You take for granted that someone built the trails you ride. I take for granted that someone built the trails I ride. In fact, unless you’re a trail builder or a land manager or something in the trail makes no sense at all, you probably don’t give that singletrack a second thought. Well, you (we) should, because it’s a heck of a lot of work, as you can see in this photo essay by Euan Forrester, who documented the nine months that were spent building Good Sir Martin and Penny Lane trails on the North Shore of Vancouver’s Mt. Seymour.
The primary trail builders were Martin and Penny–he spent 754 hours building the two singletracks and she devoted 481. With additional volunteers, the total came to 1,882 hours. But it’s certainly paid off, as both trails have garnered the top rating of five stars on Trailforks, with an average rating of 4.85.
“The land the trail is on is owned by the Canadian Housing and Mortgage Corporation,” said Forrester. “Overall, the land on the North Shore is owned by a complex patchwork of different landowners. There’s good news recently on this front because the CMHC has begun to engage with the public about trailbuilding on this land. They’ve said publicly that they are aware of the other landowners and the permitting process that those landowners have put into place, and they want to be a part of it as well. They are planning on rolling this out later this year.”JTNDJTIxLS0lMjAlMkYxNzgzNjY4JTJGMzAweDYwMF9ob21lXzAxJTIwLS0lM0UlMEElM0NkaXYlMjBpZCUzRCUyN2Rpdi1ncHQtYWQtMTQzMTU2NDk1NjE1Ny0wJTI3JTIwc3R5bGUlM0QlMjdoZWlnaHQlM0E2MDBweCUzQiUyMHdpZHRoJTNBMzAwcHglM0IlMjclM0UlMEElM0NzY3JpcHQlMjB0eXBlJTNEJTI3dGV4dCUyRmphdmFzY3JpcHQlMjclM0UlMEFnb29nbGV0YWcuY21kLnB1c2glMjhmdW5jdGlvbiUyOCUyOSUyMCU3QiUyMGdvb2dsZXRhZy5kaXNwbGF5JTI4JTI3ZGl2LWdwdC1hZC0xNDMxNTY0OTU2MTU3LTAlMjclMjklM0IlMjAlN0QlMjklM0IlMEElM0MlMkZzY3JpcHQlM0UlMEElM0MlMkZkaXYlM0U=
Martin and Penny, hard at it.
Before beginning to build, Martin spent several days hiking around the area while deciding where the trail should go. He flagged a rough line using yellow tape, which was gradually refined as the work progressed.
Martin placing rocks at the Infamous Corner 3, so-called because of the large amount of rockwork needed to support it. Over half of the rockwork was buried to help blend it into the surrounding forest.
Penny taking a break while cutting a fallen log. The chainsaw blade became dull quickly thanks to debris on and around this kind of deadfall, requiring frequent manual sharpening.
During the winter months, it would be dark well before heading into the trail after work.
When working in the dark on weeknights, Martin would set his phone alarm for 9 PM to remind himself to start thinking about going home for dinner.
Martin and Penny would often put in 3 to 4 hour evenings after work, 2 or 3 times per week, and then 8 to 11 hour days on the weekends. Their longest day was 14 hours.
While the trail was being built it ended in the middle of nowhere. Because of that, riding up it would have required riding back down which could have damaged the trail as it was not designed for downhill biking. And so, Martin and Penny hid the entrance deep in the forest and left a note asking curious people to proceed only on foot.
While the exit was in the middle of nowhere and the entrance was hidden to prevent inadvertent damage to the unfinished trail, the builders were careful to not be seen. They went in and out when no one was around, carried their bikes, and took many different routes to minimize damage to the surrounding forest.
Alex and Maddy were amongst the first to discover the trail while walking their dog. This note became a special keepsake for Martin and Penny.
May 18, 2015: Martin and Penny used as few bridges as possible because they will eventually degrade and have to be replaced. Nevertheless, bridge-building was everyone’s favorite day.
Bench-cut trail (trail cut into the side of a hill) was among the easiest to dig because it was its own source of “gold”. Gold is a sand-like dirt found at varying depths under the top layer of soil throughout the forest. It’s used as the final layer of the trail because it dries hard and thus resists erosion from feet, bike tires, and water. The majority of the time, gold had to be found off the trail in the forest and hauled over by hand.
For the opening of Good Sir Martin, Martin and Penny were joined by many of the regular volunteers who had helped them over the past several months. After building the final few meters of trail, there was champagne and a ceremonial ride up the trail.
After working for so long out of sight, Martin and Penny looked forward to the day that people could finally ride up the finished trail.
Forrester also created an outdoor gallery of this documentary, with images from this shoot lining the trails through September 2016.