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Trail Work with Rocks: An Uplifting Experience


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An overview of Trailkeepers of Oregon's work with rocks, written by Guy Hamblen.

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Trail Work with Rocks: An Uplifting Experience

  1. 1. Trail Work with Rocks: An Uplifting Experience By Guy Hamblen 10 July 2018
  2. 2. Intro: Why are we here? • Part of a developing Trail Workshop Series by TKO • Focus on developing TKO team expertise in Trail Rock Work • 8-10 person focus-teams with Rock Work experience • Called into work parties for a specific rock work projects • Some “classroom” discussion but 90% field “hands on” learning • Build trust with Land Managers and Staff personnel
  3. 3. Many types of Rock work • Protection for vulnerable trail sections: retaining walls, creek crossings, soggy/wet areas. • Only durable solution for heavy use soggy trail sections (horse or heavy hiker usage) • User protection from dangerous/risky areas. • Aesthetic uses… guide and focal point rocks or structures. • Trail and structure durability and sustainability. For instance, a properly completed rock retaining wall will last for many decades compared to a log crib wall.
  4. 4. Broad Classification of Rock Work • Retaining Walls: – Switchback walls (anchor and focal rocks) – Upslope retaining wall, downslope tread support – Guide or gargoyle rocks • Armoring: – Soggy area tread support – Hole fill -> tread support – Seasonal creek swale and french drains – Fords for small creeks – Raised treads: turnpikes • Rock Stairs: Attached and detached • Rock Shaping: splitting, wedge/feathers, bushing
  5. 5. Ok…What’s in it for you? • A different trail work experience. 50% a learned skill, 50% art and aesthetics. • A lot of exercise…..different than tread work. • Team work essential. Women are welcome – actually a safer rock team! • Constant team communication necessary. • Lots of skills: rock shopping, fitting, planting, some shaping – a new vocabulary! • Friends, fame, fortune…well, maybe not fortune. • Learn the geology of the Pacific Northwest: become a geology wonk!
  6. 6. Safety (You, others near you, visitors) • Always a JHA – “Jobsite Hazard Analysis” briefing • “Never throw a rock away – always save it uphill”. You will always need that rock…sometime • “If you can lift a rock, it’s too small.” • Anybody on the rock team can close the trail/work section for safety reasons • Trails team should always ask for permission to pass through an active rock team section -> safety • A runaway rock could ruin someone’s day -> “Rock Rock”
  7. 7. Safety (You, others near you, visitors) • “Brains first, muscles last” • Remember that the two most common injuries in rock work are pinched (or smashed) fingers, smashed toes, and tweaked (or blown out) backs/knees. Both sets of injuries are a result of using muscles first and brains last. High-quality rock work is almost always a methodical, even a tedious task. Safe work is ALWAYS faster than taking time out for a trip to the infirmary.
  8. 8. Tools for the Rock Trade • Lots of high-quality, high tensile strength steel rockbars. • Pick mattock, grub hoe, rockbars are the primary work tools. • Eye protection, gloves, and hardhat. Don't even think of swinging a tool at a rock without wearing the required personal protective equipment (PPE). Basalt rock often splinters – think arrowheads! • Rock nets, rock sling, straps—all useful for carrying rocks of various sizes. • Grip hoist and rope puller systems. Many rocks can be dragged into place or removed from the trail. • All sorts of equipment, including rock drills, wedge and feathers, shaping hammers, chisels, and other tools. Lots of advanced techniques.
  9. 9. Really nice trail rock… • Initial new trail flagging: 2” of this rock showing • After duffing, 8” showing • “Ok…take it out…..” • 2 hrs later, we have a 30” diameter and a 1200 lb rock! • Now what????
  10. 10. Different Techniques for Moving Rocks • Rock nets, web straps, two-person lift, grip hoist, rope pullers, and choker(s) with block and tackle • Skidding a rock safer than rolling a rock which safer than lifting the rock • Rock bar techniques: the Flip, the Pick and Pry, the Waddle, the Row • A runaway rock can be deadly!
