Mountain bikers have a new trail to shred on the central Kenai Peninsula.
After three weeks of cutting through moss, roots and fallen trees, volunteers have finished a mile-long singletrack through the woods at Tsalteshi Trails.
The Tsalteshi Trails Association has teamed up with mountain bike enthusiasts in the development of the singletrack. project coordinator Nic Larson along with his wife Natalie Larson, Shawn Schooley and a small army of volunteers started the project in early June to accommodate a growing interest.
“We wanted to develop at mountain bike specific trail that locals can ride after work,” Nic Larson said. “The plan is meant to be family friendly in keeping with the Tsalteshi Trails vision.”
The one-way singletrack — the first of three planned sections — is about 18-20 inches wide and starts on the snowshoe trail at the Kalifornsky Beach Road Tsalteshi Trails entrance. The trail weaves through the wooded area of the Wolverine loop. While the first section starts out relatively flat, after riders cross the Wolverine Trail and enter back into the woods, they will come across several banked turns and hills, which necessitate some technical riding.
Larson said he has done trail building research and has strived to create a sustainable trail with minimal environmental impact. Volunteers have cleared out the dead trees to beautify the path.
“The track follows the contour of the land,” Nic Larson said. “It’s a nice easy ride that puts you in touch with nature.”
Nic Larson said they walked the snowshoe trail with Bill Holt, the Tsalteshi’s trail maintenance manager, and flagged the path. With the help of Schooley, a professional downhill racer who has experience in trail building, they were able to cut the first section and use top soil already there for the track. Over time bike tires will pack down the trail and make for a smoother ride, Nic Larson said.
Schooley said the singletrack is aptly named Mosquito Trail.
“We put in quite a few hours building the trail and probably got half our blood drained in the process,” Schooley said with a laugh. “We donated a lot of blood out there.”
Schooley worked on the banked corners, which he said help create a safer trail and give riders a variation. As the trail continues the path has switchbacks that make it easier for riders to climb. He said navigating the trail requires some technical skills, like leaning on a turn to keep momentum going.
Brad Carver, Beemun’s Bike and Ski Loft manager, said with the closest singletrack an hour’s drive away in Cooper Landing, the area was in need of a closer riding option.
“This is mainly mountain bike country. We have the land, we just don’t have the trails,” Carver said. “We have had the interest for a long time. There is a real need in the community. The time is right and it would be a great asset to the community.”
Carver collected six pages of names of people who volunteered to help construct the trail. Beemun’s donated trail-building tools like chainsaws and weed whackers to dig out the moss and roots to clear a path.
Carver said he hopes the singletrack project gets momentum going for the development of more tracks in the area.
For now, trail is on hold until a revised multi-use trail plan can be finalized and paperwork can be filed with the Kenai Peninsula Borough Land Management office, said Tsalteshi Trails board member Mike Crawford.
The trail lease needs to be amended to add another multi-use element. Crawford said once the paperwork is submitted to the borough, on July 6 the board will vote to approve the plan and work can move forward.
While Tsalteshi Trails is known for ski use, Crawford said the board has looked for other ways to use the trails in the summer. A few months ago the idea of transforming snowshoe-specific trails to be more bike friendly gained traction among board members.
“The energy and excitement the project is generating is a beautiful thing,” he said. “It is a learning experience and a great opportunity to attract a new user group to the trails.”
Marcus Mueller, borough land management officer, said he provided input to the board and will work with them on an amended lease to designate the trail a multi-use trail for biking in the summer and snowshoeing in the winter.
Crawford said the trail crossing intersections can be dangerous and so part of the amended plan includes visibility and signs to warn trail users to go as slow as possible to make the trails safe for all users. The uphill section of the singletrack goes through a trail crossing, which will help bikers maintain a safe speed.
“Nic and Nat have a tremendous and clear vision for a family friendly ride so everyone can enjoy it,” Crawford said.
The second section of singletrack was put on hold until the trail association work plan is revised. This section will weave between Bear Trail into a more hilly and tricky terrain. Next summer, work on the final section, which deviates from the snowshoe trail will continue. In total, Nic Larson said the singletrack when completed will be about three miles long.
He said the last section will be challenging to clear because volunteers will need to cut through new terrain to follow the upper section of the snowshoe trail.
Schooley said having a singletrack at Tsalteshi adds variety like the trails at Resurrection Pass and Crescent Lake in Cooper Landing, which are popular among mountain bike riders.
“I love doing community projects that promote the sport,” he said. “Everybody involved is passionate about mountain biking and that makes it all the more enjoyable.”
Reach Dan Balmer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Salmon Cycle Series
The Tsalteshi Trails Association presents the Salmon Cycle Series, off road races Thursday Nights in July and August starting July 10 at 6 p.m., with new routes each week. Cost is $5 per race or free for TTA members. Find more information at www.tsalteshi.org.