the trees, the topography, and
all the landmarks. But to show you what I’m talking about,
we’ll need a map. This white border is the property boundary
of Berm Peak. To the North is Moonshangle Thickets, which
is very steep and packed with Rhododendron. To the South is Stumpthorne, which is where
we’ll be building our first trails. Its also contains the highest point on the
property, which according to my phone is 2323 feet. The low point of the property is down here,
in the Moonshangle Panhandle. Assuming my phone’s barometer is at least
accurate relative to itself, we have a total of 127 feet of elevation change from the highest
to lowest point on Berm Peak. This is a very imperfect topographic map of
Berm Peak. If you pedaled your mountain bike along one
of these lines, you would be on a flat traverse. Pedal across the lines and you’re climbing
or descending. If we wanted to build a really fast downhill
trail, we would go perpendicular to the lines. That’s called a fall line, and it’s exactly
what we did on Berm Creek. That run was over in a matter of seconds,
so I think we can do better this time. If we avoid fall lines and zig zag our way
down the hill, we can make our downhill trail a lot longer. Such a trail would start at the Flight Deck,
wind its way across the slope, and make its way to the lowest point on Stumpthorne. That’s pretty much next to my driveway. To make this trail a loop, we’ll connect
it with a climbing trail which will be named, you guessed it, Berm Peak Express. In the end, Berm Peak Express will have a
lower, middle, and upper segment that climb the full property. As for our first downhill trail, excavation
starts today. A bunch of you suggested I use bright sprinkler
flags to mark the trail, and I think that’s a good idea. The flags are highly visible, and really easy
to collect later on. On turns we need more flags, and on straightaways
we need almost none. I’m starting by very roughly clearing corridor. For this first pass, the machete seems to
be the best tool since it’s lightweight and fast. When I remove a shrub I leave the stump extra
long so it’s clearly visible when coming back through. To remove the stump entirely, I just pull
away the top soil around it, stick the reciprocating saw in the ground, and cut in a circle. I’ve been removing these little stumps in
under a minute with the reciprocating saw method, and unless I find a way that takes
30 seconds, I’ll continue to do so. While this little saw is safe, lightweight,
and great for the small stuff, there are some things it just won’t cut. Yeah, it actually sounds like a Powerwheels. While this battery powered chainsaw may not
have a throaty exhaust note it does have plenty of torque and eats up anything I throw at
it. Johnny from Crafted Workshop lent it to me,
and he’s not getting it back without a fight. But I stand by my original decision to use
the reciprocating saw for group trail work. For safety and liability reasons, I can’t
be passing this thing around to friends like it’s a rake. The fiberglass trail markers I ordered haven’t
arrived yet, but for this trail a wooden sign is very appropriate. The name Woodpecker will make a lot more sense
as we progress down the slope. Once we’re finished clearing corridor, we
can improve the trail and build features. We’ll keep working up here in Stumpthorne
until we’ve learned all we can, and then take our lessons to Moonshangle where the
topography is more challenging. For now, this map is just a place for ideas. My friend Stu used a CNC plasma cutter to
make this sign for the flight deck, and it looks awesome. I’m mounting it off to the right leave space
for a roll in—you know, a roll in, instead of a 6 foot huck to flat. After installing that sign I got sidetracked
and started thinking about what this roll in might look like and ultimately, took a
break from Woodpecker to do some testing. I’m sure there’s a true science to cranking
out perfect mountain bike features, but for me it’s all done by trial and error. I’ll never build anything I wouldn’t ride
myself, unless Phil’s in town. To get this roll in just right, I need to
figure out a grade where it’s rollable, but just barely. When your only voice of reason is Kevin, you’re
in big trouble. Ultimately, we decided to dial it back to
126% grade, and get to work. This is a lot like the roll in on the other
side of the Flight Deck, except a little narrower and probably not easy to climb. I know, this roll in doesn’t lead anywhere
except for Berm Peak Express, but it’ll be a fun way to get back home after a long
day of building. It was almost dark out when we finished the
roll in, so I’m not proud of my first attempts or the janky edges on the planks. But the following morning I cleaned her up,
and gave it another shot. This roll in feels awesome. You get way behind your seat, and once your
front tire hits the ground it all just works. I’m calling it the Pucker Plank, and crediting
a very clever Instagram follower for that name. While the pucker plank doesn’t get us anywhere
now, it does give us plenty of speed for the future moonshangle trails which will start
before the first turn on Upper Berm Peak Express. As you can see, this is all a work in progress. The last seven videos have all been Berm Peak
related, so we might need to switch things up a little moving forward. Still, building this backyard trail is my
main priority. Now that we have a loose plan in place, all
the tools we need, and a solid roll in, our only limitations are the boundaries of this
property. By the looks of it, we’ve barely scratched
the surface. Thanks for riding with me today and I’ll
see you next time.

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