  11. 11. Remember These 4 Guidelines 1. Bars and Hands, never the two should meet (on a rock)! Only use one or the other when moving a rock, never at the same time. 2. Communication! Especially when working with someone to move a rock, use phrases like “Got it” to let your partner know when things are steady and ready to change. If you are working near the area but not actively involved in the rock moving be aware of your own blood bubble and theirs! 3. Always ask before helping. Do not assume someone needs your help moving a rock. 4. Patience!! Slow and steady is safer
  12. 12. Goals for Building Rock Structures • “Simple is best” – Don’t over-engineer a solution • Quality of Work vs Scope of work effort vs project duration tradeoffs • Rock Team participates in the design of the structure • Solutions dependent on the availability of “good” rock
  13. 13. Project Objective Tradeoffs Project Duration? Quality of Work Scope of Work Effort 1 2 3 Competing Project Objectives: • Quality of Work • When complete • Scope of Work Effort Project Scenarios Balance these Project objectives: • Scenario 1: “Get it done ASAP” • Scenario 2: “Make it last – Do it right” • Scenario 3: Limit/size the work effort (constrained by resources) Be ready: These objectives will change during the project!
  14. 14. Retaining Wall Structures • Complex, demanding work effort, and sophisticated requirements • Actual structure requirements are site specific • Generally two to four layers of rock • Will generally take several days to build • Each rock is “fitted” – 50% of shopped rocks not usable for wall -> backfill • Foundation rocks, tie rocks, cap stones; backfill rocks • Each wall rock is placed and “tested” for stability: min 3 points of contact • Frontside shimming not allowed
  15. 15. Original CCC(?) retaining wall on Angels Rest
  16. 16. Rock Armoring • Harden the entry/exit of a small drainage crossing • Reinforce the tread mud pothole • Rock turnpikes: tread is a soggy mess (McIver) – Larger rocks for base, medium rocks as fill, crown with crushed • Rock as fill for holes or trail segments (the “grave” at Augspurger) • Raised tread: log turnpikes through a wet area
  17. 17. The mud puddle…
  18. 18. The Yacolt root..
  19. 19. Tread Armoring
  20. 20. Switchback Rock Requirements • Well-designed switchbacks are complex trail structures • Can have several retaining walls based on site requirements • Tread slopes (in slope, out slope) change in the structure • Hillside hydrology issues; drainage ditches often necessary • Use guide rocks to “steer” the user through the structure
  21. 21. 1st Switchback: Angels Rest Decades of cutting the switchback corner. Live roots badly damaged.
  22. 22. Plant the anchor rock….
  23. 23. Add more rocks for protection
  24. 24. Everything is a mess….
  25. 25. About 75% done…
  26. 26. From the top…better but not done
  27. 27. 99% done! Yea Rock Team!
  28. 28. Uphill hiker view….
  29. 29. 33
  30. 30. Washout: From the front From the top: 3 ft depth into tread
  31. 31. Further Resources • USFS Trail Construction and Maintenance Notebook (2007 Edition). See • Lightly on the Land: The SCA Trail Building and Maintenance Manual, 2005. Robert Birkby. • PCTA Trails Skills College Courses. See college/trail-skills-college-course-curriculum/ for Powerpoint, Word, and PDF documents. • Natural Surface Trails by Design, by Troy Scott Parker. (2004 Edition). NatureShape, LLC. • Roadside Geology of Washington, by Marli B. Miller (2017 Edition). Mountain Press Publishing, Missoula, MT • Roadside Geology of Oregon, by Marli B. Milller (2014 Edition). Mountain Press Publishing, Missoula, MT • A new Geological Era?, Youtube TED talk by Johan Rockstrom: Let the environment guide our development,
  32. 32. Complexity Type Basic -A Advanced -B Complex -C Certification Levels Retaining Walls Upslope Wall Downslope Wall Modernize or Repair New structure Overlapping/attachedDetached Basic Shaping and Bushing Splitting; wedge & feathers use Tread DrainageArmoring Switchbacks Rock Stairs Rock Shaping
  33. 33. Questions? • My email: